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12 best musical toys for babies and toddlers that will strike a chord

Encourage curiosity, self-expression and a love of tuneful noise with brands like Melissa & Doug and The White Company

Rosie Shephard
Friday 30 October 2020 15:26
<p>Don’t forget to look for volume adjusters for when you’ve had enough of listening to the same notes</p>

Don’t forget to look for volume adjusters for when you’ve had enough of listening to the same notes

Not only do musical toys add another level of entertainment to playtime, they also have developmental benefits for babies. 

They encourage curiosity and self-expression, teach cause and effect, build fine motor skills and encourage a lifelong love of music.

Musical Toys also help to develop patience and selective hearing in parents due to the repetitive and sometimes ear-splitting noises they can produce in unskilled little hands.  

We recommend looking for toys with a volume adjuster if buying for your own children or a parent that you like. If you are buying for a frenemy, go all out with a drum kit and cymbals.

Wooden toy experts Hape say: “When trying to find the right musical toy or instrument, ensuring the age range is correct is a priority. Look for toys that have been made specifically to help develop children from birth and each toy is made to compliment the natural development of children.”

It goes on to say that “the power of musical toys not only develops little brains from an early age it also drives children to higher language processing abilities, contributing to the development of cognitive functions such as attention, visual-spatial perception, executive functions as well as auditory skills and cognitive flexibility”.

We tested wide range of toys for babies and toddlers, looking for fun, sturdiness and educational and developmental benefits.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.

Halilit my first baby band

Imagine how cute it would be if you actually formed a little baby band, with real babies playing these instruments? They could rock out to “Twinkle Twinkle” with little Oscar on the maraca, Jack on the egg shaker and baby Luna on the rainbow tube. There’s also a textured rattle and caged bell to prevent any rifts between band members. The instruments are perfectly sized and shaped for little hands and their bright colours and noises fascinated the tiniest of our little testers. They are super durable and are fine for little ones to put in their mouths. Our little testers adored these and we adored the price.

Hape baby Einstein magic touch piano

This is a lovely little gateway piano to the real thing. The keys use magic touch technology – meaning that they don’t move, but still respond to little music-making fingers. Tiny tots can play happily at random, and older children can begin to grasp music reading with the colour coordinated song sheets.

Our little and big testers thought this was magical. We did too and especially loved that it has a volume control button. It coped well with being chucked around a bit and the music sheets are wipe-clean so it really is built to last. We love that it actually sounds quite like a piano and isn’t offensive to adult ears. It’s great value as it suits several age groups and is educational and fun.

Infantino piano and numbers learning toucan

This cute toucan is suitable from birth and also has enough interactive features to keep it interesting for a few years. The light up piano keys, fun design and easy to grasp handle are ideal for tiny ones. Songs, spoken words and phrases and quizzes for advanced number learning are educational for older children. This soon became a favourite for our whole family. We love the price which is great for what you get.  

Mellissa and Doug band in a box set

An ideal gift for aspiring Von Trapps, this 10-piece set will allow you to form an entire pre-school marching band (should you wish). It contains a tambourine, cymbals, maracas, clacker, tone blocks and a triangle. We love the bright colours and cute storage crate. The instruments are durable but the paint may chip if thrown about too much. We loved that it was a great introduction to musical instruments, and cute to get out for play dates. Our little testers were obsessed.

My 1st Years personalised elephant wooden xylophone: £26, My 1st Years

Much like a band with their logo on the drum kit, your little rock star can have their very own personalised xylophone. We love the pastel shades and super cute elephant design. Our little tester loved making up tunes on it and the fact it was all “mine”. It looks stunning on the shelf and makes a sweet noise. It’s a really special gift that will be treasured by children and parents.

Gund Clappy the animated monkey

The cheekiest, fluffiest musical toy we tested. Press the left foot and Clappy plays an interactive clapping game. Press the right foot and he sings “If you’re happy and you know it”. Our little testers thought Clappy was a hoot and we liked how he got them clapping along and interacting. It is a durable toy so can be passed down to siblings to make it worth the investment. If you’re not into monkeys, there is also a very similar Flappy the elephant instead.

Sophie la Girafe soft toy touch and play:

Most self-respecting babies spend their days with a rubber Sophie La Girafe hanging out the sides of their mouths like a rakish cigar, so this toy will be an instant hit. Not only is this Sophie soft and fluffy, she is also very musically accomplished. Simply touch Sophie’s hooves and she will play melodies to the rhythm of your taps. Our little testers loved how cute and clever Sophie is and we loved that she teaches them cause and effect and fine motor skills. The buttons are big enough for little ones to play the music themselves. We love that batteries are included.

The White Company mini grand piano toy

This really is a nursery showstopper. Budding young Mozarts will feel like concert pianists sat at this tiny grand piano. The wood is painted a glossy and classy white, and comes with a cute little matching stool. The sound it makes is impressive too because it is strung as a real piano. It is suitable for prodigies ages three years and up. It is an extravagant, tongue in cheek addition to a nursery that will be more appreciated by parents than toddlers. It will be a great start to piano lessons for older children, though.

Hape rotating music box

This music box is designed to both entertain and soothe young babies. The rotating, colourful shapes will mesmerise them and the gentle sounds will calm them. The conical shape allows it to roll about on the floor with little ones, while developing their fine motor skills. We love the modern design and the classic tinny old-fashioned music box noise that it makes. It is entertaining but also soothing – good for lullaby time.

Mizzie The Kangaroo hop out music box

The Mizzie mission statement is “develop through play” and the box is designed to help children learn cause and effect, develop curiosity and increase minor motor skills and a love of music. This music box puts an Australian twist on the classic Jack In The Box. Our little testers simply turned the lever on the metal box which played the tune “Pop goes the weasel” and Mizzie the Kangaroo hopped out and made them giggle. We were worried that the novelty may wear off quickly, but it continued to make them laugh every time. It is made of tin so it is sturdy and we love how easy it is for little fingers to operate.

Little Tikes 'Little Baby Bum’ singing story book

Two of the brightest stars in the toddler universe – Little Tikes and Little Baby Bum have collided to create a wildly popular range of pre-school toys. This book takes classic Little Baby Bum songs and characters and puts them between soft, wipe clean, musical pages. Genius. As if we didn’t have enough to thank LBB for, now there’s this.

Our toddler testers loved this book because it contains all their LBB heroes and we love it because it teaches numbers and counting and makes them smile. We loved the wide range of songs – and once we switched out of demo mode we all got to enjoy the tunes in full. It’s not cheap for a musical book, but for LBB fans it will be life-changing.

Lamaze Octotunes baby sensory musical toy

Octotunes is a super smiley, squishy, sensory octopus whose tentacles each play a different note when squeezed. It will engage the tiniest of babies with its bright colours, patterns and textures, and our older testers used the songbook to play tunes with the tentacles – which is quite a party trick! Babies seem to love anything yellow, and our little testers adored this. We love that you can put it on a cool wash.

The verdict: Musical toys for babies and toddlers

While testing musical toys we found that the most important factors were longevity and variety. Toys that appeal to wide age groups last longer and can be passed from sibling to sibling. Toys that offered several functions or sounds were also a success. The Halilit my first baby band was the Best Buy because it offered a variety of instruments that appealed to all testers from babies to toddlers and was durable and good value. The Baby Einstein magic touch piano was a close second because it has both basic and more sophisticated functions that spanned age gaps.

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

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