Top Toys for 9-Month-Olds

Those big smiles, sweet babbles, and adorable belly laughs are a sure sign your 9-month-old baby loves interacting with you! Playing with your baby is a great way to support their development and strengthen your bond. 

At 9 months old, babies are becoming more responsive to you. They look at you when you say their name and react when you leave. They’re getting stronger and more interactive with their toys: banging two items together and moving items from one hand to the other. Nine-month-olds are also likely sitting up without support.

So, how do you play with your 9-month-old? Read on for some fun activities and toy recommendations for babies at this age, plus expert tips on how to boost your baby’s speech and language development while you play!

Why should you play with your baby?

First, it’s important to know that play is an extremely important area of early childhood development. That’s especially true when it comes to growing speech and language skills. Play is how children learn and explore the world around them. Developing good play skills helps children learn how communication works and grow their ability to communicate. 

Follow the tips and ideas below for playing with your baby!

Teach your baby to play with toys

Here are some of the best toys for playing with your 9-month-old:

Push-and-go cars: Drive these cute cars around on the floor, couch, or bed. You can model, or demonstrate, this language for your baby:

  • Action words, like “drive” and “park”  

  • Item names, like car and turtle

  • Vehicle noises, like “vroom” and “beep!”

  • Function words, like more and push

  • Basic concepts, like fast/slow  

Soft stacking blocks: Show your baby how to stack blocks, then knock them over so they fall! Practice:

  • Exclamatory words, like “boom!” and “uh-oh!”

  • Item names, like block

  • Function words, like put on 

  • Basic concepts, like on top and up

Pound-a-ball toy: Use the hammer to hit the ball and watch it drop through the tubes or slide. Practice:

  • Exclamatory words, like “boom!”

  • Item names, like ball and hammer

  • Function words, like more and all done

  • Basic concepts, like on and down

Shape sorter: Push shapes through the sorter while describing what you and your baby are doing. Practice:

  • Descriptive words, like big and smooth  

  • Item names, like square and star

  • Prepositions, like “star goes in the hole!”

  • Function words, like more and push

  • Basic concepts, like open/close when playing with the lid

Make swing time more interactive

Playtime outside is fun for everyone! When you’re pushing your baby in a swing, stand in front of them so you’re face to face. After a few pushes, hold the swing and pause. Say, “Ready, set…,” and teach your baby the sign for “go!” or “more!” as you say the word aloud. Then let go and let your baby swing. Repeat this process to make swing time more interactive.

Nine-month-olds are at just the right age to start learning baby sign language. Using signs helps them communicate their wants and needs–which can cut down on frustration for everyone!

Tickle your baby to teach them anticipation (no toys needed!)

Tickling your baby can be a playful way to engage with them. It’s a great opportunity for eye contact, smiling, and laughing. These social cues help babies learn about communication and strengthen their bond with you.

After awhile, your baby will start to anticipate the joy and connection associated with this simple activity. The repetition of tickling + laughter also helps your baby understand cause and effect, which is a foundational skill for communication. 

An important note: Every baby is unique, and responses to tickling may vary. Pay attention to your baby’s cues to be sure this type of play is enjoyable for them. 

Best books to read with your 9-month-old

The importance of reading to your baby can never be overstated. For infants and early talkers, books with photos of everyday items or animals are perfect. The images help babies learn the names of things they often see and use. 

When you’re reading with your 9-month-old, point to the page to show what you’re talking about. Discuss the story out loud so they get good exposure to vocabulary words and how we structure our language. If your baby points to a picture or seems interested in it, make sure to respond and focus on that picture. Try these tips with any of these favorite books! 

Moo, Baa, La La La! 

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?

Touch and Feel: Pets

First 100 Words 

Puppy Love Finger Puppet Book

You can also check out this quick video, where one of our speech therapists demonstrates a few of these tips with Where’s Spot?, a favorite board book for babies and toddlers.

Play with household items with your baby

Your home is full of everything you need to promote language development in your 9-month-old. As you go about your day, label the names of items and show your baby how you use them. Here are some more ideas to spark your imagination!

  • Stack plastic food storage containers or cups, then knock them over.

  • Play “kitchen” by mixing a spoon in a bowl and pretending to eat.

  • Play peek-a-boo with a blanket. 

How many toys does your baby need?

When it comes to the number of toys a baby should have, less is more. Research shows that fewer toys in a child’s environment can lead to better attention, more creativity, and overall higher-quality play.

As your baby’s parent or caregiver, you are in the best position to support their speech and language development. In fact, research has shown that children learn language best from the people they love most. Happy playing!

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