Best toys for 6 to 12 months olds 2024: 42 top-rated buys, tried and tested

Discover the best toys for 6 to 12 month olds that will help your baby learn about the world around them

Collage showing the best toys for 6-12 month olds
(Image credit: Future)

As you (and your baby) emerge out of the newborn phase, you might have your mind on one important question: what are the best toys for six to 12-month-olds?

While you might be used to playing with a newborn, the best toys for this age group are items that are perfectly sized for little hands to hold but big enough so that they won't get lost or eaten. This is also a prime age for your child to engage in sensory play so making sure you have a couple of the best sensory toys on hand is a great way to aid their development. You might already have some of the best toys for 1-year-olds, and there may be some cross over on this list, but a handful of these toys might not be age-appropriate for those younger than 12 months old.

Child development expert Dr Amanda Gummer says: "Babies love to play and this is a great way to support their development and learning." She adds: "Floor play aids core muscle development, kicking and swatting movements will strengthen their leg and arm muscles, and mirrors and moving objects and sounds, will all encourage a baby to lift their head and will, in turn, strengthen the neck muscles."

As well as their motor skills, toys for this age group provide a great opportunity to explore and get their imaginations going. Dr Gummer explains: "Playing with your baby will encourage them to reach for objects and explore things with their hands and mouths. They will start to anticipate repeated sights, sounds, and actions and will roll around to explore."

So, to help you decipher what toys are the best toys for six-month-olds we've done all the hard work and researched the market-leading options in 2024, putting them to the test. Each item in our guide has been recommended by parents or those who have purchased them as gifts. If plastic toys aren't your thing, then you'll be pleased to know that there are lots of beautiful wooden toys available that are perfect for this age group. We've tried to include as many wooden toys as possible as we commit to promoting more sustainable options.

Best toys for 6-12 month olds

Why you can trust GoodtoKnow. Our experienced Consumer Editor & parent reviewers spend hours testing products to help you make the best choice. Find out how we test and review products.

1. Stacking and Nesting Toys

Stacking and nesting toys are crucial for six to 12 month olds for developing their fine motor skills, spatial reasoning and cognitive development, as well as their hand-eye coordination. They help to encourage an understanding of size, shape and sequencing too.

By stacking, your child is learning how to understand objects in relation to each other too. According to a report called The Development of Object Construction from Infancy through Toddlerhood, the ability to successfully stack or nest is different to other actions, like banging, shaking, or mouthing, because it requires a more complex understanding of the relationship between two or more objects.

2. Textured Balls

Textured balls are perfect for stimulating your six month old's sensory development, enhancing their fine motor skills and encouraging movement and tracking skills. But it doesn't have to be balls - we've found these textured bean bags that offer a brilliant sensory experience for little ones to enjoy.

3. Musical Instruments

As well as providing an introduction to music, musical toys can help to foster auditory development and rhythm, leading to improved cognitive skills. This makes them great toys for when your child turns six months old.

Research shows that babies respond well to the rhythm and tempo of music from an early age and find it more engaging that speech, while other studies show that early exposure to music encourages your child to smile more, improves their communication skills and boosts their emotional understanding.

4. Interactive Texture Books

Interactive books for babies not only provide a range of textures, flaps to lift and elements for little hands to explore, but they also have brightly coloured and engaging illustrations. This combination not only promotes sensory development but also helps your six month old improve their fine motor skills and gives them a boost when it comes to early literacy.

Interactive books like this encourage participation, whether that's influencing the storyline or making choices, all of which promotes cognitive development and critical thinking skills which, as studies show, is hugely important for a young child's development.

5. Jumper toys

When a child reaches six months they'll really enjoy using a jumper toy. Toys like this aid in developing your baby's gross motor skills, particularly leg and core strength, as they learn to bounce and balance. The sensory input from the lights and sounds, along with the tactile exploration of the toys, encourages cognitive development and sensory processing skills.

Fisher-Price’s Rainforest Jumperoo is a popular choice among parents for its engaging design, safety features, and developmental benefits. It offers a variety of sensory experiences and encourages physical development through play. GoodtoKnow's Editor Anna Bailey bought one of these for her daughter, Freddie, and never looked back, saying "Affectionately known in our house as the ‘circle of neglect’ - this was a life-saver when I needed a few minutes to make a cup of tea. Freddie grinned non-stop at all the lights and buzzers, and was so happy stretching and bouncing her little legs.”

6. Hide and Squeak Toys

These kinds of toys are ideal for child development at six months old because they enable children to discover hidden objects or characters, often accompanied by a squeaking sound - these are usually eggs that open to reveal colourful chicks or boxes with different doors and latches. They work to improve fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination as babies learn to open and close the different parts. This kind of toy encourages problem solving and cognitive development, and memory skills as little ones must identify and remember where objects are hidden.

Mum Liang bought a Hide & Squeak toy for her son and tells us: 'Probably one of my best investments in toys! My son has been playing with them since he was six months old, and he's still playing with them now at nearly 26 months in very different ways.'

GoodtoKnow's Editor, Anna Bailey agrees: "Freddie loves closing and opening the lids, putting all the eggs in and tipping them out - she also loves the squeaky noises. She’s 16 months old now and they still get plenty of play."

7: Pull String Activity Toys

Ideal for babies when they turn six months old, a pull-string activity toy offers multiple ways of playing, from pulling strings up and down, pushing poppers from a convex to a concave position and back again, as well as lots of buttons to push and different textures to explore. These not only help your baby experience cause and effect but are also very effective at cultivating their fine motor skills.

8. Ball Pits

Bringing this soft play staple into your home is a great way to enable your baby to engage in some sensory play from the comfort of your own home (or garden). Beyond sensory fun, ball pits are fantastic for six months olds' gross motor skill development and spatial awareness as they encourage your little one to sit, stand, roll and crawl, which strengthens their muscles and helps them hone their co-ordination skills.

Having your own ball pit at home is also a great alternative to soft play, which can be very crowded and difficult for a baby to explore.

9. Bath toys

When your baby is between six and 12 months old, bath toys really come into their own. Your little one will love indulging in some sensory play as they squeeze, pour, stack and splash their way through their bathtime toys. This kind of play also gives your baby the perfect opportunity to work on their hand-eye coordination.

10. Suction cup spinners

For babies between six and 12 months old, suction cup spinner toys are great for their development. They encourage a range of movements, from grip to rotation, to enhance and exercise your little one's fine motor skills, while the engrossing game also helps them to learn and improve their hand-eye coordination.

Better still, these kinds of toys are perfect for keeping little ones amused while travelling, and the suction cup can stick to most flat and non-porous surfaces, like plastic, glass or tile.

11. Baby walkers

As it's common for your baby to take their first steps between nine and 12 months old (although babies reach this key development stage at different times, so don't panic if your little one needs a little longer before they get on their feet), a baby walker makes a great toy for babies at this age. As well as offering support while they grow their gross motor skills and build up the muscles in their legs, baby walkers also offer numerous activities to foster fine motor skills development too.

These are the best baby walkers according to our research and first-hand testing.

12. Shape sorters

Shape sorters toys are popular choices, but the classic ones with shaped holes can often be beyond the capabilities of an infant between six and 12 months old. But shapes sorters with string are much easier toys for children of this age to get to grips with and are a great way to give their fine motor skills a boost.

This is also a great type of toy to promote problem solving skills as your little one has to figure out how to get the shapes in, and how to get them out again.

13. Spinning tops

From six months, babies love playing with spinning tops. This type of toy not only helps with the development of hand-eye coordination, but also boots fine motor skills and demonstrates cause and effect, as little one's discover what happens when they push the top. Some options light up and play sounds adding to the sensory play, while others feature characters with friendly faces to aid your baby's emotional growth.

14. Money-saving toy sets

To enable your six-month-old to discover what toys they like, without breaking the bank, then a toy set is a wise investment. There are multiple options available (we've picked our favourites below), but they'll usually contain varied toy types that are perfect for six - 12 months olds, like stacking toys and spinners, with a variety of textures and shapes, all designed to stimulate your little one's senses, aid their knowledge of the world around them and allow them to practice their motor skills.

Which skills do babies aged 6-12 months develop through play?

When your baby turns six months old, you'll soon start to notice becoming a lot more engaged when playing. They're developing their sensory understanding by playing with toys that have different textures or that can be squeezed or produce sounds.

It's true, every baby develops at a different speed. For example, at six months some babies might be crawling, others might have mastered how to sit and some six-month-olds might just prefer to lie on their back. This is all perfectly normal, but it's important to invest in toys that match whatever development stage your little learner is at. At this age, babies will also be making more sense of the world around them and start to notice how their actions have an impact.

Studies show that engaging in free play is also key to your child's development and that this type of unstructured play teaches children to think creatively, problem-solve, develop reasoning and motor skills from an early age.

Rebecca Trueman, founder of Birth & Baby Hub explains: "Your baby is very busy at six months figuring out the world around them. They will be very keen to touch everything — even things you don’t want them to — and of course everything goes in the mouth! Simple toys that can help your baby start to understand cause and effect are good developmental toys at this age."

Rebecca says that this could be toys that rattle or shake or games that make a sound when you push a button. And it's for good reason. "Babies love to make noise at this age, and music has been proven to aid development in certain areas of the brain," she adds.

Additionally, toys like baby walkers, stacking toys, and ball pits can help develop both their gross motor skills, like rolling over, sitting up, standing and walking, and their fine motor skills like grabbing and using a pincer grasp between their thumb and forefinger.

Child development expert Dr Amanda Gummer agrees that fine and gross motor skills as well as sensory development are all achieved through play at this pivotal age. Speaking of sensory play, Dr Gummer explains: "Activities like supervised splashing in water, feeling different textures and fabric and exploring age-appropriate materials will all help promote and refine their sensory abilities."

But the act of playing itself goes beyond that. Dr Gummer adds: "Play provides a wonderful way of interacting and bonding with yourself or care-givers and will help develop social skills later in life too. Skills such as turn-taking, sharing and empathy can all be developed through play patterns and the expression of fun and emotion."

How to safely choose the best toys for 6-12 months

Nothing matters more than your baby's safety so toys for babies should be chosen carefully.

According to research into the factors influencing parent toy purchase decisions: 'Choosing a toy is not as simple as the majority of parents may think. A toy should be chosen initially with respect to many child considerations such as abilities, development, safety, age and gender.' The research also found that using-related factors; such as safety, durability and flexibility, were hugely important and were what parents prioritised when choosing and buying toys for their children.

Child development expert, Dr Amanda Gummer, says: "Always check for age-appropriate recommendations on toy packaging to ensure suitability for your child’s developmental stage. Finally, inspect toys regularly for signs of wear and tear, and take the time to discard any damaged or broken toys to prevent potential hazards. By prioritising safety, you can be sure your child’s toys will not only stimulate their development but also ensure their happiness and well-being."

Keep these things in mind when shopping for toys for children of any age:

  • Check toy safety regulations - Check the item adheres to the relevant safety regulations for toys such as the CE mark. Many toys are not suitable for children under three years old so look out for these warnings and don't be tempted to buy something that isn't marked as safe for 0-3-year-olds. 
  • Make sure it's age appropriate - Always make sure toys are approved for use by a child of your little one’s age. Avoid anything with loose parts that your child could choke on and make sure any cords or strings are short and cannot become entangled around your baby.
  • Easy to clean - GoodtoKnow's Consumer Editor and parenting expert, Heidi Scrimgeour says: 'Babies of this age tend to pop absolutely everything in their mouths which means items can get mucky fast. Therefore, the best toys for one-year-olds are those that can be wiped clean, popped in the washing machine or even run through the dishwasher if it's safe to do so.'
  • Buy from reputable retailers - If you want to ensure good quality, then it's important your buy from brands or retailers that you know and trust.
  • Consider value for money - Heidi adds: 'It's tempting to try and save some cash by choosing cheap, affordable items when you're shopping. While we love a bargain, it's often the case that pricier items give better value over the long term. Think about the difference between buying a cheap plastic toy compared to a more expensive wooden alternative. The latter could be passed down to younger siblings several times over and even last for generations, saving you money in the long run.'

Dr Amanda Gummer, adds: "One of the important things to consider when choosing toys for this age range is their ability to promote exploration and discovery.

"Look for toys that introduce basic concepts such as cause and effect, as well as those that encourage problem-solving and experimentation. Stackable blocks, shape sorters, and interactive activity mats are all great options.

"It’s also essential to choose toys that promote emotional development. Soft dolls, stuffed animals, and other comforting toys can help your baby feel safe and secure as they navigate their new world."

Freddie, daughter of GoodtoKnow's Editor Anna Bailey, playing with her favourite toys for 6 to 12 month olds

(Image credit: Future/Anna Bailey)

How we chose the best toys for 6 to 12 month olds

To compile this list of the best toys for six to 12 month olds, we spoke to multiple child development and baby experts so make sure the toys on this curated list would be developmentally suitable. We also spoke to mums and dads, who we have quoted in this feature, to find out which toys they and their baby rate.

As well as making sure that all of the age recommendations of these toys were appropriate, we have also make sure to include wooden and eco-friendly options where we can, as we commit to sharing more sustainable products with you.

In addition, GoodtoKnow's Editor Anna Bailey bought and tested the most popular toys on this list with her daughter, Freddie, which was fed back into this article. Anna says: "As Freddie came up to six months old, she was taking a more active interest in the world around her - and it felt like she’d grown out of the sensory toys she liked before. I was really keen to aid her development with a range of new toys she’d be more engaged with to help her develop. To help compile this list, I spoke to all my NCT mums, paid attention to what the other babies were enjoying at the Toy Library and play sessions and scoured the best-seller lists at our top toy retailers. Freddie is 18 month old now, and she still plays with most of the items we reviewed on this list. Her absolute favourite have been the interactive books, the bath toys, the pull string toy and the stacking cups."

Dr Amanda Gummer
Dr Amanda Gummer

Dr Amanda Gummer has a PhD in Neuropsychology, the Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education and more than 20 years’ experience working with children and families. As such, she is renowned as an expert on all aspects of child development, including toys and play. In 2012, she founded The Good Play Guide, an independent, expert accreditation service for children’s products, including toys, apps and more.

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Consumer Writer & Money Editor, GoodtoKnow

Sarah is GoodtoKnow’s Consumer Writer & Money Editor - which means she writes about everything from this year's top toys and the newest toy releases, to discounts on days out and childcare costs. Sarah is passionate about helping mums save money wherever they can - whether that's spending wisely on the right toys and kidswear or keeping on top of the latest news around child benefit, the motherhood penalty. A writer, journalist and editor with more than 15 years' experience, Sarah is all about the latest toy trends and is always on the look out for toys for her nephew or Goddaughters so that she remains one of their favourite grown ups. When not writing about money or best buys, Sarah can be found hanging out with her rockstar dog Pepsi, getting opinionated about a movie or learning British Sign Language. 

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