You’re a few months away from surviving the baby’s first year. In the final stretch of the baby’s first year, they will begin crawling and babbling and might even take their first steps. However, if they aren’t yet walking by their first birthday, there’s no need to panic. Mine didn’t walk until around 14 or 15 months. I’ve been through the baby stage three times with my children and worked with young kids before becoming a mom. When choosing the best toys for babies 9-12 months, I always think about purpose and function and how the toys help foster a child’s development. And, because babies are already expensive, I like to recommend budget-friendly toys. If they are going to be an investment, I recommend ones that can be used for several months. Here’s our list of the best toys for babies 9-12 months old.
Best Developmental Toys for Babies 9-12 Months
1. VTech Sit-to-Stand Learning Walker
One word of caution regarding baby walkers. Avoid the ones where a baby sits in the middle of a saucer on wheels and pushes its feet to move. This is not the safest option for a baby, and they’re not as beneficial for teaching balance, starting, stopping, and pulling to stand. I can’t tell you how many pediatric PTs and OTs I’ve met over the years who dislike these options (unless there is a physical or medical need for one).
This option, however, is a great one to consider. It can be used in a seated position for babies who aren’t yet ready to stand and walk, and it has two “speeds” at which the wheels will go. There is a dial on the wheels to make them more challenging to rotate, which is perfect for your beginner. You won’t have to worry as much about this one rolling out from under your baby and them losing control. As they get better with walking, you can set the wheels to rotate more easily. The “tablet” on the front of the walker is also detachable, so you also have a fun on-the-go toy! It comes in a few colors and features fun songs and buttons for babies to play with.
2. Shape Sorter
Shape sorters are great for teaching shape recognition, but they’re also excellent fine motor toys. When a baby can recognize what shape goes where you’ll notice at first, they just place the shape on top of the corresponding hole. They will need practice to figure out how to turn and manipulate the shape to get it to fit into the hole. The circle will be the easiest for your baby to figure out, and the rest of the shapes will come along with time. When you introduce this toy to your baby, you can place the correct shape over the corresponding hole, and they can just push the shape in so they can grasp the idea. Eventually, your baby will do this independently, and you can get a more advanced shape sorter with even more shapes!
3. Smart Stages Piggy Bank
This toy is still a hit in our house, and all three of our kids play with it. It’s great for learning numbers, colors, and bilingual counting. I also love the fine motor component that’s built into it. Baby slides the coins into the slots, which requires visual motor coordination (we usually call this hand-eye coordination). Different learning stages are incorporated into the toy and can grow with your child.
4. Friction-Powered Cars
Cars are great for developing imaginative play and are some of my favorites. They are friction-powered, so your child can push them forward and let go, and the cars will move forward for quite a distance. The harder you make, the faster and farther they go. This kind of cause-and-effect learning benefits babies and will expand as they interact with their environment. The cars are baby powered rather than relying on batteries, so they allow for endless play. We’ve had them since our oldest was a year old, and they’re still holding up almost five years later.
5. Fine Motor Pop-up Toy
This classic toy has been around for decades, and for a good reason. It incorporates various fine motor manipulation skills that are valuable as a baby grows. When babies are tiny, they are limited to opening and closing their hands. As they age, they learn how to push buttons by isolating their index finger and can turn toys by rotating their wrist and fingers. This pop-up toy helps your baby practice those manipulation skills through play, and these skills will be necessary as your child ages and begin feeding and dressing.
6. Activity Cube
Activity cubes are great at this age because babies at 9-12 months can play with toys independently, sit up, and start using the cube to pull up to stand. Most cubes (like this one) are heavy and sturdy so that a baby can use them for support in standing, but be sure to keep an eye on them once they start pulling to stand. Encouraging independent play will be useful as a baby grows because we can’t entertain them every second of every day. Toys like this are ideal since they’re safe and engaging for little ones to play with. I love this activity cube for all the little peek-a-boo doors and manipulatives. There’s so much for a baby to explore; they will surely be entertained for a long time.
7. See ‘n Say Toy
Here’s a classic toy we all remember from our childhoods! This toy will grow with your baby. Around one year, most babies will start babbling and imitating basic words like “mama” and “dada.” Some will even imitate words like “cow” or “dog.” This classic toy helps develop a baby’s language interactively by assisting them in learning to label objects. And as babies get older, they can have fun learning about animals.
8. Pull-along Toy
This toy is excellent for encouraging a baby to move. Before they start walking, babies can push the toy to activate the sounds and music. Once they start walking, your baby will love to pull it behind them as it sings along. It also features some fine motor play and language development.
Babies in the 9-12-month stage are becoming more mobile and starting to explore their environment. Because your baby can start to navigate the house by themselves, they must have toys and activities they can do safely and independently. I encouraged all three of our kids to play alone at an early age occasionally. To encourage independent play, you need toys that meet them at their current skill level while also challenging them to do more. The best toys for 9-12 months, like the ones I’ve suggested, grow with your baby and will continue to challenge them as they find new ways to play. Learning through play is an excellent way for a baby to develop skills they will need as they grow and become fully functioning, independent kids. Happy playing!