14 Best Soft Toys For Babies

For Learning With Plush Toys

In this article on the best soft toys for babies, I’m going to focus on plush toys designed for learning rather than soft toys created mainly for cuddles and comfort.

If it’s snuggly stuffed animals you’re looking for, check out this related page: 12 Best Stuffed Animals For Babies

soft toys for babiesSoft toys offer a whole world of sensory experiences

The breadth and variety of soft baby toys is vast and my aim is to give you a good idea of the type of toys available and point you to some of the very best.

Before we get to my review of the top soft toys for babies, I’ll share some of their key benefits to help you choose the most appropriate toys for your baby’s preferences and current stage of development.

7 Benefits of Soft Toys For Babies

The overriding benefit of soft learning toys is that they encourage your baby to explore.

Such toys are designed with a variety of colors, textures, and shapes that stimulate your baby to investigate and discover. While exploring, they improve their fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination, as well as growing and developing a whole range of other skills.

Here are the key ways that soft toys can also help to meet your little one’s specific needs:

1. Sensory Stimulation

Soft toys are specifically designed to stimulate your baby's senses. They feature different textures, colors, and patterns for them to explore through touch and sight, and also hearing the toy produces sounds. This stimulation helps with the development of your baby's sensory perception and enhances their cognitive development.

2. Tactile & Motor Skills Development

Soft toys with different textures, such as smooth, furry, or ribbed surfaces, help your little one develop their sense of touch and fine motor skills. As they grasp, squeeze, and manipulate their toy, their hand-eye coordination and dexterity will improve.

3. Visual Stimulation

Sensory soft toys are created to be visually appealing, with contrasting colors and patterns to capture your baby's attention. Visual stimulation is essential for the development of your baby's sight and will help them learn to focus and track objects with their eyes.

4. Comfort and Security

Soft toys provide comfort and a sense of security. These cuddly companions can serve as transitional objects, helping babies feel safe and secure, especially during times of separation from caregivers. They will also help to calm and relax your little one ready for restful sleep.

5. Cognitive Development

Sensory soft toys promote early cognitive development by encouraging exploration and problem-solving. Your baby will learn cause-and-effect relationships when they squeeze a toy that makes a sound or when they discover hidden elements like crinkly material or hidden squeakers.

6. Calming and Soothing

Soft toys can be used to comfort your little one during moments of distress or discomfort. They will find solace in hugging, cuddling, or squeezing these toys when they are upset, which can help them self-soothe. The interactive elements of soft learning toys can also provide a distraction from the cause of upset and aid calming.

7. Teething Relief

Some soft toys are designed with teething babies in mind. They include textured surfaces, both soft and hard, that your baby can safely chew on to soothe their sore gums during the teething process. Again, they can also act as a distraction.

14 Best Soft Toys For Babies

1. Melissa & Doug Flip Fish

There is so much going on with this wonderful toy that it’s a whole learning system in itself. The bright colors will make it instantly attractive to your little one who will start exploring and learning the moment they get their hands on it. The patterned, textured scales have hidden pictures beneath, and many crinkle when touched. The tail hides a squeaker to encourage grasping and finger strength development and has two teethers attached, there’s a baby-safe mirror on one of the scales, and it’s all machine washable.

2. Skip Hop Bandana Elephant Buddy

With elephant toys so loved by babies, this cute chap is going to be a winner with your little one. It’s perfect for multi-sensory play with a range of patterns, textures, and sounds to explore. It has rattle rings, parts that crinkle, colorful tactile tabs, a soft bandana teether plus a leaf shaped teether, and a peek-a-boo mirror. And, it’s also just the thing when your baby wants comfort and cuddles. For taking out and about, it attaches to a stroller, car seat, or baby carrier.

3. Melissa & Doug Multi-Sensory Soft Taco Fill & Spill

Here we have a whole pouch full of fun. This soft foam taco shell is filled with 11 sensory play food items offering a range of colors, textures, shapes, and sounds for your baby to discover and explore. For a couple of my older toy testers, their favorite activity was pulling them out and trying to put them back into the shell which was a fantastic learning activity that supports many different skills from problem-solving to hand-eye coordination. Those who were teething really valued the two teethers attached to the taco shell.

4. teytoy Crinkle Teething Sensory Soft Toys – 2 Piece

Teething is a challenging time for babies, not to mention parents as they strive to relieve their little one’s discomfort and pain. Most teething toys are made from silicone or rubber materials but soft fabric can also bring your little one relief. This pair of toys offers both, with plush ears, horns, arms, and wings to nibble, plus two firm feet teethers on each toy for chewing. The cute owl and deer have blocks of color patterns to help your baby's visual development, and one has a squeaking device and the other crinkle paper for interactive play and teething distraction. The plush fabric makes them ideal for comforting cuddles.

For information about teething and my review of the 18 Best Teething Toys for Babies, click this link.

5. hahaland Baby Tissue Box Toy

There is nothing that encourages exploration like a plush tissue box toy and this one is one of my favorite soft toys for babies. It’s packed full of exciting things to discover as well as having four sides of interactive fun activities for your little one to engage with. Inside the squishy box are 15 brightly colored “tissues” – 7 different patterned and textured cloth tissues, 3 crinkle tissues, and 5 floaty silk scarves. The four sides feature adorable creatures with tactile elements that invite play, plus rustles and squeaks for added fun. Expect lots of giggles and some full belly laughs as your little one plays with this lovely toy.

6. Melissa & Doug Multi-Sensory Pineapple Soft Stacker Toy

Stacking toys have lots to teach your baby and this smiling Pineapple soft stacker is one of only a few of plush design. It’s made up of 5 pieces including a cloth-covered rocking base and post that rattle, 2 squeezable rings (one crinkles), a plastic textured ring (great for teething), and a textured top with crinkle leaves and tactile silky ribbons. Each piece is perfect for grasping, squeezing, and shaking. As your little one’s fine motor and problem-solving skills develop, they’ll soon learn how to stack the rings to build their pineapple.

7. ZaxiDeel Carrot Harvest Sensory Box

The next item on my list of the best soft toys for babies is a toy I’ve only recently discovered but it’s become a firm favorite with nearly every baby that’s tested it for me. Comprising a soft planting box, a plush, pink bunny, and 5 carrots of different colors and textures with felt leaves and crinkle sounds, it promises hours of entertainment and learning for your little one. Watch them explore each piece and improve their coordination skills as they pull the carrots and bunny out of the holes and put them back again.

8. Richgv Soft 3D Touch and Feel Crinkle Dinosaur Book

Plush touch and feel books are great soft toys for babies and there are many excellent examples out there. I’m only including one soft book in this list as I’ve dedicated a whole article to them. You can read it here: 15 Best Soft Books For Babies. This book is ultra cute with the 3D dinosaur tails poking out to entice your little one to grab them. One dinosaur is removable for your baby to play with as you read the book together. Other features include colorful and eye-catching images, a squeaker, crinkle pages, a mirror, and easy-to-turn pages to help develop your little one’s fine motor skills.

9. HABA Rainbow Fabric Ball

Soft sensory balls are another highly recommended baby toy. I’ve selected two different designs for you to consider. The first, the HABA Rainbow Fabric Ball, has 8 sections, each of a contrasting color, pattern, and texture, and it makes rattle, crinkle, and squeaking sounds when handled. At 6 inches in diameter, it’s the ideal size for easy handling for grasping, tossing, and rolling. Made of polyester, velour, mesh fabric, corduroy, and tricot fabric, it is soft enough to snuggle up to and is machine washable.

10. Sassy Developmental Soft Bumpy Ball

A similar soft toy for babies, but with sensory bumps rather than segments, is the Sassy Developmental Ball. The chunky knobbles are enticing to reach out and grab and the ideal size for your little one to hold the ball, pass it from hand to hand, and manipulate it in other ways. The gentle rattle sound adds extra interest and auditory stimulation, while bright colors, bold patterns, and high contrast black and white pattern on the ball itself, are designed to help develop your baby’s vision.

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

Soft activity cubes are such great learning toys that I’ve chosen three for this list. The first is a delightful musical farm-themed cube. 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 lovely melodies. A special toy that your baby with love.

12. Infantino Peek & Seek Discovery Cube

There are loads of play options built into this Peek & Seek Discovery Cube. With 360 degrees of all-around activities, it includes clacker rings, a peek-a-boo mirror, fiddle tags, hanging plush banana and ball toys, and fun safari friends with crinkle ears for sight, touch, and sound sensory play. The flappy ears fold over the animal faces for peek-a-boo games. It can be easily attached to your baby’s stroller, play gym, or carrier with the clip attachment, or just used on their play mat.

13. beetoy Sensory Busy Cube

If you’re looking for an activity cube for an older baby, the beetoy Sensory Busy Cube is one I recommend. To assist in developing fine motor skills, it has zipping, buckling, and flipping activities and includes 6 colorful, textured 2 inch diameter balls with gentle rattles for exploration, rolling, tossing, and posting through the hole in the top of the cube. There are elements for learning numbers, letters, and shapes, a mirror, and a teething rattle. If this well-designed activity cube doesn’t keep your baby happily occupied for hours, I don’t know what will.

14. Baby Einstein Explore & Discover Soft Blocks – 4 Pack

Baby Einstein Explore & Discover Soft Blocks are just the right size for little hands to squeeze, toss, and stack. Each of the four colorful blocks is a mini multi-sensory activity cube combining learning and play. Activities include a hidden baby-safe peek-a-boo mirror, an octopus arm that springs back when pulled, and flappy fish scales. As well as bright colors, the cubes feature sides of high contrast black and white patterns to aid your baby’s visual development, and fun rattle and jingle sounds.

Getting the Most From Soft Toys For Babies

My Top 10 Tips For Parents

To help your baby get the most from their soft learning toys, consider the following tips:

1. Choose Age-Appropriate Toys

Age-appropriate toys are designed to align with your baby's skills and abilities, ensuring they can engage with and benefit from the toy. Having said that, your little one may fully engage and love playing with a toy designed for babies older than them. You know your baby. Be guided by them.

2. Provide a Variety of Toys

Offer a diverse selection of soft learning toys that target different developmental areas, such as fine motor skills, sensory exploration, and cognitive development. This variety will keep your baby engaged and encourage well-rounded development.

3. Supervise Playtime

Always supervise your baby during playtime. Soft toys, because they can squish down small, can pose a greater choking risk than more solid toys. Also, be mindful of the potential choking hazard of small or detachable parts. This supervision allows you to ensure your baby’s safety while also actively participating in your baby's play.

4. Offer Open-Ended Play

Encourage open-ended play by letting your baby explore and manipulate toys freely. You may need to demonstrate how different elements of the toy work, but avoid overly structured or prescriptive play as it can limit creativity and problem-solving skills. Let your baby use their imagination to discover new ways to interact with their toys.

5. Encourage Sensory Exploration

All the soft toys for babies included in my review have been designed for sensory exploration. Encourage your little one to touch, squeeze, and explore the textures and features of their toys. Describe what they are experiencing, such as, "This toy is soft.” or “The fish’s tail is smooth.” to support their early language development.

6. Incorporate Language

You can also use soft learning toys to introduce basic words and concepts such as colors, shapes, and other such features of the toy.

7. Rotate Toys

While your baby will undoubtedly have favorite toys, do periodically rotate their soft learning toys to prevent boredom, spark their curiosity, and offer them new experiences.

8. Teach Problem-Solving

Soft learning toys are perfect for teaching basic problem-solving skills. For example, if your baby is trying to fit a soft ball into a hole, encourage them to figure it out on their own with minimal guidance. This fosters independence and critical thinking.

9. Be Patient

Remember that babies develop at their own pace. Some may quickly grasp certain concepts or skills, while others may take more time. Be patient and allow your baby to explore and learn at their own speed.

10. Keep Playtime Fun

Playtime should be enjoyable and stress-free for both you and your baby. Keep it light-hearted and fun, and don't put too much focus on achieving specific learning outcomes. Play is a natural way for babies to learn and grow but make sure the priority is play first and learning second.

best soft baby toysSoft learning toys come in many different shapes and forms

Final Words

As we’ve seen, soft learning toys can play a valuable role in your baby's development by providing sensory stimulation, and opportunities for exploration and learning, as well as comfort and loads of fun.

I hope the information in this article, and in my review of the best soft toys for babies, helps you to find the perfect toys to meet your precious little one’s individual needs, and gives them months, if not years, of enjoyment.

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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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