In the grand scheme of things, we are all students of life, but babies and toddlers are even more so. Everything is a learning opportunity for them, and sometimes the best classroom for developing minds is their playroom. Of course, not every toy has to have an educational purpose, but when you have a curious toddler on your hands, playthings that encourage their development — like stacking and nesting toys, for example — are great additions to their repertoire.
At first glance, stacking and nesting toys might appear to be mindless activities, but the reality is quite the contrary. Matching and arranging these colorful cups and shapes teach your little one a variety of essential skills such as problem solving, visual and spatial perception, developing vocabulary and creative play. There are also physical benefits to these toys as well, as the simple act of sitting up and moving their arms to grasp and stack each piece strengthens their coordination and motor skills. Add any of the best stacking nesting toys to your child’s playtime rotation so they can start reaping these benefits ASAP.
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1. The First Years Stack Up Cup Toys
These stacking cups from The First Years are a cult-favorite, especially for babies and toddlers that love building with plastic containers. In addition to your child figuring out which pieces fit best together, large numbers have been embossed at the bottom of each cup to encourage number recognition and counting. And in case you need an entertaining distraction at bath time, the Stack Up Cups even have unique holes in the bottom for water play. They’ll be so busy watching water trickle out from the bottoms of their toys they won’t even realize the shampoo.
2. Fisher-Price Brilliant Basics Stack & Roll Cups
If we were instantly drawn to this toy’s smiley face jingle ball top, you can rest assured that your little one will be too. Contrary to what the name suggests, these Fisher Price stack and roll cups are anything but basic. The set features ten brightly colored cups that have also been numbered so that, over time, your child will start to pick up on the toy’s numerical sequence. The pieces stack on top of one another, nest inside each other and snap together to form balls your little one can roll around the room.
Of course, these stacking and transfiguring cups are more than entertaining — they’re educational, too. Through exploring each piece and maneuvering them in different ways, your growing baby strengthens their thinking and problem solving skills, will begin to understand the concept of sizes and shapes, and they’ll even improve their motor skills and hand-eye coordination as they play. What’s more, the smiley jingle ball is encouraging, acts as a reward for a job well done, and also stimulates your baby’s sense of sight and hearing.
3. Fat Brain Toys Tobbles
Intentional or not, the pastel color palette of this stackable toy from Fat Brain Toys is giving us serious Oh The Places You’ll Go vibes, and we can’t think of anything more appropriate for this lopsided tower of tobbles. This set of six dual-colored, weighted spheres remain intact atop a sturdy base and can be stacked, tilted and spun. Fair warning: Just like Weebles, these tobbles will wobble — but that’s part of the fun!
What might appear to be a simple leaning tower of stacking balls has actually been awarded time and again (it’s taken home Toy of the Year at the Spielwarenmesse International Toy Fair, Major Fun Award, ASTRA’s Best Toys for Kids Award and the Parent’s Choice Silver Award) — and not just for its entertainment value. Through hands-on play, the stacking toy encourages sensory exploration, fine-tunes your child’s visual-spatial and motor skills, coordination and creative play. Not to mention, it’s fun for parents, too, so you can play with your child rather than just watch them do their thing.
4. Melissa & Doug Nesting & Sorting Garages & Cars
In true Melissa & Doug fashion, the company has taken stacking and nesting toys to the next level with actual levels. Rather than stick to the standard stacking cups, Melissa & Doug designed stackable parking garages to flex your child’s hand-eye coordination muscles. What’s more, each garage is naturally paired with a miniature wooden car, and matches don the same color and size in order to teach your child about matching. Between building blocks, racing cars and matching the pieces to their counterparts, this versatile toy will definitely keep your child busy.
5. Battat Sort and Stack
Battat’s stacking and nesting toy covers all the bases: numbers, shapes, sorting and stacking — this toy is everything you could ever want and need for a child in early development. The classic (yet also super contemporary) toy includes 19 colorful pieces in total, including 10 stacking cups, eight shapes and one bucket lid. It’s an educational tool that fine-tunes your child’s color and number recognition, counting, hand-eye coordination skills and more, but it’s also just an all-around awesome toy you can bring into the tub or to the beach. Plus, clean up is a breeze: Just nest the pieces back together, pop on the top and you’re done!