It depends on the age of the baby.
For tiny babies - things with different textures, little pieces or ribbon sticking out, etc. Wrist and ankle rattles are good too. Don't think they are educational? They teach cause and effect and a "wow! look what I made happen" confidence.
For older babies - shape sorters, soft blocks to stack, cars to push.
Good 1st birthday presents include - Leap Frog Fridge Phonics, puzzles with large handles on the pieces, riding toys, toys to push or pull while walking, crayons
If you are wondering how to teach your baby the ABC's and 123's, remember that there is so much more to the world and your baby needs to learn all of it. Gross motor skills are very important for future health, fine motor skills are critical for future learning, everyday life experiences are vital too. Flashcard drills and workbook pages where things have to be "right" will probably kill any love of learning.
at 11:53 AM on Jan. 23, 2009