15 Best Musical Toys For Babies

And Why They’re Important For Early Development

Musical toys for babies have come a long way over the past few decades and the newest generation of our offspring are truly spoilt by the advanced toys technology now makes possible.

I’ll be revealing the very best musical toys and explaining why they are so beneficial for your little one’s early growth and development.

Musical toys for babiesBabies love listening to music and making musical sounds

In this article, I focus mainly on electronic toys but I recommend checking out my review of musical instruments for babies as well.

Importance of Auditory Discrimination Skills for Babies

Musical toys play a significant role in developing a baby’s auditory discrimination skills. These toys provide a fun and engaging way for your little one to explore different sounds, rhythms, and melodies, which in turn contributes to their ability to distinguish between various auditory cues.

Why is this important?

1. Language Development

Auditory discrimination skills are closely linked to language acquisition. Babies begin to recognize and differentiate the sounds of their native language even before they start speaking. Being able to distinguish between different sounds, including musical sounds, will help your baby identify speech sounds (phonemes) that form the building blocks of language.

This skill is fundamental for later stages of language development, including forming words, understanding sentence structures, and expressing themselves.

2. Phonemic Awareness

To explain phonemic awareness a little further, it’s the ability to recognize and manipulate individual letters and sounds within words. This also makes it a crucial skill for learning to read and write.

3. Communication Skills

Auditory discrimination skills allow your baby to identify differences in pitch, tone, and rhythm in speech. This helps them grasp nuances in communication, such as changes in emotions, emphasis, and intentions conveyed through speech patterns. Developing this skill enhances their ability to understand others and express themselves effectively.

4. Cognitive Development

Auditory discrimination involves attentive listening and processing of sounds. Engaging in activities that challenge your baby to differentiate between similar sounds stimulates their cognitive abilities. This mental exercise contributes to their overall cognitive development, including memory, attention, and problem-solving skills.

5. Auditory Memory

Auditory discrimination supports the development of auditory memory – the ability to remember and recall sounds, words, and patterns. This memory skill is essential for following instructions, remembering words, and even understanding complex concepts in later stages of education. Without auditory memory, we would be unable to process and remember information we’ve gained through listening.

6. Environmental Awareness

The world is full of auditory stimuli, from birds chirping to cars honking. Developing auditory discrimination skills helps babies navigate their environment by identifying and responding to relevant sounds. This skill contributes to their safety and understanding of the world around them.

If you’re interested in knowing exactly how musical toys help your baby to develop auditory discrimination skills, the next section reveals all.

If you’d rather skip straight down to my review of the best musical toys for babies, click this link:

15 Best Musical Toys For Babies

4 Ways Musical Toys Develop Auditory Discrimination Skills

1. Exposure to Varied Sounds

Musical toys introduce babies to a wide range of sounds – from soft melodies to lively rhythms. This exposure helps them become familiar with different tones and pitches, enhancing their ability to recognize and differentiate between various auditory stimuli.

2. Distinctive Sound Patterns

Many musical toys feature repetitive and distinctive sound patterns. Babies start mentally identifying these patterns, which boosts their auditory discrimination skills. This skill becomes a foundation for recognizing patterns in speech and other everyday auditory experiences, as well as music.

3. Listening Skills

Playing with musical toys encourages focused listening. Babies pay attention to the changes in sounds, whether it's a high or low note, a gentle melody, or a rhythmic beat. This attentive listening hones their ability to distinguish between subtle sound variations.

4. Rhythm and Timing

Rhythmic elements in musical toys promote the development of temporal processing skills – the ability to process and differentiate between the timing of sounds. Babies exposed to rhythmic toys are more likely to develop a sense of timing, an important aspect of auditory discrimination.

Many musical toys also include words and phrases which adds to their value as learning toys. I’ve included some of these in my review of the best musical toys for babies below.

best musical baby toysCaptivated by music

15 Best Musical Toys For Babies

Now that we know why musical toys are so important for your baby’s development, let’s dive into the task of finding the best toys for the job.

1. Baby Einstein Take-Along Tunes Musical Toy

Baby Einstein make some wonderful musical toys and I offer no apology for including four of them in my list of the very best musical toys for babies. The first has been a favorite for over a decade. This stylish, brightly colored music box with its adorable design plays popular classical masterpieces from composers such as Chopin, Mozart, Vivaldi, and Rossini. It’s easy for small hands to hold and your little one will soon be toggling through the 10 melodies with the large button to select their favorites. To aid their visual perception, there are also lights that dance across the screen to the rhythm of each melody.

2. Baby Einstein Star Bright Symphony Plush Musical Take-Along Toy

This cute, smiling, plush musical star will have your baby chuckling away as they listen to the six upbeat melodies. The bright colors and happy face, which lights up, will captivate their attention and encourage them to reach out to interact with their cheerful companion. There are two volume levels, and you have the option to set the music to play non-stop or only come on when the star is touched. Your little one will soon learn how to activate the music themselves by knocking or grabbing it, or you can fix it out of reach on their crib, stroller, or car seat with the Velcro strap for calm listening time.

3. Baby Einstein Octoplush Musical Huggable Plush Toy

Opus the cuddly baby octopus is the ultimate plush musical toy. Every hug and squeeze introduces your baby to the exciting world of sounds and colors. On the upper side of each of the eight soft legs is a colorful, tactile embroidered image. Give the image a gentle squeeze to hear the corresponding color and listen to a short classical melody. The silky fabric of the underside of Opus’ legs have a bold black and white pattern specifically designed to aid visual perception in young babies.

4. Baby Einstein Glow & Discover Light Bar Activity Station

The final Baby Einstein musical toy to earn a place in my list of the top musical toys for babies is this mini activity station that can be laid flat for tummy time exploration or propped up on its stand for sit up play. It’s intuitively interactive and your little one will quickly work out how to activate it even without you showing them. It has three modes – animals, colors, and music – so just select the one you want your baby to explore and away they go. The buttons light up for extra fun and there’s also a spin rattle in the centre which turned out to be the favorite element of several of my young testers.

5. Elephant Baby Piano Toy

There is so much more to this musical elephant than sweet tunes. It’s a whole interactive learning and sensory center and perfect for babies from around the age of 6 months. There are elements to twist, turn, rotate, pull, jiggle, and flip. As far as the auditory side of things goes, the toy can be set to learning mode or music mode. In learning mode, your little one will learn numbers, animal calls, and fun songs. Switch to music mode and they can create their own tunes using the push button musical keys. Your baby isn’t going to outgrow out of this toy in a hurry and it will provide fun and learning reinforcement through their toddler years.

6. VTech Baby Lil' Critters Moosical Cow

This is a similar type of musical toy to the previous one but this cute soft cow is oh so cuddly. It’s the ideal size for hugs and for popping in the diaper bag, if you can wrestle it off your little one, for musical fun and learning on-the-go. Your baby just has to press the light-up buttons or spin the square bead to hear 30+ cheerful songs, melodies, sounds, and phrases that teach shapes, colors, numbers, and letters. A variety of fabric textures are included to enhance tactile awareness and the easy-grasp rings make this moosical toy easy to hold while helping to strengthen little hands and promote developing fine motor skills.

7. Fisher-Price Sound Machine Soothe 'N Snuggle Otter

The gorgeous Fisher-Price Snuggle Otter wins my vote hands down as the best sound machine around right now. It’s unbelievably cute and cuddly, and the ideal size for your baby to snuggle up to. Sound machines have been developed to soothe, calm, and comfort babies but they also offer your little one the same benefits as most other types of musical toys. As well as playing soothing tunes, the otter lights up and moves in a gentle “breathing” motion. It is customizable with up to 30 minutes of music and sounds, and machine washable with the electronics removed. A lovely toy that can be introduced from birth.

8. Fisher-Price Soothe & Glow Musical Seahorse

Here’s another great option if you’re looking for a sound machine for your baby, again from Fisher-Price. Their soothe and glow seahorse is equally cuddly and a hug activates the light up tummy and starts the music playing. The 8 classical lullabies, plus ocean sounds, play continuously for 5 minutes. All your baby has to do to hear them again is to give Seahorse another squeeze. Delightful. This musical toy is also machine washable with the electronics removed.

9. Crawling Crab Musical Toy

The next offering in my list of the best musical toys for babies is something completely different. As well as delighting your baby with the little tune it plays and the sparkling lights, it’s going to get them moving and developing their motor skills. How? By enticing them to reach out and, as they become more mobile, to crawl after it as it scurries back and forth, cleverly avoiding objects with its sensors. Crawling Crab will also help your little one develop visual tracking skills as their eyes follow its movement. This busy little toy, available in four colors, is sure to liven up playtimes.

10. Hape Musical Wobbler Penguin

Another musical toy that moves around, but this time, won’t escape your baby’s clutches, is this charming wobbly penguin. As they grab at it and bat it with their fist, Penguin rolls around playing a tinkling tune. Due to its round bottom, it never falls over or rolls away but keeps coming back for more fun and interaction. What’s more, the penguin’s arms flap as it waddles which is cute and engaging. I highly recommend this unique wooden toy. Please note that it works best on a firm surface and less well on thick carpet.

11. LIGHTDESIRE Musical Caterpillar

This plush caterpillar looks like just an adorable soft toy at first glance but it’s so much more as it’s also a musical and rattle toy with other secret sounds built in. These include a squeaker and crinkle paper. The music box is hidden in the caterpillar’s head while the rattle can be found in the tail. To start the music playing requires a squeeze of the head. To give your baby a truly multi-sensory experience, each segment of the caterpillar is made from a different colored, patterned and textured fabric, whilst the antennae double as a teething toy. Finally, the caterpillar’s underside has a ruler design along its length for you to record your baby's height during tummy time.

12. Musical Turtle Crawling Baby Toy

Here’s another musical toy for babies that encourages your little one to reach out, pull themselves forward, and later crawl to reach and interact with it as it walks across the floor. There are buttons to press to activate the various functions. These include 8 lullabies, 5 musical instrument sound effects, 7 animal sounds, ABC and 123 learning, a hand drum to beat, and rotating beads. Turtle also lights up. On its shell sits a telephone handset with a numbered dialing pad below for your little one to make pretend phone calls as they learn to engage in imaginative play.

13. Infantino Hug and Tug Musical Bug

Bright and colorful with a happy face, this sweet musical bug is a toy to carry with you for play and entertainment anywhere and everywhere. Its Velcro straps make it easy to attach to cribs, strollers, car seats, and play gyms. To activate the music, just pull down to stretch the bug. It will then play music for 90 seconds as it slowly contracts and moves back up. For extra interest and sensory exploration, it includes tactile knotty legs, 2 clacker rings, and a peek n' see mirror. Your baby is going to love this little musical friend.

14. Aboosam Musical Rotating Ocean Light Up Toy

There’s lots to engage your baby with the Aboosam musical rotating ocean light up toy. As well as playing music – 6 different melodies that your little one can select with the easy-press buttons – this toy comes with rotating ocean characters, 7 animal sounds, and a color-changing light display, which is particularly effective for calming them down ready for a restful nights’ sleep at the end of the day. The toy can also be spun by hand and, when placed on its side, rolls for an alternative play option.

15. Melissa & Doug K's Kids Musical Farmyard Cube

This is a wonderful sensory musical toy and definitely high up on the cute scale. Featuring four farmyard animals – sheep, cow, pig, and duck – it is soft, squidgy, and tactile with knotted tags, textured fabric tabs, crinkly flower petals, and textured plastic teethers. On the top is a toddler-safe mirror. As for the musical features, just press the noses of the animals to hear the animal sounds they make plus 4 jolly melodies. A lovely toy that’s surely destined to become a favorite.

Other musical toys that I highly recommend for babies include musical mobiles and play gyms with musical elements. See these articles for excellent examples:

10 Best Mobiles For Babies

9 Best Play Gyms For Babies

Top Tips For Nurturing Development Through Musical Play

With these top 15 of the very best musical toys for babies for you to choose from, your little one is going to be well provided for at every stage of their early development.

To help you ensure they easily achieve every developmental milestone along the way, I’ve put together a few suggestions as to how you can support your little one during playtime with musical toys.

1. Active Participation

Immerse yourself in the musical play experience. Sing along, dance, and tap your fingers to the songs and tunes. Your active participation not only enthuses your baby with the fun of engaging with music but also models rhythmic response to rhythm and beat.

2. Follow Their Lead

Observe your baby's reactions and cues as they interact with their musical toys. If they're drawn to a particular sound or action, encourage them to explore further. Following their lead helps them to feel in control and boosts their confidence.

3. Physical Interaction

If necessary, guide your baby's hands to press buttons or shake toys to create sounds. This physical interaction helps develop their fine and gross motor skills. As they grow, they'll learn to manipulate the toys independently.

4. Multi-Sensory Exploration

Encourage your baby to explore a toy's different features – from pressing buttons to feeling textures. Describe the sensations they're experiencing, such as the invigoration of lively music, the calmness of gentle tunes, or the softness of a plush musical toy. This multi-sensory approach enriches their understanding of the world around them.

5. Narrate the Experience

As your baby interacts with the toy, describe what's happening. Use simple language to explain the cause and effect relationship, like "When you press the button, it makes a fun sound!" This narration enhances their language development and understanding of actions.

6. Variety in Sounds

Introduce a variety of musical toys with different sounds and melodies. This exposes your baby to various tones and rhythms, expanding their auditory awareness and enriching their musical experiences.

7. Unplug and Connect

While electronic musical toys can be engaging, don't forget the value of simple, unplugged play. Non-electronic instruments like shakers, rattles, drums, and xylophones allow your baby to create their own sounds and experience the tactile nature of play.

Follow this link for my review of the Best Musical Instruments For Babies.

Final Words

Auditory discrimination skills provide your baby with a rich foundation for learning, communication, and cognitive growth. Fostering these skills through exposure to music helps lay the groundwork for their future success in language, academics, and social interactions.

Each of the fifteen toys we’ve looked at in my review of the best musical toys for babies will provide your little one with hours of fun, enjoyment, and development.

It’s time to start creating happy memories of musical playtimes.

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About Jacky Spear

Jacky Spear passionately promotes learning toys for child development. With 30+ years of teaching experience, she understands the power of play in engaging and nurturing children, including those with special needs. Drawing from personal experience in both the school and home environment, Jacky helps parents to select the best learning toys to unlock their children's potential and create a lifelong love for learning. Learn more about Jacky >>

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