For such tiny, little human beings, babies can require a lot of stuff. Of course, there are the necessities like strollers and car seats and the nice-to-haves like baby sleep aids, but then there’s also the fun stuff like adorable baby clothes and natural baby toys.
Of all the toys out there, baby toys require much research. You see – rattles, mobiles, and even stuffed animals can all aid in your baby’s brain and physical development.
The best toys for baby development will not only cater to their developmental stages, but will also be safe, non-toxic and natural. Shockingly, mainstream baby toys may contain things like lead, heavy metals, BPAs, PVC, formaldehyde, pesticides, flame retardants — the list goes on.
In general, a good rule while eco child’s play shopping is to avoid plastic-made toys, and instead opt for wooden play things, plush toys made from organic materials and items decorated with non-toxic paints.
To make natural baby toy shopping a little easier, we have also compiled a list of some of the best natural baby toys, broken down by age and milestones. Take a look:
Natural Baby Toys for Newborns
It’s a fact, newborn babies spend most of their time cuddling, eating. and sleeping. The new world around them provides constant stimulation, so they don’t require anywhere near the level of entertainment of a toddler.
That being said, breaking up the day with a few minutes here and there of “play” can benefit both baby and parent.
This baby toy guide contains affiliate links.
Black + White Toys
Black and white, bold play things help stimulate the development of your baby’s optic nerves. The simple contrast of colors helps boost cognitive development without being overly stimulating.
Dock-A-Tot’s Black & White Toy Set
Cute animal designs in black and white crinkle when touched and can attach to activity arches, car seats and more.
Better yet, they have been tested for the presence of harmful phthalates and heavy metals and meets or exceeds children’s product general safety regulations.
Every baby loves a lovey, this organic cotton panda blanket is super soft to the touch and features knotted “hands” and “feet” so it’s easy for baby to hold.
Everything from Under the Nile is Certified Fair Trade. They’re doing great things for people and the planet, and you’ll love that there’s not use of pesticides or harmful chemicals in any of their manufacturing.
Plush toys can further help exercise your baby’s eye development as well as encourage other sensory stimulation through touch and feel “play”. Not to mention, a sweet plush toy can grow with your baby and become a cherished childhood companion for imaginary play later on.
This 13-inch adorable lamb plush is 100% handcrafted by artisans in Peru with sustainable, fair trade wages. It is safety-certified for newborns and up and made from premium cotton.
Plus, it’s a gift that gives back. The sale of each doll provides 10 meals to children in need.
Rattles offer another way to encourage and exercise your baby’s sensory development, this time with their hearing, as well as some fine motor skills for shaking and playing with the rattles.
This adorable set of four soft rattles is made from GOTS-certified organic cotton using safe eco-friendly dyes. It is handmade in Peru with soft non-jarring rattle noise-makers on the inside.
Find this adorable organic llama rattle here.
Developmental Toys for Infants
Once your child reaches the age of around 2 months, your baby is no longer a newborn. Surely, you’ve already noticed some big changes in your little one. They keep their eyes open longer. They try to lift or move their head a bit. And they’re probably snoozing a little less.
These natural baby toys will help further encourage alertness and movement.
Organic Soft Books
Maybe you started off by reading to your baby in the womb, now it’s really time to hit the books! Soft picture books can be a great introduction to your child’s rich literary future.
Flipping through soft pages together during mindful story time and creating your own “stories” to tell helps break up the day and allows for an opportunity for baby and parent to bond. Your baby can also start learning how to grip and hold the soft pages.
This cute and colorful book is made from 100% organic cotton, making it perfect for your baby to start holding and grasping in their little hands. It features pop-up dinosaurs for sensory development and is machine washable.
Activity Gyms + Tummy Time Mats
A list of developmental toys for babies could not be complete without tummy time encouragement items. Now, while tummy time is absolutely essential for your baby’s motor, visual and sensory development including their neck muscle strength, it can come at a cost — a cost of baby tears that is.
Still, it is super important that your baby clocks in their necessary amount of tummy time for their age, so activity gyms and play mats can help.
Lovevery did all the research to bring your child the best stage-based Play Gym for their developing brain. The Parents’ Choice award-winning Play Gym by Lovevery includes everything your child needs in an activity gym and play mat—from batting to teething to learning to focus—for playtime and tummy time with purpose.
With 24 baby-tested, Montessori activities and 7 accessories, this baby-safe play gym is made from non-toxic materials including organic cotton and sustainable wood.
This eco-friendly baby product is handmade from solid non-treated wood and hand sanded to be silky smooth.
The four hanging items include horse and star plushes that have been hand knitted and crocheted from 100% high quality cotton, and dangling rings made from solid chemical-free wood that have been painted with eco-friendly, non-toxic paint.
An adorable soft mat is ideal for eco child’s play. This super cute and soft tummy time mat is made from 100% organic cotton that was grown without pesticides and its stuffing is made from 100% recycled polyester.
Infants are still spending a lot of time sleeping and snoozing. A cloth mobile over their bassinet can help ease them into being awake as well as offer visual stimulation, and a welcomed distraction, if set over a changing table or diaper changing area.
Truly one of the cutest additions to your nursery!
Sweet and simple, this mobile is hand-made under Fair Trade guidelines and made from 100% organic lamb’s wool.
Infants are not very mobile just yet, they can’t crawl and may only just be starting to sit up a bit on their own. That being said, infant babies can kick and wiggle their little feet and toes. Play socks with characters or rattles on the toes will encourage more movement so that your baby can be both mentally and physically stimulated at the same time.
Not to mention, play socks can go with you anywhere, making them a convenient form of eco child’s play entertainment while you are waiting for an older sibling’s activity or riding around in the car.
Endless entertainment! These little rattle socks feature a charming gender neutral elephant on the toe and are made from 100% cotton.
Developmental Toys for Babies 4 months+
At around 4 months old, your little one will graduate from infancy and become an official, bona fide baby. You’ll likely notice big leaps between the ages of 4 months to one year.
Your baby will start to babble, move more and even eventually stand and walk! Developmental baby toys will help your little one reach all of these milestones, while also providing fun, too.
Non-Toxic Play Mats
Your baby is more mobile these days. Even if they are not ready to crawl or walk just yet, they are scooting and rolling about. That’s why a non-toxic play mat becomes essential around this age, especially if you have hardwood or tiled floors.
Nontoxic play mats are another one of those categories where you have to be extremely careful. EVA is marketed as a safer alternative to PVC play mats. But EVA foam mats use known carcinogen, formamide, during the manufacturing process.
France and Belgium limited the use of formamide a little more than a decade ago, but other countries have yet to follow suit. While EVA mats are less toxic than ones made from PVC, if you choose one, be sure it contains low levels of formamide and is manufactured in a sustainable way.
Toki’s certified all-natural foam rubber is manufactured with sap from the rubber tree using the Dunlop process. Pure and natural latex foam has a supportive, springy feel. There are also small air pockets to make the mat more breathable.
From our firsthand experience, the modular designs are easy to clean. They also have several pretty options that look great around your house.
Ethically made in India using organic traditional fabrics, the outer fabric of this playmat is a double layer of organic voile, making it super soft. It contains a machine washable fiber stuffing.
This mat was designed to support babies’ visual and cognitive development throughout their first year. You can use this early on like the black and white toys above.
Peeka & Co offers only high-quality items made from clean, non-toxic materials. They also support brands made by women and people of color.
This is another non-foam option so you easily avoid the PVC issue. Also, this mat is darling! MakeMake Organics’ nontoxic play mats are made with 100% GOTS cotton in a certified factory in India.
Our team loves the beautiful patterns which are made with safe, Azo-free dyes. It’s also free from flame retardants.
Organic Cotton Play Mat/Quilted Blanket from Pillobebe
Our team loves the size of Pillobebe’s nontoxic playmat. It measures approximately 54 inches square, so your baby has plenty of room to move around.
It’s also free from Formamide, Fire-retardants, PU, PVC, BPA, BPS, Formaldehyde, Phthalates, Lead, and VOCs so you can rest easy knowing that baby won’t touch or inhale any dangerous substances.
This mat is more like a dual sided quilt, so if you’re looking for something more like a foam mat, Pillobebe also offers their CorkiMat in several cute styles. It comes with one large ergonomic cover and insert tiles.
This play mat is as functional as it is pretty. It is made with premium quality EVA foam (see notes about EVA above) that exceeds US and EU safety requirements.
Each Little Nomad play mat is designed by hand to look like a beautiful rug and blend seamlessly into your home.
Non-Toxic Problem Solving Toys
Blocks are the classic baby toy favorite. At this age, soft, larger-sized blocks are ideal, so that your child can engage in problem solving skills without you having to interfere, because of potential chocking or other hazards. Stacking and nesting toys are other great developmental toys for babies four months and up.
10 hand-sculpted toy blocks inside of a reusable bag that has been made from 100% recycled fabric.
These blocks are great for stacking, gripping and of course, knocking over.
This set of eight stacking cups will help develop your baby’s organization and motor skills. And the colorful round tower is fun and engaging for your baby.
Designed and manufactured in Denmark, these stacking cups are 100% free from BPA, PVC, and phthalates.
This is a classic Montessori toy designed for babies around 8-9 months old, because this is about the time when babies are naturally interested in fitting things together.
Each individual piece is about 2 inches tall and are finished with a homemade natural beeswax and olive oil blend.
Baby Flash Cards
Flash cards offer a fun way for parents and babies to interact with each other, while also building up recognition skills that will later inform babies’ vocabulary.
These high-contrast animal and jungle illustration cards were created with baby development in mind.
Wee Gallery uses eco-friendly materials and only partners with manufacturers that abide by a code of conduct that includes ecologically and socially sustainable practices.
Another toy that encourages movement along with sensory development, play silks offer a fun and safe way to play with babies from infancy, into their toddler years and even beyond.
Made from 100% silk, each 35 inch by 35 inch square has been Fair Labor made in China and finished by hand in the USA. No pesticides or chemicals can be used in the silk making process.
Use the silks to play peek-a-boo, make DIY tents, as a crawl incentive, to hide other objects under. Really there are so many play options that come along with simple silks that can grow with your child.
Is It Worth Spending More on Natural Baby Toys?
In some cases, shopping for eco-friendly baby products can cost more than mainstream items. This typically relates to the materials used in the toy construction. (Plastic toys are often made from cheap materials.) The ethical and environmental standards also affect price.
If you can afford to spend extra on some baby toys, it can be worthwhile. That said, you can also save money on other items by repurposing things you already have at home, like wooden spoons and pot and pans from your kitchen for a reimagined drum set.
Plus, there are other ways to ensure your baby’s toys are safe and eco-friendly without spending a bunch of money:
Other Ways to Shop Sustainably for Baby Toys
Like baby clothes, babies can grow out of their toys faster than you thought possible. That’s why it’s smart to pick and choose what you want to spend money on and what you can find for less or even free. Join a local parenting or “free stuff”group on social media.
There you can post requests for specific items you want for your baby that a parent in your neighborhood may be ready to unload. You can also scan the posts and see if anything looks good. Not to mention, you can cut down on your own environmental load by posting toys your baby outgrows.
Another way to keep baby toy stock piling in check, is to try a baby toy subscription service like Lovevery, mentioned above. Lovevery is a game changer in eco child’s play and matches activities and toys to your child’s age and developmental level. Plus all of the products included are made with sustainable, organic, and natural materials.
It’s true, shopping for natural baby toys is not all fun and games. But with a little knowledge and solid recommendations, you and baby will be ready for play time in no time.