11 best musical toys
From sing-a-long storybooks to something that will help them to sound like Mozart, these are our top picks for any budding musicians
Music is fundamental to babies’ and pre-schoolers’ development – it helps with soothing, bonding, and influences brain development from a young age – and little ones love it.
Here are some of the best toys to get your children involved from birth to toddlerhood: plush toys that double up as music makers for the tiniest of babies to start experimenting with sounds; a piano gym that grows with your child from birth; wooden maracas and fun first band sets; a metallophone that has real notes for toddlers to become familiar with playing songs; a musical table that will keep little ones busy with its 70 different songs and melodies, and introduce the sounds of real instruments, and; an interactive cube with smooth edges, suitable from birth, that teaches them how sounds combine to create eight Mozart masterpieces.
For more information on all of that, carry on reading below.
1. Skip Hop Explore and More Music Set: £17.50, Amazon
This brightly coloured musical set from Skip Hop is ideal for developing babies’ hand-eye coordination. Babies like nothing more than making lots of noise, and of the musical band sets currently on the market, this three-piece one is a favourite as it turns their first instruments into cheeky characters: an eye-catching bee drum whose clear surface shows the colourful balls and shapes inside, a fox tambourine and a bee clacker.
2. Lamaze Cosimo Concerto: £27.75, Amazon
The newest addition to Lamaze’s developmental toy collection is this cute, plush zebra, Cosimo Concerto, who doubles as a piano. Each of his colourful stripes plays a different musical note when pressed so your new baby can learn to start making sounds, and then progress to starting to play songs as a toddler. Its legs have different crinkly textures and colours to stimulate babies.
3. Hape Early Melodies Maracas: £7.95, Trendy Baby
These wooden maracas with primary-coloured pods are light and easy to grip, each with a different gentle sound. They’re ideal for helping babies from a few months old to learn coordination and rhythm, and are safe to chew on, too.
4. Fisher Price Kick n Play Piano Gym: £39.99, Boots
For use from birth, and with four repositionable modes of play, this piano station crossed with a baby gym grows with your little one. Tiny babies lie on the mat, stretching and kicking the piano keys to their hearts’ content while grabbing the activity toys, chewing the teether and looking in the mirror. Older babies sit at the swiveling keyboard, playing the notes and dancing to the melodies. The keyboard can also be removed and taken on the go, which might not do much for peace and tranquility, but will keep toddlers distracted.
5. Haba Metallophone: £12.50, Spotty Giraffe
You might find you’re guiding your little one’s hands to play this colourful, wooden-based metallophone, but it’s an excellent toy. Brilliant for music-loving parents to teach babies their very first musical instrument, the six notes are real and labelled and there’s some simple sheet music to introduce your baby to playing tunes. For those aged two and older.
6. Mamas & Papas Interactive Musical Butterfly Linkie Travel Toy with Teethers: Mamas and Papas, £7
Ideal for entertaining babies while on the move, pull the cord on this butterfly to hear the gentle tune. Its bright colours and black and white stripes stimulate baby's vision, while there are teethers for chewing on, and different textured fabric and crinkles to help develop motor skills. Suitable from birth.
7. Peter Rabbit Musical Jack in a Box: £25, JoJo Maman Bébé
With a Peter Rabbit film in the making and an existing TV show of the timeless bunny tales, this makes a beautiful and traditional first birthday or Christmas gift. When you wind up the handle, babies are endlessly amused and delighted by the surprise of seeing a cuddly Peter Rabbit pop up out of the box, to the loud tune of “Pop Goes The Weasel”.
8. LeapFrog Learn & Groove Musical Table: £20, ELC
Using the discovery mode of this award-winning toy, babies learn about the alphabet, colours, shapes, numbers and opposites. The music mode, featuring more than 70 songs and melodies, introduces real instrument sounds – piano, drum, xylophone, trombone and guitar – and popular tunes such as “ABC Song” and “Old MacDonald. Plus, there’s all manner of fun to be had pressing, sliding and spinning the colourful instruments and shapes, from sitting or standing position. Suitable from six months.
9. Munchkin Mozart Magic Cube: £40, eBay
Suitable from birth, this interactive cube teaches how sounds combine to create eight Mozart masterpieces, with symphonic instrument sounds including harp, French horn, piano, flute and violin that they can add and subtract at the touch of a button. Add to that vibrant colours and lights flashing to the tempo, and it’s no surprise that this is a best-selling toy in America.
10. Lamaze Octotunes: £23.01, Amazon
Your baby will love the look and soft feel of this big cuddly octopus. Squeeze each leg for a different note of the octave to create tunes such as “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”. It’s suitable from birth as high contrast patterns stimulate vision and sounds encourage sensory development, but older children will find it easier to do the squeezing, so it’s one the adults might have to help out with. Older children can explore the songbook, with each tune featuring colour-coded notes that correspond to the colours on Octotunes’ arms.
11. Early Learning Centre Singing Nursery Rhyme Book: £18, Mothercare
Turn the pages of ELC’s electronic book to see it come alive, and sing along to six nursery rhyme favourites. There’s extra amusement with spinners and sliders, and flashing lights, all of which will keep baby enthralled. It requires two AA batteries and is suitable for little ones aged six months and above.
The Verdict: Musical toys
Lamaze is the king of developmental toys for babies. Its Octotunes and Cosimo Concerto will both delight babies with their bright colours and different textures. For music-loving parents who also favour eco-friendly, old-fashioned toys, Haba’s metallophone, sold by Babi Pur, a shop specialising in ethical wooden toys, and Hape’s maracas will be a hit. Skip Hop’s musical set, our Best Buy, puts a more original spin on baby’s first instruments with its animal designs that children will love, while for a memorable and traditional musical gift, you can’t go wrong with the Peter Rabbit jack-in-the-box. The excellent value LeapFrog Learn & Groove Musical Table and Fisher Price’s Kick n Play Piano Gym, which is also good for tummy time, will both keep babies busy and happy for a long time with their variety of educational sounds and activities.
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