Best sensory toys for babies and toddlers to help with their development

Baby playing in sensory play gym.
(Image credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Sensory toys feature many exciting elements that will engage and entertain babies and toddlers.

Crinkles, bells, songs, colours, patterns, pictures and more are all elements that could make up a fantastic sensory toy.

But what are toys that are sensory and do you need to add some to your child’s nursery?

Well, the chances are you already have some sensory toys at home without realising it. Here’s the basics and how to pick the best sensory toys for your little one.

What are sensory toys and what do they do?

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A sensory toy is one which is designed specifically to stimulate one or more of the five senses - touch, sight, hearing, smell and taste.

Examples of sensory toys include toys that have bright or contrasting colours, feature different textures or an array of sounds. All of these aspect will stimulate your child’s senses – sometimes more than one at once - during play.

Playing with these kind of toys not only engages a baby and toddler’s senses, but is also a great way to develop their physical and mental abilities.

Baby playing with a sensory toy musical instrument

Why are sensory toys important for babies and toddlers?

Babies and toddlers are constantly learning as they take in the world around them. An important part of a child’s development is play and the skills they learn through the toys they engage with.

Sensory toys can help babies and toddler with their balance, strength and co-ordination as well as giving them the confidence to explore their surroundings.

Karen Clarke, Brand Director at Smart Toys and Games told GoodtoKnow that she finds parents are increasingly looking for a wide variety of play products for their children, from educational toys to those that help build and develop different skills: ‘The first two years of a child’s life is such a vital stage for learning and development.

‘Babies like toys that are colourful and creative, and parents/guardians are increasingly searching for quality toys that help develop key skills, have an educational element, are good value for money and most importantly are safe!’

‘It’s amazing to watch a child’s development as they are continuously learning through play. For example, developing vision, hand-eye coordination, cognitive language, motor skills, spatial awareness, concentration, creativity and imagination, as well as aspects in toys that allow children to learn how to problem solve or learn to engage with others.’

You might also like our ideas for wooden toys, perfect if you're looking for long-lasting and enviromentally friendly gifts. Or, for water babies, take a look at our cheap bathtime toys. Buying gifts for very young children, can also be a challenge, so we've rounded up plenty of ideas for one-year-olds, and a list of our favourite gifts for two-year-olds as well.

Plush Star Projector Calm Ocean

Pabobo Plush Star Projector

Age suitability: 0 months and up | Batteries required: None | Price: £39.99

This animated musical projector is designed to either calm a child or to help soothe a restless child. The marine projections with waves and fish will captivate babies and the soft musical ambiance has three phases of descending intensity specifically designed to help baby gradually relax and drift off to sleep.


Edushape Sensory Shapes and Balls

Edushape Sensory Shapes and Balls

Age suitability: 6 months and up | Batteries required: None | Price: £39.99

These tactile shapes and balls are great for encouraging early sensory development and for encouraging motor skills development.


Early Learning Centre Sensory Stacking Rings

Early Learning Centre Sensory Stacking Rings

Age suitability: 6 months and up | Batteries required: None | Price: £12.80

Stimulates the senses with colourful rings that are all different textures. Also great for teething, your baby can enjoy feeling and chewing the textured rings.


Le Toy Van - Wooden Educational Petilou Sensory Shapes

Le Toy Van Wooden Educational Petilou Sensory Shapes

Age suitability: 6 months and up | Batteries required: None | Price: £28

This multi sensory toy features 9 different blocks all aimed at stimulating the senses of sight, tough and sound. The puzzle-style of the toy also encourages shape recognition, manual dexterity and hand eye co-ordination.


Rachael Martin

An internationally published digital journalist and editor who specialises in SEO strategy and content production, Rachael has worked as a writer and editor for both news and lifestyle websites in the UK and abroad. Rachael's published work covers a broad spectrum of topics and she has written about everything from the future of sustainable travel, to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the world we live in, to the psychology of colour.