You can entertain a baby with just about anything. But there’s something to say for a well-made toy with educational intent. Eli Gurock, founder of Magic Beans and StrollerTraffic’s new resident Toy Expert, shares his short list for the best new(ish) playthings for babies and toddlers.
0 to 6 Months: Gurock digs the NogginStick ($22.99, pictured), a rattle clutching toy that’s “funny looking, but young babies are really engaged by the color change and learn visual tracking,” says Gurock. He also likes Manhattan Toy’s Wiggle Ball ($17.99), the latest version of the Whoozit. “By pulling on the ribbons and Whoozit, babies can activate a jiggle mechanism and entertain themselves to no end.” It stimulates gross motor skills as well as visual and auditory awareness, to boot.
6 to 12 Months: Gurock bills Manhattan Toy’s Treetop Adventure ($100) as one of the “coolest activities centers I’ve ever seen.” He also gives two thumbs up to International Playthings’ Bendy Bird ($14.95) and Fat Brain Toys’ nesting and stacking Neo Tobbles ($26.95).
12 to 18 Months: For this age group, Gurock is all about the Mirari Pop Pop Piano ($26.99). “It’s a baby piano, and when you push the keys, adorable little stars pop out.” He adores Plan Toys’ Owl Sorter ($23.95), too. “Shape sorting is a great age-appropriate activity for 12 to 18 months and Plan Toys always makes cute, eco-friendly products.”
18 to 24 Months: “Toddlers playing with iPads is part of our times,” says Gurock. So he really likes Tiggly ($32.99), which helps kids learn their shapes at the same time. He’s also into Light Up Drummin’ Fun ($19.95) (though parents who loathe noise and flashing lights might not be).
24 to 36 Months: For older toddlers, Gurock recommends the Fisher Price Retro Record Player ($39.99). “Everything old is new again, and I love that this awesome classic toy is back,” says Gurock. For curious kids, he’s a big fan of the GeoSafari Jr. My First Microscope ($21.99).