holiday gifts 2022

The Best Gifts for 6-Month-Olds, According to Experts (and Parents)

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At 6 months old, babies can’t thank you for a well-considered gift, but they can make eye contact, grasp objects in their little hands, and smile back at you. Because they grow and learn through play, the best gifts for 6-month-olds will both nurture their development and keep them engaged. To narrow the market of baby toys, accessories, and books, and help guide you toward the very best baby gifts out there, we spoke to child-development experts, as well as parents, for their picks.

While the experts agreed that the best thing for babies is adult interaction — talking, singing, and sensory play — toys can make those adult interactions more fun, and simple gifts that encourage sensory exploration, fine and gross motor skills, and cause and effect are best. Dr. Patricia Cantor, a professor of early-childhood education at Plymouth State University and the co-author of Techwise Infant and Toddler Teachers, gave us this easy rule of thumb: “You don’t want to get them something you turn on and they watch, you want to give them a toy they can do something with.” Read on for 30 gifts that our experts say will make a not-quite-newborn very happy — and will make great gifts for the holidays, too. To make shopping a little easier for you, we’ve categorized everything into books, toys — and important to this age, teethers — in the table of contents above. For even more gifts — for kids ages 1 through 10 — head to our Toy Matrix. And if you’re looking for gifts beyond the baby, head to our main holiday gift guide hub, where you’ll find picks for every family member, friend, and everyone in between.

The best book and educational toy gifts for 6-month-olds

Three of our experts — Cantor; Dr. Tovah P. Klein, the director of the Barnard College Center for Toddler Development and author of How Toddlers Thrive; and Sarah MacLaughlin, a social worker and the author of What Not to Say: Tools for Talking With Young Children — all cited Baby Faces, by Margaret Miller, as their No. 1 book recommendation. “Babies at 6 months start to be more inclined to pay attention to a book, and they’re starting to notice other babies’ faces. They really like to look at other babies,” says MacLaughlin. Klein further explains, saying, “The words are not the most important part. Looking at a picture and the interaction with the parent around the book gives the message that looking at books is a positive thing.”

Cantor is a big fan of board books because they are sturdy and can stand up to a lot of wear and tear. She also likes that you can put a baby on their stomach and easily prop the books up in front of them. “An author I really like for this age is Helen Oxenberry; she has a book that’s called Clap Hands with very simple pictures and actions that adults can do with babies,” says Cantor, who explains the educational value of the book like this: “Babies really learn language when you use a word while matching it to an action or an object. So if you’re reading the book Clap Hands while actually clapping your hands, they’re going to pick up that language much faster.”

Alexandra Figueras-Daniel, an assistant research professor at National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER), recommends this book from a series called Indestructibles, which its publisher claims can withstand a great amount of abuse (and chewing) from babies because the books are made with “ultra-durable material” that’s rip- and water-proof. This book is also very flexible, according to Figueras-Daniel, which she says is great for 6-month-olds because they can actually flip through it and hold it in their hands. This helps them to “learn to turn the pages, and that eventually develops into literacy skills,” which Figueras-Daniel also says are important to start encouraging at an early age. “Sometimes we take for granted that those are skills that we learn: That we read from left to right, where the words on the page start, or where on the page words are even placed,” she adds.

MacLaughlin told us that, at 6 months, babies still don’t see a full range of color, so high contrast toys and books are attractive to them. She suggests board books in black and white, like “this series of board books made specifically for babies by Tana Hoban.”

These lift-flap-books are another favorite of Figueras-Daniel because they’re interactive, with “a little bit of cause and effect mixed in there, too.” (She likes that Where Is Baby’s Belly Button? comes in a Spanish edition as well.) A book like this lets a parent talk through what’s inside with their child by pointing at the different body parts within and describing them, Figueras-Daniel explains. “They don’t have to be books with a plot,” she says. “Books that even simply have one object where you can talk about the name of that object are very helpful for encouraging speech and learning nouns.”

$16

MacLaughlin says that making a picture book by filling a soft album like this with photos of baby and family would make for a thoughtful gift that’s also developmental. “They may not necessarily know that it’s them and not another baby but that doesn’t matter.” she explains, adding, “At this point, their vision is getting better so they’re becoming a lot more aware of the world around them.” In addition to being soft and flexible, this album has plastic sleeves to help protect photos from the baby’s drool.

If you’d rather take the guesswork out of gifting age-appropriate toys to the 6-month-old in your life, consider Lovevery’s development-specific Play Kits, which are a favorite gift here at the Strategist. Vox Media consumer revenue director Brooklyn Pesta especially loves the box for 5- and 6-month-olds. “The toys are designed so well for that developmental stage,” she says. “My son and I got a lot of play time out of them, and everything is beautifully made.” In this particular box, the tummy time wobbler and spinning rainbows were “huge hits,” and her son also really liked pulling out all the fabric tissues from the magic tissue box and “spreading them everywhere.” Boxes cost $80 each and come every two months for the first year (they go up to age 3).

Lovevery also sells individual toys, like this hide-and-find drop box that introduces the concept of object permanence to little ones. Cristal Cameron, HR business partner at Vox Media, recommends it, saying that it’s been a hit with her son, who’s 9 months old, ever since he was younger. “At 6 months, he was interested in reaching in and out of the hole to see the ball and practicing opening and closing the door,” she says. “I would also put his lovey through the hole and he would pull it out.” Over the past couple of months, he’s learned to enjoy it even more. “Now, he’s mastered putting the ball in the hole then opening the door to get it out and do it again, which is so cute to watch,” she says. Like the Play Kits above, each Lovevery toy is designed to grow with your child, making it a versatile gift.

The best toy gifts for 6-month-olds

Hape Penguin Musical Wobbler
$13
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Figueras-Daniel loves this wobbly little penguin for another cute way to experiment with cause and effect — and music. The toy stands back up after your little one bats at it, while a built-in bell makes a soothing, tinkling sound as it sways from side to side. (It also happens to make a great stocking stuffer.)

$22

Hillary Dixler, Eater’s restaurant editor, says that her daughter loved this light-up drum from Hape when she was around 6 months old (she still plays with it at age 2). It’s the perfect size for helping a little one practice sitting up. “She liked that you could lean forward onto it,” Dixler says. “Plus, that age was all about banging, and this drum rewards that banging with different drum tones and, when it inevitably falls over, different melodies.” Another feature Dixler appreciates is that the noises and drum music are actually cute. “I really can’t overstate how rare it is to find noise-making toys that don’t make you want to crawl out of your skin,” she says. “This one — even the drum melodies it plays on its side — truly are tolerable!” Plus, she adds, you can turn the volume down to medium.

For another type of musical instrument, try these little egg-shaped shakers that fit perfectly into baby hands, helping them practice grasping and clutching skills while also teaching cause and effect. Cantor recommends them, saying, “If they move their hand and this little egg shaker makes a noise, that’s going to get their attention, and then over time they’ll start to realize that their action is what’s causing the noise.”

“One gift I would get them is a mirror with soft backing,” says Cantor. “They like looking in the mirror — they have no clue it’s themselves, but they like doing that.” MacLaughlin seconds this idea, noting that a mirror a 6-month-old can look at during tummy time, like this fold out mirror, would be even more functional. Because of its shape, the mirror stands up so a baby can play with it while they’re laying on their stomach. And it’s soft, so they won’t hurt themselves on any sharp corners.

According to Cantor, 6-month-olds’ fine motor skills are still rudimentary, so they won’t have full control of their movements. It’s for this reason that she and other child experts recommend stacking toys that babies can play and experiment with at six months and grow into later. Both Cantor and Klein suggest this set of lightweight nesting cups, which are also a popular baby-shower gift. As event planner and mom Elizabeth Verrelli explains, “They can be incorporated into almost any level of developmental play,” even as a baby gets older. “I cannot believe how much mileage we’ve gotten out of them.”

For something a little heftier, Figueras-Daniel recommends this set of color-blocked, weighted spheres from Fat Brain Toys, which have a rubbery finish that makes them easier for small hands to grip. “You stack them from largest to smallest,” she explains, “but you could do other things with them too.” The toys’ rounded shape means they can also wobble, spin, tilt, and roll, making them a more dynamic plaything. Plus, their weight and shape makes them “fun to hold,” according to Figueras-Daniel.

$19

Cantor also told us she likes these soft stacking rings as a gift for 6-month-olds. “They’re not really going to be stacking the rings just yet, but they like to hold them in each hand and bang the rings together,” she says, adding that, because they’re soft, a baby “won’t bang themself in the head with them.”

Figueras-Daniel told us about these slightly more advanced stacking blocks that come with little animals, which she calls an “all-time” favorite. She notes they may be a little more challenging for a 6-month-old than the above styles (the manufacturer suggests them for 12-month-olds and up), but says looking ahead to the next developmental step is important in early child education. “It starts them working on some fine motor skills; as you stack the blocks, you can put the animals inside each one, so the toy has a double purpose,” she explains. “The little animals add another level of interest to the game.” Of course, knocking them over is just fine, as that also teaches babies cause and effect, according to her. “Even though it may seem like a toy is slightly above something that they can do,” exposing them to it can help a 6-month-old get there.

Figueras-Daniel is also a fan of shape sorting toys for promoting fine motor skills in 6-month-olds. The key, she says, is to start off with something simple that “maybe only has six shapes,” like this toy that includes squares, triangles, stars, and circles, and comes in a cheerful butterfly box that doubles as the sorting vessel.

A little more flexible (and therefore perhaps easier for baby) is this motor-skill-honing toy that Figueras-Daniel calls “almost like the precursor to shape sorter.” Instead of having hard edges, the box’s sides consist of elastic strings in various patterns that will challenge a 6-month-old to “put objects inside of it by kind of budging them through,” she explains.

Photo: retailer

“Pull toys are great for this stage, as babies begin to crawl and get around,” says Figueras-Daniel, who recommends this Winnie the Pooh puzzle train. Made of wood, it includes Eeyore, Owl, Pooh, Piglet, and Tigger, all sitting on pegs. Not only is the toy great for encouraging movement, it also “encourages other skills since the pieces on the train are removable,” according to Figueras-Daniel.

$20

It may sound simple, but MacLaughlin says a ball that a baby can pass back and forth with parents would also make for a good gift for a 6-month-old. “We know that babies’ brains build through those back and forth interactions with a caregiving adult,” she explains. “We call it serve and return.” She adds that even if mom or dad has to do most of the passing, rolling the ball coupled “with lots of eye contact and laughing is good for their motor skills and social-emotional development, as it draws the connection between the child and adult.” The four balls in this pack will also act as sensory toys, thanks to their soft nubby texture.

If you’re looking for an activity center that can double as a décor item, consider this wooden pony from Manhattan Toy that Figueras-Daniel calls “lovely.” Not only is it pretty to look at, it features multiple painted surfaces to explore: flapping ears, gliders, beads, spinning dials, shape sorters, and basic letters and numbers. As Figueras-Daniel puts it, “This toy is great for fine-motor development and some cause and effect.”

Mom-of-two Christine Lee found this after searching for a high-chair toy. She liked that the mini activity station, which suctions to the tabletop, had good reviews and was inexpensive. “My son loves this thing,” she says. “He swats at it, spins it, and tries to eat it. It’s also helpful for me because it keeps him occupied while I eat.”

For an activity center that also promotes gross motor skill development, consider this bouncing Exersaucer from Evenflo that’s a hit with this writer’s almost-6-month-old and Vox Media senior engineer Dan Corrigan’s daughter who’s the same age. “We noticed she was hopping up and down in our laps a lot and thought, ‘Oh, time to get the bouncer out!” says Corrigan. This polar-themed one he recommends has a 360-degree spinning seat (which is removable for easy washing), three adjustable heights so that it grows with your child, and a bunch of oversized toys of different textures and functions to keep your child exploring and occupied. Aside from jumping up and down in it, he says that his daughter “likes being able to pull herself all the way around the circle and visit her different animal friends.” My son has a world explorer-themed one that has held up over at least two previous owners, and he has a ton of fun bouncing in it and pushing all the various buttons on the different toys.

Speaking of tummy time, our experts say that some babies at 6 months can hold themselves up on their elbows, while others have trouble with it. To help them master this ability, MacLaughlin suggests gifting this snake-shaped pillow that you can use to prop a baby up on their stomach or to support their back when they are sitting. “A lot of babies don’t like the feeling of their face on the floor if they don’t yet have the arm strength to hold themselves up,” she explains. “This prop supports tummy time which is very important for babies at this age.”

Another way to enjoy tummy time (or back time) is this piano-kick gym that Vox Media designer Allie Gillebo recommends. “We were gifted one of these, and as much I didn’t love the bright color aesthetic or the idea of hearing little melodies on repeat, it was such a hit with our baby that it became my go-to activity for that awkward age where baby wants to play but can’t really do too much yet,” she says. Whether the baby is lying on their back or stomach, they can use their feet to play the little keyboard at the base of the gym, or look up at the adjustable toy arch, or even sit up when they’re able. “We kept that toy through all four kids because it was so clutch in buying us a little time here and there,” adds Gillebo.

The best teething gifts for 6-month-olds

According to Cantor, at this age, babies “put everything in their mouth. Everything.” Therefore, things to help with teething — like this bright, textured silicone raspberry teether designed to help with the pain of incoming teeth — make great gifts for 6-month-olds, because they’re likely going to chew on whatever you give them anyway. “Everything you buy, you are buying with the knowledge that this is going to go into their mouth,” she says. This particular one is a favorite of Lee, who says her almost-6-month-old goes to town on it: “He holds it and chews all of it — the berry and the leaves. It’s his favorite chew toy.”

Here’s a teething toy that also encourages fine motor skills, thanks to the textured silicone center that can pushed in and popped out. Figueras-Daniel likes it because it reminds her of the popular push-pop fidget toys for older kids. This one’s “sweet and perfect for babies,” she says.

While some babies will already be teething at 6 months, that doesn’t mean they’ll be great at holding onto things. In fact, they might be starting to experiment with what happens when they throw their toys onto the floor. For babies who are teething and really like to chuck their toys, MacLaughlin suggests teething mittens that you can strap onto their hands. “These funny little mittens could be a good solution to make sure the teething toys stay with the baby,” she explains.

Part teether, stuffed animal, and sensory toy, Cantor told us that Taggies can help keep a 6-month-old occupied at home but also while on the go, whether in a stroller or on a plane. “These have a fair amount of interesting stuff for babies to do,” she explains. “There are lots of tags all around the outside and different textures, like a plastic ring or crinkly fabric,” that’ll hold little ones’ attention.

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The Best Gifts for 6-Month-Olds, According to Experts