What should you get for a baby for Christmas in 2020? What are the best baby toys in the UK and Ireland this year for a budget? Whether you’re the new parents, grandma or an aunt, that first Christmas is hard to shop for. I remember last Christmas, my baby was only a few months old and I had no idea what to get! Then, amazingly, we were inundated with presents from relatives and somehow no one bought us the same thing twice. I’ve broken down the best toys and gifts for baby’s first Christmas by age and budget and reviewed them below:
At this age, babies are in the third trimester. They sleep a lot, wake up to feed and cry, and sleep some more. They have very little interaction with their environment and in the words of one of my friends (whose baby was born exactly one year earlier than my baby), “they don’t give a crap about toys”. So what to get for a newborn baby for Christmas? You have two options. You can either get them something they might enjoy in a few months’ time or get them something really, really simple. They are growing rapidly, and mama will probably appreciate some baby clothes in the 3-6 or 6-9 months size.
Best budget buys for newborns (under £20):
Lullaby toys tend to be enjoyed by even very young babies.
Baby Einstein in the UK do this super-cute star lullaby toy for £12.99. It attaches to the cot and features bright colors which babies love! It has motion activation so if your baby is over 6 months and alone in their cot, if they stir, they can be lulled back to sleep without you risking waking them up more by going into their room and turning the lullaby toy back on. At this price point, this is about the best lullaby toy you can get and the ideal Christmas gift for newborns this year.
This Manhattan Toy Lullaby Squirrel is £20. It attaches to the cot for safety and the squirrel slowly moves into his acorn as the music plays. There are also crinkles and textures for baby to explore, making this a good toy for when baby is ready to touch things.
Crinkle books with high-contrast images start to come into their own when baby is about 10-12 weeks old. My baby adores Bumble Bee. It’s £12 which is a bit on the expensive side for a cloth book but if our copy got lost, I’d buy it again because my jellyfish still loves this book at 14 months. As well as having high-contrast images, a brief, rhyming story that’s easy to read, crinkles in almost every page and even some textured ribbon pages and a shiny mirror, it’s a lift-the-flaps cloth book so it will stay interesting for babies for a lot longer than other cloth books. Just remember to remove the plastic from the mirror at the back of the book (I used a knife very carefully around the very edges of the mirror). Oh and did I mention Bumble Bee has a clip to attach it to the pram, which you can detach and give to your baby as a teething ring because it has two different chewy textures?
For a cheaper crinkle book with fewer features, Giraffe and Friends is a super-simple book. It has a rattle page and a crinkle page, but largely is pictures of animals with the only words being the names of the animals. I’d give this one 6/10 for engagement, interest and features but it’s £6.99 and you get what you pay for with rag books for babies.
For an indestructible twist on a British classic baby book, Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell comes in a cloth book version, perfect for little babies who like to chew the pages and rip the flaps off board books. And you can currently get matching outfits in Sainsbury’s, for your little zoo fan!
Another fantastic option for cloth books for newborn babies is the timeless Guess How Much I Love You by Northern Ireland author Sam McBratney, also available in cloth book (they call it the Guess How Much I Love You Snuggle Book). We have Guess How Much I Love You in French (Devine Combien Je T’aime) and my 14-month-old baby often brings it to me to read him.
And I have to give a special shout-out to Noises by Jo Moon because, although it’s now out of print and hard to get, this book gave us our baby’s first smile at a toy, on an 8-hour car journey to the south of England from Northern Ireland last November. We have now read it about 1000 times and sometimes he falls asleep with it. I wish, wish, wish the cloth books Noises and Patterns by Jo Moon were still in print because they are perfect for little ones. Ah, cloth books… I could buy every cloth book on Amazon and make a little library of them if I had the space in this tiny house!
Mid-range £20-50 toys for Newborns:
Toys for this age group tend to be either very cheap or very expensive, I think the only thing we had for a newborn that cost between £20 and £50 was bouncy chairs. We ended up buying two in the end because I tripped over the first one and broke it (also, OWWW), but also that one was only up to 9kg and we had a heavier baby who was born on the 98th percentile so we needed to upgrade by 6 months anyway.
Originally we got a chair like this one from Red Kite with the thin wire legs. Pros are it’s easy to bounce (you can even bounce it with your foot) and he liked batting the toys. Cons are it’s not going to last as long as a sturdier bouncer. If your baby is on the smaller side, however, you will probably find this fits your baby quite well in the early months.
If we were doing everything again, I’d opt straight for a chair that would last up to 18kg. We now have this Bright Starts one, which has a toy arch and the same vibrations as the bouncers for younger babies, although this one doesn’t so much bounce as rock, our 14-month-old still enjoys rocking it himself by kicking his feet. And it *says* 18kg but I’ve sat in it (I weigh 45kg) and it can take my weight, so if you have older kids, you don’t have to worry about them wrecking the baby’s chair. We also use our bouncer for weaning, as we have no space for a high chair or a dining table in our tiny home. 10/10 recommend this chair unless you have a tiny baby or a preemie in which case something like the Red Kite one above would be better.
High end toys over £50 for 0-3 months:
A baby rocker like the Ingenuity ConvertMe Swing2Seat is another fantastic option but never, ever, ever let your baby sleep in it unsupervised. The best ones vibrate and play soothing lullabies to get your baby to drift off.
Ahh, this is where toys start becoming interesting and babies start interacting with things more!
Budget buys under £20 Christmas gifts for a 3-6 month old baby
All of the toys for 0-3 months will still be interesting to a 3-6 month old baby, but babies will also be interested in rattles and crinkle mittens.
Our baby adored the Guess How Much I Love You rattle. He still plays with it at 14 months of age so we’ve had a lot of use out of it. When he was really little, we used to put his whole hand through the hole in the middle and he loved waving his hand and rattle it!
He also loves his Panda teething mittens! These come in a pair and they’re black and white. Young babies love high-contrast toys so this was really eye-catching for him. His hands never fitted inside (98th percentile baby problems haha), but he still chews on it and loves exploring the crinkle sounds. He has been teething since he was 4 months and a lot of teething remedies are for older babies so this was a great buy. Now his molars are coming in, he loves chewing it with his back teeth.
We also have a night light projector. These don’t need to be expensive (the baby won’t know or care) and this £15 one is fantastic! It doesn’t sing (that costs more money) but there are so many toys that make noises and not so many that can do a good light show!
Mid-range Christmas gifts for a 3-6 month old baby (£20 to £50)
A basic baby gym requiring no batteries is a great investment. They fold up mostly flat for taking on car rides if you’re going to see family at Christmas and can keep babies occupied while they discover all the toys on the toy arches! This one is perfect. They’re also great for tummy time and as baby learns to sit.
All babies develop at different ages, but if yours is an early roller, an activity play mat might be a great choice at this age!
High end Christmas gifts for a 3-6 month old baby (over £50)
If you want to spend a lot of money, the Fisher Price rainforest baby gym is a fancy-schmancy hi-tech baby gym with sounds and lights, which will captivate your little one from birth and last through the 3-6 month age range, although don’t expect them to do more than fall asleep in it for the first couple of months (at which point you’ll probably want to move them due to safer sleeping).
The perfect Christmas toys for 6-12 month old babies
By this stage, they’re probably sitting, maybe crawling, and definitely waking up every day ready to play, play, play!
There are so many more options at this stage.
Budget Christmas gifts under £20 for babies 6-12 months of age
Baby keyboards are where it’s at for 6-12 month old babies. During tummy time or sitting time, they will love pressing the buttons and hearing the sounds. We have this one from Baby Einstein, who really lead the way in innovative musical instruments for babies.
Cars are another big favourite at this age. Babies discover wheels sometime around 6-12 months and that’s it, cars have their attention forever. It happened to all my cousins’ babies, my friends’ babies, and then it happened with mine, too. Finding toy cars suitable for 6-12 month old babies can be hard. These ones are age-appropriate.
Grandma and granddad also have this Fisher Price baby piano at their house which our baby loves because it also does funny sounds like ducks quacking and cows mooing.
A ball pool! If you have the space in your house, a pop-up ball pool will provide so much fun and wonder for a 6-12 month old baby (and beyond… who doesn’t love a good ball pit). We have a modular one from Tesco that cost about £20 for the pool and the matching crawling tunnel, but they aren’t doing them right now (they class them as a summer toy), and the downside is, the balls fall out through the hole for the tunnel, which is annoying as we don’t have enough space to set both up indoors, so it hardly gets played with now. This £7.99 ball pool would be a great budget alternative. Or, if you have a travel cot, just buy about 3 or 4 packs of play balls from anywhere for about £10 for a pack of 100 (or get one mega pack of 300 from this place for £20) and put them and the baby in the travel cot in your living room, which is what I do when I need to contain the baby e.g. to make tea (which is why we don’t use our ball pool)! I know that adds up to over £20 for the pool and the balls, but you can get started with one pack of balls and a pool for around £16 together, and buy more later, or get relatives to each buy a pack of balls, and the baby will still love this!
Mid-range Christmas gifts for 6-12 months of age (£20 to £50)
The baby Einstein touch piano is a great upgrade if you have £24.99 to spend on it. We’ve played with one but not bought it because we wanted one with buttons to press, for cause and effect. It’s a 2 in 1 keyboard and xylophone and I’m going to get it once my baby outgrows his current keyboard.
Sit-me-up baby sitting support:
About 5 or 6 months, your baby might start sitting. At this point, you will want some way of supporting them. With a very long baby (98th percentile for height and weight) we found that by the time he was ready to try sitting, he was too big/heavy for a lot of the sitting toys to work properly, and they just tipped over with him in. We tried LOADS (this was January and February, before the playgroups all shut down).
Our favorite, and the one we ended up buying, was a horseshoe-shaped cushion support type of baby sitter. This one is very similar to the one we got (ours was from Mothercare who are now bankrupt).
The other type he got on well with was this donut-shaped sitting support, which he used several times at playgroup. The thickness of this one was quite good for my baby’s size. We avoided the seat-type ones because when he fell sideways, the seats fell with him which meant disentangling him from them. Anyway, I have an especially wiggly baby who hates being fastened into toys and not moving around, so the cushion sitting supports for babies were much better for him as he could use them independently and roll around on the floor for a bit when he got bored.
For travel, this infant sitting support would be a great option. It’s inflatable and the play tray is detachable, and it has extra neck support.
I’m not a big fan of the type of walkers where the baby is stuck inside it. I’ve heard of them tipping after getting stuck in doorframes, going down staircases, and generally not being very safe. My health visitor also said to avoid them and while I know health visitors aren’t always a fountain of knowledge, mine really is so I believe her about the number of injuries she’s seen from the Dalek-type baby walkers. From a child development point of view, they don’t teach proper walking or posture, either, which can lead to later back trouble.
Instead, I recommend the sort of walker where the baby pushes it around independently. My baby was very very late to start cruising so we’ve just bought him this Nuby push-along walker which is suitable from 6 months and Nuby are a reputable brand (I’ve seen some really worrying reviews of imported walker toys, so while I am usually happy to buy things from abroad, I would only go with a known brand for this type of toy).
High end Christmas gifts for babies aged 6-12 months (over £50)
Jumperoo: About 6 months, you’ll be ditching the baby gym. Jumping is where it is at for 6-12 month olds. We love this Fisher Price rainforest jumper! For us, this was absolutely worth spending £75 on, even though it takes up most of the floor space in our living room. Just remember babies can’t use them for more than 30 minutes at a time because their hips are still developing as they learn to walk. Benefits of jumping include leg strength, co-ordination and gross motor control. But really, babies shouldn’t be doing any activity for more than about 30 minutes to keep their developing brains stimulated and to avoid over-tiredness.
So that’s it for my top gifts for baby’s first Christmas. What are your favourites? Let me know in the comments! P.S. Sorry to my American readers, this article is all about British baby toys available in the UK, but if you head on over to US Amazon I’m sure you could find some of the toys I’ve linked to above!
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