July 16, 2021 6 min read

Exploring Top Toys With a Child Life Expert

Incorporating play in your baby’s day not only keeps your baby stimulated, but it can foster milestones and abilities to help build these five key developmental skills:
1. Fine motor skills (Hand movements)
2. Gross motor skills (Body movements)
3. Cognitive skills (Thinking & logic)
4. Social & emotional skills (Expression)
5. Speech & language skills (Communication)


We’re super excited to partner with Caron Irwin, Founder of Roo Family, as our Mastermind Toys Child Life Expert. She'll provide expert-level advice on how to get the most out of playtime with our curation of toys, games, and books. Have a look at our top baby toys!


Skip Hop

Creative and innovative, Skip Hop’s award-winning starter toys for babies are just a hop, skip, and a jump away! Babies will love learning, playing, and developing key skills with these levelled up must-haves. And you’ll love that they’re decor-friendly too!

Skip Hop Farmstand Beetbox Crawl Toy

This cute beet has cool beats that will get babies moving and grooving as they develop gross motor skills! As the ball rolls, a fun motion-activated beatbox riffs and rattles to encourage crawling adventures. Age 6m+

Helps develop:

1. Gross motor skills (Body movement)
2. Fine motor skills (Hand movement)

Expert tip on how to encourage babies to start crawling

"Providing something engaging for your baby to reach for can provide more motivation and excitement to crawl.

By introducing your baby to the Skip Hop Farmstand Beetbox Crawl Toy before he or she starts crawling during tummy time, it can help provide a purpose to lift his or her head and look around. The strength and coordination that develops through tummy time prepares your baby for the next step, crawling!"
- Caron Irwin

Skip Hop Explore & More
Hedgehog Accordion

Vibrant colours. Moveable beads. Musical play. You’ll want to squeeze in this squeeze box in your baby’s everyday play. Easy-to-grab handles help little hands have big-time fun as they strengthen finger muscles and develop fine motor skills. It’s great for teething too! Age 6m+

Helps develop:

1. Fine motor skills (Hand movement)
2. Cognitive skills (Thinking & logic)

Expert tip on practicing grasping

"Your baby’s grasping skills will be in use while holding the handles of the accordion and practicing coordination as he or she pulls the toy in and out.

Playing with instruments is also a wonderful way to encourage the cognitive skill of cause and effect. Through repetition, babies will start to recognize that they are responsible for making sounds."
- Caron Irwin

Skip Hop Pull & Go Monkey Submarine

Your little cutie will love taking this cute small sub for a splash in the tub! As babies pull on the string to activate the propeller to motor about, they help activate fine motor skills with their hands and fingers too! Age 12m+

Helps develop:

1. Fine motor skills (Hand movement)
2. Cognitive skills (Thinking & logic)


From stacking to sorting, building to imagining, Janod has wonderful wooden baby toys that stimulate babies and toddlers in every sense. While this colourful collection is easy on the eyes, building on skills is easy and fun too!

Janod Rainbow Turtle

Kids will get a kick out of taking this wooden turtle for a walk as they master taking slow and steady steps themselves. Plus, this make-believe friend will help bring kids’ imaginations out of their shell with 6 rainbow arcs that can be piled on and off the turtle’s back. Age 12m+

Helps develop:

1. Gross motor skills (Body movement)
2. Cognitive skills (Thinking & logic)

Janod Taptap & Shape Sorter

Toys that help develop fine motor skills come in all shapes and sizes–literally! This clever 3-in-1 tap-tap shape sorter features a modern wood design that helps children get familiar with different shapes and colours. Age 12m+

Helps develop:

1. Fine motor skills (Hand movement)
2. Cognitive skills (Thinking & logic)

Expert tip on problem solving skills

"A shape sorter is a must-have toy for any
baby’s play space since they have many developmental benefits, such as:
-Strengthening hand eye coordination
-Practice grasping skills
-Work on problem solving and risk taking
-Eventually develop vocabulary as they practice
new words to describe each shape

ROO Family Tip: Use this time to help your baby practice their turn-taking skills and talk about whose turn it is
(e.g. My turn or Your turn)."
- Caron Irwin


Most Montessori toys are mostly made with natural materials, like wood, to encourage self-guided, open-ended play to help children develop skills in a natural way. Kinderfeets sustainably-made wooden baby and toddler toys are a feat worth noting!

Kinderfeets Rainbow Arches

Somewhere over the wooden rainbow, there’s a child developing skills as he or she sorts and stacks. This handmade Montessori toy not only encourages self-directed learning, but there are endless
ways to use the arches to build cities, bridges, or anything their imagination will dream of.
Age 12m+

Helps develop:

1. Fine motor skills (Hand movement)
2. Cognitive skills (Thinking & logic)

Expert tip on the importance of imaginary play

"Open ended play materials, such as Kinderfeets Rainbow Arches, are toys that can be played with in a variety of ways. It is important to include these types of toys in your child’s play spaces to encourage opportunities for creativity and imaginative play.

Imaginative play is important for children as it enables them to practice different roles and experiences that they see in the world around them. It also enhances their language development as they master words to describe their play theme.

ROO Family Tip: Include additional play materials with this toy, such as animal figurines or vehicles. This will help expand children’s imagination."
- Caron Irwin

Kinderfeets Cargo Walker

This versatile wooden wagon is more than just for motoring around toys and teddy bears! New walkers can practice gross motor skills by taking their own steps too. The wheels are fitted with rubber to help with a better grip and less of a slip. Age 12m+

Helps develop:

1. Gross motor skills (Body movement)
2. Cognitive skills (Thinking & logic)

Infant and baby books

Building a baby’s first library is a fantastic way to build on your baby’s speech and language skills–and build a beautiful bond together too. Here are two of our favourites that can help simultaneously grow communication and cognitive milestones.

For more baby book recommendations with expert-level tips, see our Building a Baby's First Library article, right here in The Playground.

Tails Sensory Book

Scratch-and-sniff. Pull tabs and flaps. Touch 7 textures. Learning new words and how to count have never sounded (and smelled and felt) so good. Age 12m+

Helps develop:

1. Speech & language skills (Communication)
2. Social & emotional (Expressions)

Expert tip on learning through a sensory experience

"A baby's earliest and most meaningful learning happens through their senses. Through touch, hearing, sight, taste and smell, babies experience the world around them and learn through this experience.

Reading interactive books with your baby helps connect language with a sensory experience. By exposing your baby to multiple senses simultaneously, you are also teaching your child how to manage sensory input and enjoy this experience instead of feeling over stimulated and overwhelmed."
- Caron Irwin

Ten Little Fingers and
Ten Little Toes Board Book

This modern nursery rhyme highlights the things that babies might have in common from near or far! By seeing different faces and expressions, this sweet story helps babies develop social and emotional connections, while also expanding their vocabulary with a poem-style verse. Age 0m+

Helps develop:

1. Social & emotional (Expressions)
2. Speech & language skills (Communication)

Expert tip on the benefits of reading books
with facial expressions

"Around four months, babies start to notice different emotions through facial expressions, body language and the tone of voice of the people around them. Your baby will start to react to these different emotions–smile when you smile, cry when you show frustration, or become fearful when you show concern.

Babies can also start to understand different emotions by seeing babies in books that show these emotions. Caregivers can describe the emotions shown in the story through language and imitate that emotion. Your baby might follow suit!"
- Caron Irwin

Caron Irwin, Child Life Expert

These developmental milestones have been reviewed and are validated by our Mastermind Toys Child Life Expert, Caron Irwin, Founder of Roo Family.

Caron is a Canadian mother of three and started Roo Family to provide parents with comprehensive support to navigate the adventures and challenges of parenting and family life.

Caron holds a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Studies and is a Certified Child Life Specialist. She has over 10 years of experience supporting children and families through illness at Canada’s largest children’s hospital, The Hospital for Sick Children.

Written by Cathy Barbarossa, Senior Copywriter and Editor with contributions by Caron Irwin, Child Life Expert


Cathy Barbarossa
Cathy Barbarossa

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