The 10 Best Bath Toys For Babies And Toddlers

Jennifer Schlette, RN, MSNED
Reviewed by Jennifer Schlette, RN, MSNEDWritten by Neve Spicer Updated on September 24th, 2021

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While regular bathing is necessary to keep your little one clean, that doesn’t mean it has to be a chore. In fact, it’s the perfect place to encourage sensory play with water, since cleanup is as easy as draining the tub and drying off!

Quality bath toys designed to encourage motor skills, critical thinking, and imagination are great for engaging younger kids during bath time; they’re designed to prevent waterlogging and mildew growth, and unlike most of their regular toys, bath toys won’t be damaged if submerged in water.

On the lookout for the best baby bath toys? Take a peek at our rundown for some options that just might float your boat! 1Thompson, J. (2000). Playing with a purpose.Community Practitioner, 73(11), 843.
Proquest.com

Why is play during bath time important?

All types of sensory play are developmentally important to babies and toddlers. Playing in water isn’t just fun, it’s a learning experience for little ones, who are discovering that they can cup water in their hands, pour it, splash it, and even use tools to move it from place to place.

Discovery play of this type encourages critical thinking and the discovery of cause and effect. It also makes bathing a more positive experience for some babies and toddlers, some of whom may be resistant to taking a bath.2Etheredge, J. (2004). The wonderful benefits of water and sand play.Early Years Educator,6(3), 44-45. Magonlinelibrary.com

How often do I need to clean my child’s bath toys, and how do I do so?

As much as it might pain parents to hear this, it’s definitely necessary to clean any toys that were used during their bath immediately. Not doing so means that the dirt and germs from their bathwater remain on the surface of, and potentially inside of, their toys. After they’ve used a toy, it will need to be thoroughly rinsed and dried.

If it’s a squeezing or squirting toy which has a hole that water can pass through, all water will need to be squeezed and shaken out. The toy should then be dried with a towel to the best of your ability and left to continue air drying with any holes facing upward to encourage airflow.3 Moldy Bath Toys: How Dangerous Are They?
blog.cincinnatichildrens.org/healthy-living/moldy-bath-toys-how-dangerous-are-they

About once a week, bath toys that are used on a regular basis must be disinfected with a simple antibacterial solution. This will help to prevent the development of mold, which will extend the life of your child’s bath toys.

Fortunately, you won’t need any special cleaners, and there won’t be any harsh soap residue to contend with. All you need is a gallon of warm water and half a cup of standard white vinegar. Bath toys should be soaked in this solution for approximately ten minutes. 4How to Clean Your Child’s Moldy Bath Toys
hewell.northwell.edu/parenting/moldy-bath-toys-ew

After their soak, toys should be gently surface cleaned with a sponge. For squirt toys and others that absorb water, allow them to fill with some solution then shake them vigorously, squeezing out the solution afterward.

After they’ve been cleaned, towel dry the toys and allow them to air dry; again, it’s important to keep any holes facing up to make sure the inside of the toy can dry as well.

How do I know when it’s time to get rid of a bath toy?

Even with regular cleaning, exposure to soap, water, and bacteria can eventually degrade bath toys to the point where they’re not safe to be used. In certain situations, it’s much smarter to get rid of a bath toy entirely than try to clean it for continued use; after all, it’s not worth exposing your little one to mold! Wondering when it’s time to get rid of a bath toy?

  • Discoloration: When discoloration begins to appear on a bath toy, particularly if made from silicone, it’s almost certainly time to say goodbye. This is because spotting and staining is typically caused by mold and mildew, not just dirt; removing it is tough and also unsafe for your child to be exposed to.
  • Cracking: Cracking and degrading can happen to some types of rubber over time, but if you see it happening to your child’s bath toy, it’s time to say goodbye. Even a small piece that’s broken off can create an instant choking hazard, so toys that are cracking or tearing should be disposed of — this is true for toys outside the tub, too.
  • Leeching water: If a toy that doesn’t have a hole to allow for squeezing or squeaking is continually leaking or leeching water after it’s been dried, it means that water is becoming trapped inside the toy that can’t be released. This creates an ideal breeding ground for mold and mildew, meaning that it’s not safe for ongoing use.

What are some ideas for efficiently storing and drying my child’s bath toys?

Once your child’s bath toys have been washed and dried, a place where they can continue to air-dry without any minor drips causing a problem makes for ideal storage. There are a few ways to do this, and here are our two favorites:

  • A net bag: A waterproof net bag that’s used for sporting equipment, laundry, stuffed animals, or anything else, can easily double as storage for their bath toys that allows nearly 360 degrees of airflow. As long as toys are patted dry, holes are drained, and the bag isn’t overstuffed, a hanging net bag in the bathroom makes a great storage spot for their bath or pool toys.
  • A plastic basket: Wide plastic baskets with mesh sides that allow airflow also create a great drying spot for bath toys in a bathroom that may lack a good spot for hanging storage. Look for a basket that has airflow holes on the bottom as well, allowing toys to continue drying more efficiently; placing it on an old towel can protect your floor from any leftover drips.

Editor’s note:

Whatever storage receptacle you keep your child’s toys in will also need to be cleaned once a week.

Our top picks of the best bath toys for babies and toddlers

Editors choice

Recommended age: 18 months – 4 years
Toy type: Floating ring toss
Theme: Octopus
Materials: Plastic
Dishwasher safe?: No

Toys that help toddlers improve their hand-eye coordination are an important part of their development, and the Nuby Floating Octopus Ring Toss (check price on Amazon) is ideal for doing just that. The friendly purple octopus which forms the base of the game floats easily on the surface of the water, staying afloat and balanced thanks to six extended tentacles which curve upward to create pegs for their ring toss. Three sea-themed rings are included with this set, which is also a fun addition to outdoor play in the kiddie pool for multiple children.

What we love
  • The design encourages the toy to stay afloat easily, so their game isn’t disrupted by an unstable base
  • Practicing accurate throws encourages the development of your child’s hand-eye coordination skills
Watch for
  • A little on the thick side, and can be pretty warm during the summer months

Best bath toy organizer

Recommended age: n/a
Toy type: n/a
Theme: Storage
Materials: Plastic
Dishwasher safe?: No

When the bath toys are marched out to play during any given bathtime, fishing them out of your little one’s dirty bathwater is a chore you’d likely rather skip. The Munchkin Scoop, Drain, and Store Organizer (check price on Amazon) takes some of the hassle out of post-bathtime cleanup, offering a sturdy plastic scooping basket with drainage holes and an ergonomic side handle that can be used to scoop used toys right out of the bath for cleaning. Once they’ve been rinsed and dried, the basket also makes a great place for storing toys while not in use, as it can be attached directly to the tub wall with an enclosed hanging bracket that installs easily using durable adhesive strips.

What we love
  • You’ll never have to fish a toy out of your child’s used bathwater with your bare hands again
  • It doubles as handy toy storage and mounts to your tub wall with an easy install that won’t alter existing hardware
Watch for

Best for toddlers

Recommended age: 3+
Toy type: Vehicles
Theme: Ferry Boat / Cars
Materials: Plastic
Dishwasher safe?: Yes

Toy vehicles are great picks for inspiring imaginative pretend play and encouraging both gross and fine motor skill development, and they’re not just fun on land. With the Ferry Boat from Green Toys (check price on Amazon), they’ll have both two brightly-colored cars to roll and a floating ferry boat with an extending exit ramp to tote the autos around to their heart’s content. Unlike many bath toys, sanitizing this set is made simple as it’s top-rack dishwasher safe. It’s also a great pick for eco-conscious families, as Green Toys are made from 100% recycled plastic and use minimal recycled paper packaging. Their toys can also be recycled when your child outgrows them if desired, completing the product’s low-waste life cycle.

What we love
  • It’s top-rack dishwasher safe, so getting a thorough clean isn’t something that’s tough to do
  • The set is made from 100% recycled plastic, and can be recycled when your child outgrows it if you wish
Watch for

Best for preschoolers

Recommended age: 0+
Toy type: Picturebook
Theme: Sea creatures
Materials: Plastic, rubber
Dishwasher safe?: No

Babies and young toddlers need simple, safe bath toys that offer visual stimulation; a soft, waterproof picture book like the Nuby Bath Book (check price on Amazon) is just right for their attention span and abilities. The little book features friendly sea creatures at play, including a swimming turtle, a whale, dolphins, fish, and others.

Bright colors and simple objects encourage young children to focus and use their imagination, and the book provides a teaching tool that can prompt discussion about what’s being viewed despite a lack of text.

What we love
  • It’s just right for babies and young toddlers who need simple, safe toys in the bath
  • It’s a picture book, so unlikely to hold their attention beyond age three
Watch for

Best Stem bath toys

Recommended age: 1 year +
Toy type: Pouring
Theme: Pipes
Materials: Plastic
Dishwasher safe: No

Building toys are favored by STEM educators for the role they play in bolstering the use of logic and understanding of cause and effect, but they’re usually left on dry land. Not so with the Boon Building Bath Pipes (check price on Amazon), a simple building set that’s safe and comprehensible for toddlers and introduces early experiences with reasoning as well as motor skill development opportunities when assembling the pipes and pouring water through their creations.

Each of the five pieces attaches to the bathtub wall with a suction cup, so can be used either independently or connected into a system that will allow kids to experiment with channeling water.

What we love
  • It’s a legitimate STEM toy they can enjoy in the bath
Watch for

Our sixth pick

Recommended age: 4 months +
Toy type: Rattles
Theme: Sea creatures
Materials: Plastic, rubber
Dishwasher safe: No

Simple toys that engage the senses are perfect for young learners, and Float and Play bubbles by Munchkin (check price on Amazon) fit the bill quite effectively. They’re cute, clear rattling orbs with a textured “bubble” surface through which one can see a tiny sea creature or object which is creating the sound. On the outside of each bubble, an independently rotating, uniquely textured ring can be spun around to create additional sounds and stimulate motor skill development. The toy bubbles also float on the water’s surface, so little ones won’t struggle to find them in a bath full of real bubbles.

What we love
  • There’s lots of opportunities for sensory stimulation: a textured moving ring that clicks, a textured bubble surface to feel, and a rattling sound made when each orb is shook
  • These bubbles float in the water rather than sinking, so play is easy and safe
Watch for

Best for boosting motor skills

Recommended age: 9 months +
Toy type: Stacking, pouring
Theme: Animals/wildlife
Materials: Plastic
Dishwasher safe?: No

The bath toys with the most longevity are those with seamless designs that prevent the toy from taking on water, one feature that this friendly Light-up Dinosaur from Skip Hop (check price on Target) boasts.

When your child places the soft, squishy toy into the water, the multi-colored lights activate, offering fun and safe sensory engagement via a well-protected internal battery that doesn’t need installing. The lack of crevices and holes means that cleaning the toy after use just requires a rinse and dry, and it’s not likely to absorb stubborn water drips that can lead to mold or mildew infestation.

What we love
  • The seamless design of this toy lacks crevices and holes, repelling water retention for a longer lasting bath toy
  • The toy’s illumination when touching the water creates a simple opportunity to learn about cause and effect
Watch for

Best for 1-year-olds and below

Recommended age: 6 – 18 months
Toy type: Squirt toys
Theme: Finding Nemo
Materials: Plastic
Dishwasher safe?: No

Simple, colorful squirting toys are excellent bath toy picks for little ones still mastering basic small motor skills. They’ll love seeing their favorite characters from the beloved Pixar classic, Finding Nemo (check price on Walmart) brought to life in this handy three-pack which includes Nemo, Dory, and a baby sea turtle. They’re easy for small hands to grasp and squeeze, but their low volume means kids won’t make a big mess when they play with these little guys. Parents should note that due to the construction of these squirters, regular cleaning is especially important to avoid mold buildup.

What we love
  • They’re just the right size and softness for little hands to grasp and squeeze easily
  • They don’t take on a ton of water, so it’s hard for a toddler to accidentally make a big mess
Watch for

Best stacking boat

Recommended age: 9 months +
Toy type: Stacking
Theme: Boats
Materials: Plastic
Dishwasher safe: Yes

Scooping, pouring, sprinkling, and stacking are all bath activities that encourage the development of motor and cognitive skills in young children, and they’re all encouraged by these colorful Stacking Boats from Boon (check price on Target). The set of five concave oval boats can be stacked in a tower and used to scoop and pour water, but when flipped over, the opposite side can be used to scoop water and watch it drain through a sprinkler opening. The design of these boats has no closed areas, so they won’t take on water or develop mold infestations, and cleaning and drying them is very simple.

What we love
  • Their simple, easy to clean design belies several opportunities for motor skill and cognitive development for kids
  • Because there’s nowhere for water to become trapped, the development of mold or mildew is unlikely
Watch for

And The Winner Is…

The key to getting kids to focus on skill development is to make it fun, an area in which Nuby succeeded expertly with the Floating Octopus Ring Toss (check price on Amazon).

This toy keeps kids engaged while either solo during bathtime or with a group at outdoor play; in truth, while water adds an extra dimension of excitement, the Ring Toss is equally entertaining out of the tub or pool. It’s also easy to clean, with a base that floats well instead of toppling, so is both fun and functional.

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Jennifer Schlette, RN, MSNED
Reviewed by Jennifer Schlette, RN, MSNEDWritten by Neve Spicer Updated on September 24th, 2021

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