Melissa & Doug Must-Have Toys for Baby’s First Christmas blog post

Toy Guides

Must-Have Toys for Baby’s First Christmas

October 01, 2023

If you’re a parent or caregiver with a baby getting ready for their first Christmas, you’re about to experience one of the most unforgettable times of your life—take it from a dad who somehow managed to fill the entire digital cloud with pictures from our first holiday season!

My daughter Violet turned 4 months old during her first Christmas, and we chronicled every “first” that she experienced in minute detail, both parents snapping photos and shooting video of her seeing the tree lit up, wrapped presents underneath, meeting Santa Claus (her grandfather in disguise!), and becoming the star of the show with her extended family.

Holiday shopping for babies can be a stressful undertaking, just because there’s so much information and opinions out there about what’s best. I’m the type of parent who likes to do a ton of research ahead of time and come up with a plan, so I read up on the experts, asked other parents, and scoured the web looking for tips, tricks, and life hacks to make baby’s first Christmas as magical as possible without driving us absolutely bonkers in the process.

Based on my experience as a parent, there are six types of toys that I would recommend as must-have toys for baby’s first Christmas. In this holiday shopping blog, I’m going to recommend some carefully curated selections from Melissa & Doug’s array of screen-free, hands-on, kid-powered toys that will make for perfect gifting opportunities this holiday season. Keep in mind, even if your little one might be a little too little for some of these toys for their first Christmas, it’s great to have them on hand for the holidays, then put it aside till it’s age appropriate for your kid. Let’s get wrapping! And if you still want/need more help finding the right gift for your little one this holiday season, be sure to check out Melissa & Doug's 2023 Holiday Gift Guide Finder

Melissa & Doug Must-Have Toys for Baby’s First Christmas blog post

Make Baby’s First Holiday Memorable with Must-Have Toys


I had a classic stacker toy when I was a child, and I definitely wanted one for Violet when she was an infant. Melissa & Doug’s super-cute Pineapple Soft Stacker is perfect for babies 6+ months thanks to the different textures and sounds, and for older babies and toddlers (18 months+), there’s the Rainbow Stacker Classic Toy with its bright colors, sizes, and shapes.

Why it’s a holiday must-have: Helps promote sensory exploration, grasping, grabbing, stacking, gross and fine motor skills, early shape, color, and size-differentiation skills.

Melissa & Doug Must-Have Toys for Baby’s First Christmas blog post


Ever witness a baby in their high chair or stroller play the following game: They take their favorite toy, or some food, or a sippy cup, then throw it, and watch as you run after it, bring it back, and hand it over, only to replay the process a THOUSAND times while laughing? If you’re tired of playing fetch for your little one, I suggest gifting them one of Melissa & Doug Fill & Spill toys, which allows kids to spill, then fill, over and over to their heart’s content! For babies 6 months+, check out the Market Basket or Soft Taco Fill & Spill, and for older kids (18 months+), there’s the Pretty Purse Fill & Spill Toddler Toy or the Toolbox Fill & Spill Toddler Toy

Why it’s a holiday must-have: Adorable, diverse characters and a variety of fun shapes and textures encourage exploratory, skill-building play. Sort, squeeze, fill, and spill to help encourage sensory, fine motor, and problem-solving skills.

Melissa & Doug Must-Have Toys for Baby’s First Christmas blog post


Plush toys are often the first “friends” we ever have as kids; they’re meant to be comforting, and they generally become the first playmates that most kids have when pretend play gets going. I had TONS of plush toys when I was a kid, and as a middle-aged dad, I still sleep with a lovey to this day! (When you’re a parent, you will do anything to ensure you get a good night’s rest.) Violet’s had plush toys since before she was born, and of course she got several more during her first Christmas! If you’re in the market for a plush stuffed animal for your little one, Melissa & Doug offers a literal menagerie of stuffies, but here’s three meant specially for babies: 

Burrow Bunny Rabbit, Greyson Bear, and Sunny Yellow Lab Puppy. Just imagine all the cuddles and smiles!

Why it’s a holiday must-have: Development of social-emotional skills, imagination and storytelling ability.

Melissa & Doug Must-Have Toys for Baby’s First Christmas blog post


Babies put everything in their mouths…EVERYTHING. (When Violet was younger, we used to catch her licking railings, doorknobs, windows, etc wherever we went.) To keep babies from putting random objects in their mouth, I suggest a teether travel toy of some sort to keep them occupied in their car seat/stroller/high chair. A good travel teether toy should have different textures, something to engage kids, and hopefully has a clip-on function so baby can’t throw it overboard (see BABY GAMES section)—thankfully, Melissa & Doug offer a trio of Take-Along toys that check all those boxes, in three favorite themes: Ice Cream, PB&J, or Bubble Tea!

Why it’s a holiday must-have: Melissa & Doug infant and toddler toys inspire “a-ha!” moments of discovery, and offer a variety of fun shapes and textures to encourage exploratory, skill-building play. Multi-textured pieces help kids develop fine motor and sensory skills.

Melissa & Doug Must-Have Toys for Baby’s First Christmas blog post


To help build core and limb strength, babies need toys that will help get them moving to develop those key milestones. Any toy that gets your baby moving—crawling, reaching, grasping, rolling over, standing up, squating, etc—will help promote those developmental skills needed as they grow. Melissa & Doug’s “kinetic play” line of Rollables toys are a perfect example of a fun, friendly toy that will engage kids and get them moving, and they come in two themes: Farm Friends and Safari Friends. Go wild, little ones! For older babies and toddlers, I suggest the First Bead Maze, which works both brain and body with its problem-solving play patterns.

Why it’s a holiday must-have: Rollables are easy for infants and toddlers to grasp, firm enough to roll, and soft enough to squeeze; introduce cause and effect and encourage sensory and fine motor skills. Compatible with other Rollables sets, too!

Melissa & Doug Must-Have Toys for Baby’s First Christmas blog post


I’m an avid reader; my spouse works as a music/chorus/drama teacher, so when we were looking for early learning toys, we let our interests be our guide. I gifted Violet indestructible baby books made for chewing, while Beth pushed for musical toys. Melissa & Doug had us both covered: The Itsy-Bitsy Spider Soft Activity Book let Violet explore early reading with a kid-friendly book that crinkled, stretched, and played peek-a-boo, while we introduced her to early music and animals sounds with the super-cute Musical Farmyard Cube Learning Toy.

Why it’s a holiday must-have: Books help promote sensory development and fine motor skills, while the Farmyard Cube promotes sensory, fine motor, gross motor, logical, creative, linguistic, emotional, communication, and self-esteem.

Melissa & Doug Must-Have Toys for Baby’s First Christmas blog post

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