10 Budget-Friendly Toys Babies Will Actually Play With

Today’s post was originally a reflection of the kinds of toys that Andy enjoyed playing with during her 2nd year (12- to 23-ish-months-old currently), but with the fast-approaching holidays, it has turned into a gift guide!

These toys are great for the transition from infant to toddler and would all make great presents for a 1st birthday (or the holidays)! Only toys that Andy actually played with for longer than a few days have been included. Most of the toys will last beyond the 2nd year so they can be enjoyed much longer.


Second-hand toys are super easy to find so research your area to see if there are any local consignment sales (my favorite) or stores (like Once Upon a Child), spend a weekend yard sale hopping, browse Facebook Marketplace, ask friends, etc.

 1. Wooden Shape Sorting Cube {buy it*}

Baby may not be quite to the point of having the ability to slide the triangle into the triangle-shaped hole, but this is still a great gift! It will last for years to come. Babies can chew on the wooden shapes, practice sliding the lid on and off, watch you sort the shapes (you can encourage color and shape identification), or just practice putting things (the shapes) IN a box and pulling them out (just take the lid off the cube for endless IN-and-OUT fun).

 2. Oball Cars {buy ’em*}

Oballs are notoriously great for little babies because they are easy to grasp. Andy had an Oball car that also functioned as a rattle (see the colorful balls in the wheels of her car pictured below) which was fantastic. She loved it.

Andy with her O-ball rattle car (similar*)


 3. Board Books

In my humble opinion, books are one of the best gifts because no baby can have too many books, right?!

Andy loves reading and board books were great because she could easily help turn the page or pull on it without ripping pages out.

Just a portion of Andy’s board book collection after we moved (PS: use suitcases to pack books when moving! You’ll be glad they’re on wheels).

A few of her favorites: Little Blue Truck*, Corduroy*, Goodnight Numbers*, The Feelings Book* (or really any Todd Parr book!)

Andy’s favorite Todd Parr book.


 4. Music Toys

I want to clarify what I mean by “music toys” here: Andy loved toys she could play with to create music (not toys that played music when she pushed a button). I recommend gifting musical toys where the child’s action creates the music. I have nothing against a toy that plays music when a button is pressed, but interactive toys are always far more fun (and educational).

I found this hippo piano at a local consignment sale and Andy insisted on playing it immediately (aka: during dinner).

Andy’s favorites: Tap-a-Tune Drum*, cymbals (she has some with knobs on them like the ones in this set* so they are easy to pick up), tambourine (this one* is similar to ours), Tap-a-Tune Piano (I couldn’t find a hippo version like Andy’s but this one* is similar).


 5. Teething Toys

At some point, everything becomes a teething toy, but it’s nice to have a few specifically-made-for-chewing toys on hand.

Andy putting the dimpl* to work 😉

A few of Andy’s favorites: Fat Brain dimpl*, Links* (we called these her “keys”)

Frozen teething toys are also amazing! We still have a few in our freezer just in case 😉 Andy has an elephant with a frozen ring (like these*) that is a lifesaver. These teether keys* also look handy.


 6. Walking Toys

This sit-to-stand walker* has lots of bells & whistles. Sometimes I had to turn the sound off because it drove me nuts, but Andy loved it. It’s really light and easy to move around. Resistance on the wheels can be set so it moves slower until they are more steady. The phone comes off and is a rattle which Andy loved. These are really easy to find used – loads of them are always for sale at our favorite consignment sale.

The wooden alligator walker* was my personal favorite (Andy also seemed to prefer it). The back handle is lower than the one above so it’s great if your little one is a shorty 😉 It also doesn’t play obnoxious music (win!).


 7. Take Along Music Toy

Andy carried this thing around like it was a boombox (occasionally dancing along when she was feeling frisky). In fact, she still does this (see photo below). I think it’s possibly the longest lasting toy she has had (that she actually plays with!).

She’s got her boombox playing music on her right as she draws.

Andy’s* was a hand-me-down from her cousin, but this one* appears to be the new version (since it’s much cheaper!).


 8. Knob Puzzles

Knob puzzles are super durable and easy for babies to navigate (the knob is easy to grab as they are practicing grasping and moving things). Andy had a 3-knob pets puzzle* that was great because we could make the animal sounds with the different pieces for more interaction and practice making sounds. This safari animal puzzle* and this fish bowl puzzle* would also be great! And here’s a more advanced knob puzzle* if you’ve got a baby genius on your hands.

TIP: If you are packing puzzles up to save, sell, or donate, wrap the front with plastic wrap and secure to the back with painters tape. That way the pieces stay in their designated places, a buyer (or you when unpacking!) can see the condition of the puzzle and its contents, and it protects the condition of the toy (don’t use regular tape on the pieces – the details will peel off when the tape is removed).


 9. Y-Bike {buy it*}

Andy loved the Y-bike. Before she was comfortable riding it, she could push it around (which she still alternates to from time to time). The wheels move all around so it’s not as static as the traditional walking toys (aka: she doesn’t have to go in a straight line – better for kids once they are standing a little more steady).


 10. Stuffed Animals

Stuffed animals seem to multiply overnight so adding them to a gift guide feels a bit dangerous (please don’t hate me, fellow parents!), BUT if I’m being truthful: Andy loves every single one of her stuffed friends.

She has recently started dabbling in imaginative play – specifically with feeding her stuffed animals and dolls bits of her food before she eats it (her Cabbage Patch Doll* is her favorite for this). Since we all know the importance of pretend play, I’m all in for gifting stuffed animals (just don’t go overboard! 😉 ).

*This post contains affiliate links. If you use the link to make a purchase, I may receive a small compensation at no additional charge to you. 

Author: Jordan Slice-Metcalfe

My name is Jordan. I'm a full-time working mom whose coffee cup is always half full (and probably still in the microwave). I've got a weak spot for rescuing old dogs, pretending pizza is a vegetable, negotiating dessert with every meal, propagating more plants than any home needs, dreaming of sewing projects while my husband is talking to me, and loving my tribe too deep.

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