Sure you can throw in a cute pair of socks and a bib with a funny saying, but if want ideas for stocking stuffers that will boost your baby’s development, keep reading!
Christmas is a great time to buy baby things they need like clothes and bottles. It’s also a great time to think of how you can support their development in the year to come.
Development can’t really, truly be separated out and broken down into isolated categories. Babies are always working on many skills simultaneously! But I did categorize these stocking stuffers based on the predominant skill it promotes. If you are looking for certain toys in particular, you can scroll right to that section!
Stocking Stuffers that Boost Baby’s Fine Motor Development
Connecting links are my favorite first toy for babies. They are so small and lightweight, making them super easy to hold. Their shape makes them harder for baby to drop as easily as other baby toys, so baby can play with them longer. Their shape also makes them great for learning to transfer back and forth between hands.
You can connect a few links and clip them on the stroller or car seat to entertain baby on the go and encourage reaching skills.
As baby gets older, they can learn to connect the links together on their own!
As much as I love the standard Oball, it’s a bit too large to fit well in a stocking. The Oball shaker rattle is thinner, would fit perfectly in baby’s stocking, and has the same benefits the Oball does. Baby can easily stick their fingers in the holes, making it easy to hold onto even for young infants.
It also has the added benefit of being a great oral motor toy. Babies love sticking their tongue in the holes too and this is great for stimulating tongue mobility.
If you want to introduce rattles to your baby but are worried they will bonk themselves in the head, these Fisher Price rattles are perfect. They are soft on one end, so hand them to baby with the soft side up if they are still working on their motor control.
Stocking Stuffers that Boost Baby’s Gross Motor Development
Rattle socks and ankle rattles like these can help encourage baby to bring their feet up to their hands, which babies should do around 4 months of age. They also help to encourage baby to kick to make noise, an important gross motor skill that’s also great for cognitive development.
Black and white books or cards that can be positioned upright like this soft picture book are great for entertaining baby in tummy time. Babies tend to love bold patterns such as black and white high contrast pictures. Using visually interesting objects and toys can help to make tummy time more enjoyable.
If your baby is struggling with tummy time, check out our article My Baby Cries During Tummy Time for tips!
Stocking Stuffers that Boost Baby’s Oral Motor Development
Did you know that teething toys are helpful for more than just soothing sore gums? Teethers that have a long edge or loops and holes can help to facilitate tongue movement, desensitize the gag reflex, and allow baby to practice chewing.
This Sensory Teether from Manhattan Toy is easy for babies to hold onto and bring to their mouth. They love to stick their tongue through the loops and this is great for encouraging tongue protrusion (sticking tongue out) and lateralization (moving tongue to the sides).
This Baby Teether from Como Tomo has a little handle for baby to hold and 4 pieces that stick out. These longer pieces are able to go further back in baby’s mouth than standard circular teethers. This helps to facilitate chewing practice, decreases baby’s gag reflex, and encourages the tongue to move in order to follow it.
For more information on the benefits of teethers, check out our article The Benefits of Teethers Beyond Teething.
The Baby Banana Toothbrush is a great first toothbrush as well as a great teether. Baby can use it before they even have any teeth! The silicone bristles provide an interesting sensory experience and the handles make it easy for baby to hold on their own.
Olababy’s Silicone Training Spoon is one of my favorite first baby spoons. It has a chubby handle that is easy for little hands to hold which is ideal for promoting independence. Yes, they will be messy at first but it is still good to let your baby practice using a spoon when eating purees. Thick purees such as mashed potatoes and yogurt are easiest because they stick to the spoon well.
The Olababy spoon is silicone and babies enjoy chewing on it, so it doubles as a great teether!
EzPz’s Tiny Cup is 4ozs, small enough to fit in baby’s hands and in their stocking! It has a weighted bottom, which helps to keep it upright and prevent spills. Did you know that open cups are the preferred cup for oral motor development? You can start practicing this skill when baby is about 6 months old.
For tips on teaching baby to use an open cup, check out our article on open cup drinking.
Naturebond’s Baby Feeder is a safe way to allow baby to practice eating foods they aren’t yet ready to eat on their own. You can put things like chunks of fresh apple or frozen berries inside to let baby practice chewing and experience new flavors and textures, without worrying about choking.
I recommend using the smallest size included so it can reach further back in baby’s mouth for good chewing practice.
Stocking Stuffers that Boost Baby’s Sensory Development
Have you noticed that babies love tags? Taggies is a product line made for this reason! The toys (like this elephant one) have silky tags all around for baby to touch. It squeaks and crinkles and has a variety of colors and textures to stimulate baby’s vision and sense of touch.
Touch and Feel books like this Zoo theme book are another great way to stimulate baby’s tactile system. Not only will baby enjoy looking at the pictures, but they can stroke the animal’s fur with their fingers too.
Stocking Stuffers that Boost Baby’s Cognitive Development
Small board books are the perfect stocking stuffer to boost cognitive development (not to mention speech and visual development as well!). This lift a flap board book is small enough to fit in baby’s stocking, full of simple and colorful pictures, and even has flaps for them to lift.
They will probably be ready to use their finger to peak behind the flaps as they get closer to age 1.
Stacking cups like these from The First Years are a classic toy that work on a lot of skills. To work on cognitive skills, you can help baby stack a few and encourage them to knock them over. You can also hide toys under them and encourage baby to search for the hidden toys.
As baby gets older, they will be able to stack them up on their own and fit the cups inside each other. The holes in the bottom make them a great bath toy too!
Go ahead and buy those cute outfits and a high chair for baby’s first Christmas, but get a few things for their development too! You can also share this list with family members asking what to get baby this year! Happy Holidays!
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