Some of Julia’s favorite toys have stopped making it into the main circuit. I’m really surprised. Three months ago she never let go of the Winkel (and neither did I), and now we look right over it. Here are our favorite nine-month toys.

Let’s start with the most beautifully designed ones. The Mozart Magic Cube is fantastic. She loves it. We love it. Buy it.

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The Rain Cloud Bath Toy captivates Julia and I. The water falls quickly enough to be interesting but is soft for sensitive baby skin. She reaches out to try and grab the rain. It is a lovely toy and my favorite of them all.

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The Noggin Stik Baby Toy gets her attention more these days and we keep it around during meal times. This always earns us time for a few extra bites while she tries to bite the noggin.

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The Noggin Rings toy also gets a serious look whenever she comes across it in a toy basket. It is light and easy to pack. It straps to strollers or me and we often use it in stores for entertainment. We found this toy at a boutique children’s shop in Charlotte. I asked for the best toy for a seven-month old and they all pointed to this one.

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The Cookie Puzzle shape sorter has been a surprising treat. Julia loves to play with the base and the singing gingerbread person, but also with the cookies separately. When she starts getting fussy at meal time we pull these out and get a few extra spoonfuls of food in. We take them in our travel bag on short trips. These are the only toys we have with magnets, and I showed Julia how they stick together and how moving one can influence another. She sat quietly and studied them, watching.

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The Skip Hop Explore and More Rocking Stacker owl is great, and easy for little fingers to grab. For some reason she loves the base and even the layers that don’t do very much. The one with wings travels in our daily bag for short trips. It’s so easy for me to hold and can entertain Julia for a minute or so at a time. She holds one wing in each hand and shakes it up and down slowly to watch the beads inside move. We are buying more stacking toys and I’m happy to already have this one in our home. She should start using it a bit more as she approaches her first birthday.

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Sophie the Giraffe is not a favorite but is a constant in our travel bag. Julia will chew on Sophie occasionally and is getting better at gripping the legs. We have one for her nursery too and use them often, just not for very long periods of time. I recommend it because we do always seem to have them close by, unlike other toys that have been pushed back to the sidelines. Sophie gets daily play time.

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If I dangle the Manhattan Orbit Teether over Julia she will stop wiggling and fussing and gaze in delight. She chews on the sides and has enjoyed this one for at least half her little life. It’s packable and fun, so is a favorite of mine. It’s much cuter in person.

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We have my old Brio Multicolored Bell Rattle. It’s in great shape. Julia is just starting to pick this one up because she can wrap her fingers around the spokes. This is sweet, until she tries to put the entire thing in her mouth or bangs it against something. It rolls quickly which encourages her to crawl. We thought about buying a new one but were told that even 30 years ago, european chemical standards were higher than the U.S. so the toy should be safe for her. This is one of the most often picked up toys in our household and  lasts at least two generations.

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They make Oballs with rattles which I bet are great, but we have the original and enjoy it. It fits into Julia’s grasp perfectly every time and we even took it to Italy. It smooshes flat for travel and we rolled it back and forth in the airport, and used it as a bath toy. We have the pink and purple Oball which is one of the very few girl-colored toys we have. I like it because I use it to teach her the color name, and it would difficult to point to colors on this multicolored one.

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We’ve used the Small Animal Plush Stacker from the beginning. I bought this toy before Julia was born in my attempt to push beautiful toys on her instead of loud and colorful ones. This is one of the few pre-Julia toy purchases to still be action. We use a couple at the changing table, one in the travel bag and one in the nursery. She’s always loved them. When we were away for her nine-month birthday photo, we used the bear here in lieu of the bigger, less packable version. The elephant had a weird hairy tail which I cut off and he’s better for it. Was an easy fix.

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When we needed shape sorters, we bought Hape. These are beautiful toys and not only does Julia play with them on their own, the pieces can be used for stacking together or with other sets (such as the Clown).

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We received the Fisher-Price Brilliant Basics Baby’s First Blocks set as a gift and it has been one of Julia’s favorite things. She loves pulling the shapes out of the box, and she carries them everywhere. Often we are several rooms away (or floors – we live in a high rise building) when I notice she’s still carrying one around. We use these at meal times for distraction because food washes off so easily. It was a fantastic gift.

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The Hape Clown Stacker is about six inches tall but packs a lot of personality. Julia becomes singulary focused when I put it on her playmat. It’s as if she’s found her purpose in life, and it is to knock the clown over and chew his rings as swiftly as possible. She succeeds every time.

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Our pediatrician recommended “lots of knob puzzles” for this age, and we have both Hape and Melissa and Doug ones. The Deluxe Fish Bowl is probably Julia’s favorite, and she is really drawn to the crab. Right now we play peek-a-boo with it and try to fit in all the spaces. She also loves the Holiday Tree Chunky Puzzle and carries the pieces around with her wherever we go. She doesn’t seem to mind that it isn’t Christmas.

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Last but not least are the big items. Julia has been trying to walk for two months now and nothing makes her happier than standing and walking. We prop her on the couch holding on to the back and she beams, then falls dramatically on to the soft cushions. Repeat. She also holds onto the bar stool footrest for support, any small bench we can find to pat, the sides of the playpen and my hands. We walk around all day together looking at things, chasing cats, Roomba or her father, and smiling at this huge accomplishment. She’s starting to be able to pull herself up to the LeapFrog Learn and Groove Musical Table Activity Center, which we placed beside the VTech Sit-to-Stand Learning Walker. This is her favorite place to be right now. It is so much fun watching her go back and forth, I’m thinking of a second table to really get her walking.

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