5 Types of Cause and Effect Toys for Babies and Toddlers (With Awesome Examples)

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Playskool Ball Popper

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If you take a look around your child’s playroom, chances are you’ll find more than a few cause and effect toys on the shelves (or, let’s be honest, strewn about on the floor). Toys with buttons to press, light up toys, toys with balls that pop out, toys that open and close….these are all different types of cause and effect toys.

Babies and toddlers love these toys … indeed, these toys are often younger kids’ favourites! But what’s so great about action reaction toys? And do they offer any developmental benefit for kids?

This article digs into cause and effect toys for babies and toddlers, including what they are, benefits, and examples we think your littles will love.

What are Cause and Effect Toys?

Cause effect toys are interactive toys that require a child does something to cause a dynamic reaction, such as random sounds, music, lights, or movement. 

Benefits of Cause and Effect Toys for Babies and Toddlers

Cause and effect toys are delightful for littles – they universally seem to love them! But they also play an important part in different areas of development.

Language Development

Cause and effect toys (sometimes called Action Reaction toys) show children they can change their environment in some way – which is really exciting for young kids!

However, this discovery also plays an important role in language development, which is why they’re also used in speech therapy.

From a language development point of view, babies need to understand that they can take an action to cause a change. This relationship is the basis of communication – communicating a want or need (such as, “I’m hungry”) to cause action (getting some food)!

For this reason, these types of toys are often used as special needs toys, too, particularly as an autism intervention.

Fine Motor Skills

Many of these cause and effect toys help little ones develop finer motor skills, as they have to push a small button, match holes or openings, hammer at a target, or something similar.

As Maria Montessori said, “play is the work of the child” – and playing with many of the cause and effect toys listed below also help refine coordination and motor skills.

Independent Play

Many of the cause and effect toy ideas we’ve included below can be used independently by children, which not only gives you a short break, but also helps them practice child-led play.

5 Different Types of Cause and Effect Toys (With Examples)

While you can absolutely help your kids understand cause and effect without buying specific toys, there are plenty of toys – like steering wheel toys – that do a really great job at teaching and reinforcing the concept.

Most of these toys also develop other skills, such as hand-eye coordination, and gross and fine motor skills, giving you great developmental “bang for buck.”

Plus, most of these toys are super fun for kids!

Here are 5 types of cause and effect toys to consider, plus some top picks within each category:

Pop-Up Toys

Entertaining and engaging, pop ups are classic cause effect toys. Your baby or toddler will quickly learn that for an action to occur, he or she needs to either push the appropriate button, push down on something, or pull a lever.

Galt is the OG of Pop Up Toys

This Galt wooden toy is probably the classic toy in this category, and in my opinion is one of the best pop up toys for babies. I love that it’s a fairly simple toy, with no annoying lights and sounds, and that it’s made of wood, making it a good Montessori pop up toy option.

To use it, kiddos push the colorful pegs down into their holes, and then release. When they release their finger, the pegs launch up, and go flying into the air before crashing down to the ground.

Galt wooden pop up toy in action. A red peg is launching into the air and a woman's hand is near by, showing the cause and effect of pushing the peg down and releasing to launch it

We’ve had this engaging toy for years, and even now at 4 years old, my kiddo refuses to get rid of it, and occasionally pulls it off the shelf to play with it.

Despite still entertaining my preschooler, it’s really meant as a baby pop up toy.

Babies who are old enough to sit can try using it by themselves (with supervision) to learn about cause and effect and practice some fine motor work. But you don’t need to wait until 12 months to use it, as younger babies will love watching or playing with it with some help from an adult or another child.

Galt pop up toy (multicolor) on a wooden shelf
A woman's hand pushes down a red peg in the galt pop up toy

Alternative POP up Style Toys

Poppin Pals

A great hands-on activity for those aged over 9 months, the levers, buttons and switches are perfectly formed to slide, push and twist with ease making colourful characters POP from the top.  This Playskool Poppin Pals toy is perfect for improving fine motor skills and encouraging your child’s innate curiosity and even comes with a handy carry handle for portability. Simple but effective!

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Fat Brain Toys Dimpl

Another toy we’ve used personally over the years, the Dimpl is a fun one for littles ages 10 months and up. The toy is lightweight for them to hold, and they can work on pushing the silicone bubbles from side to side, achieving a satisfying popping noise when they achieve it.

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Piano Toy with Jumping Balls

Pressing each key on this cute piano will result in a different sound and a popping ball – a delightful way to see cause and effect in action.  Battery operated and made from sustainable wood, this colorful and fun toy is suitable for 12 months and up.

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Poppity Pop Dino

Balls go in and out of dino’s belly encouraging baby to crawl or run around after them endlessly.  Enjoy 6 colourful balls and 8 silly tunes to make playtime even more fun. Fine motor skills are engaged by grasping and dropping the balls which is great for dexterity.  Gross motor skills also get a workout here. They soon work out the cause and effect of the Poppity Pop Dino as they need to collect and replace all of the balls for the fun to continue.  Recommended age – from 6 months.

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Gravity and Momentum Toys

Gravity toys help teach kiddos that if they drop, spin, push, or pull it, the toy will fall. Perfect for all children, not just budding physicists!

Fat Brain Toys Spin again Wheels

Fat Brain Toys Spin Again wheels sitting on a carpet

We own Fat Brain Toys’ Spin Again Wheels, and it’s a perfect example of this type of toy. To use this toy, you remove the wheels from the center pole, and then place them at the top and what them spin down to the base.

A woman's hand drops a wheel down the central pole on the Spin Again wheels from Fat Brain Toys

Even for adults, this is an oddly satisfying cause and effect toy. Best for 1-year-olds and the early twos, my preschooler will still pull this out occasionally. For the younger kiddos, it offers visual stimulation and some fine motor skills work, navigating the wheels onto the spinning central pole.

The toy is made of ABS plastic and is BPA free.

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National Geographic Light Up Sky Rockets

Another one that we personally own and have a lot of fun using, these sky rockets require your little one to jump or stomp on the rocket launcher in order to launch the sky rockets high up into the sky! Super fun – do it away from trees, speaking from personal experience.

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Ramp Racer

This high-quality wooden toy has always been a favourite in our house and suits children over 1. By placing each small brightly coloured vehicle on the top of the ramp and letting it go, your child will learn about action and effect as she watches it roll down a series of ramps, flipping over at each end. Children love this one – especially those in a “car” phase.

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Ball Popper Toys

Balls popper toys are a great way to show cause and effect. The child activates a trigger, and the soft, colorful balls pop – a very rewarding effect for young children. These toys also stimulate your child’s imagination, grow critical thinking skills, and can help with gross and fine motor skills and eye tracking. 

These are some of our favorite ball poppers.

Playskool Ball Popper

This fun ball popper is good for ages 9 months and up.  It contains 5 colourful balls which pop out of the top, and run down a spiral track whenever baby decides to press the button.  Baby will love playing with the Playskool Ball Popper with its lively music and sound effects. Batteries required.

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Unicorn Ball Popper Toy

This awesome ball shooter will engage little ones ages 3 and over by firing foam balls up to 20 feet!  Your kiddos will quickly work out that the harder you squeeze the unicorn’s body, the harder they fire. Perfectly sized for little hands and plenty of raucous (and educational) fun.

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This entertaining musical elephant ball popper releases colourful balls from its trunk.  It encourages muscle development and hand-eye coordination by encouraging kidlets to chase the unpredictable balls.  Press the button, or place the balls back into the elephant’s ear to have them pop out again.

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Pounding and Rolling Toys

Pounding and rolling toys help to engage a child’s curiosity and attention by showing them that they can change their environment with a simple action, such as pounding balls into a hole. Great for gross motor skills development, pounding and rolling toys make great cause and effect activities for toddlers and babies.

These are some of our favorite pound and roll toys

Playkids Super Durable Pound a Ball

Perfect for littles aged 12 months and over, this colourful toy allows your child to hammer plastic balls into a hole and down an open tunnel.  This will definitely engage your kidlet in active playing, encouraging gross motor skills while developing hand-eye coordination via dexterity and manipulation.

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Battat Activity Station

Similar to the Playkids pound a ball version, the Battat version is more suitable for younger babies as the tunnel section is enclosed with a see-through cover. Your baby will love tracking the ball as it rolls through the maze after it is hammered through the hole above.

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Action Equals Sound Toys

This style of toy demonstrates to your child that simple action will result in a captivating musical outcome, thus teaching them about cause and effect (and being a fun experience overall).

Fisher-Price Piggy Bank

With 3 stages of learning starting at age 6 months, this interactive piggy bank will help your baby explore first words, encourage following simple instructions and utilize imaginative early role-playing.  By dropping a series of 10 brightly coloured and easy to grasp coins into the piggy’s slot, your child will elicit delightful musical responses.

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Fisher-Price Magical Fish Bowl Toy

This fun example of action equalling sound provides your baby with endless entertainment.  Every time they remove one of the cute marine toys from the bowl they are rewarded with songs and an amusing show of lights. More colourful buttons add fun by teaching your child numbers and letters too.  Appropriate for 6 months and older.

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VTech Kiddy Beats Drum Set

This fun learning toy is suitable for 2 and up, all the way up to around 6 years olf.  It provides 3 drum pads and a cymbal which your child will love to hit with the drumsticks, getting a unique sound from each pad and providing sensory development.

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Baby Crinkle Squares

These are so simple and so effective for teaching your baby that action will equal sound.  Babies from as young as 3 months will love playing with the cute colourful squares of fabric sized 6” x 6”.  The Crinkle squares have different textures of smooth or fluffy and make a satisfying crinkly noise when played with thanks to the crisp plastic interior sheet.

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Cause and Effect Play for Young Children

Cause and effect toys are everywhere, and very fun. But you can absolutely help your baby or toddler understand the concept without buying specific toys.

For example, taking action to make sound (shake a rattle, bang a spoon on the floor), using switches (press the switch to turn something on/off), pressing/pulling on handles in the house (to open/close), or pushing an outdoor swing to see it take off!

Cause and Effect Activities for Infants

  • Use Your Play Gym. Lay them on their back under the gym, and let them bat or kick the toys with their arms and legs. Some of the hanging toys might have sounds, such as bells, that help reinforce the concept (I really like the Lovevery play gym for this, as the organic cotton ball that comes with it has a bell, and it also has built in crinkle paper, and squeaker toys, which show cause and effect!).
  • Over the Top Reactions. We tend to do this naturally when we’re with babies, but parents and caregivers that have huge, over the top facial and vocal reactions to the things babies do also teaches cause and effect. For example, if a baby does something (hits at a toy on their play gym, for example), and we react with obvious delight, praise, clapping, and encouragement, it demonstrates that baby can do something to get a reaction from their caregiver.

Cause and Effect Activities for Older Babies and Young Toddlers

In my experience, my daughter went through different stages wanting to do most of these activities anyway. I didn’t have to specifically introduce these activities because she found them on her own, and became fascinated with them.

  • Light Switch On, Light Switch Off: This is fun for babies and younger toddlers at different stages in different ways. If you have a younger baby, you can hold them and turn the switch on and off yourself, allowing them to watch and pointing out what happens. Once they’re a little older, they can use the switch themselves. Just stick a step stool under the light switch and let them entertain themselves for a good 10 minutes!
  • Faucet On, Faucet Off: Similar to the light switch, you can play this in different ways at different stages. Once they’re ready to play with the faucet on their own, make sure you supervise so they don’t turn the water too hot and burn themselves (ideally, you’ll limit how hot the tap water can get on your furnace).
  • Blocks Go Smash: For younger babies, you can build up a little tower using wooden blocks, and then help them push it over. Babies and those who are old enough can do this themselves … over and over and over again. An alternative to this is “how high can it go,” where you basically build the tallest tower possible before physics (the cause) takes over and it tumbles to the ground. We used Megablocks a lot for this game.
  • Bang, Bang, Rattle Bing Bang…A great way to entertain babies who can sit up on their own is to give them a pot, pan, Tupperware container, and a spoon or wooden spoon, and let them bang away to their heart’s content making noise.
  • Splish Splash Bath: Lay out a few towels before you do this one, but it seems fairly universal that kids love splashing in the bath tub. And this is another cause and effect activity that shows the relationship between hitting the water and causing splashes, moving around and making waves, splashing the floor and getting it wet, etc.

Cause and Effect Games for Older Toddlers and Preschoolers

In my experience, this age range isn’t exactly made up of the most patient people in the world, which is why the best cause and effect activities for toddlers show immediate effect. They don’t want to wait around, after all!

The good news is, lots of the activities and games this age range likes to do anyway have lessons about cause and effect baked into them.

  • Sink Play: We’ve spent many a weekend morning with my kiddo set up in her Kitchen Helper at the kitchen sink with plugs, liquid dish soap, food coloring, sprinkles, and spoons and ladles (with lots and lots of towels to protect the floor). She plugs the sink and adds copious amounts of dish soap to make bubbles, mix bubbles, and watch them pop over time. She adds food coloring to watch the colors change as she adds different combos. And she adds sprinkles to test sink vs float. It’s extremely messy, but shows many examples of cause and effect using the bubbles and food coloring, especially.
  • Cause and Effect Games: There are plenty of classic childhood games that also show cause and effect, such as Operation (a current favorite at our house – when your tweezers touch the edge you get the buzz noise) and Hungry Hippos Launchers (which requires you to catapult marbles into the hippos mouths).
  • Playground Time: Playgrounds offer many great examples of cause and effect for kids. We live near a playground with a small hill, and my kiddo loves to roll down the hill, to do extreme teeter-tottering (which causes her butt to lift off the seat when we teeter really, really hard), and to swing as high as humanly possible. All of these activities have lessons about cause and effect.

Final Thoughts

These are just some ideas of cause and effect toys – there are plenty of others out there including many you can create yourself.

If you know of any parents or grandparents who could benefit from this list, we hope you’ll share it!

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