16 of the best toys for 1 year olds

Our pick of the top toys for boys and girls aged 12 months and up

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Your 1-year-old is making huge strides in her or his physical development right now – typically going from rolling or crawling to walking and running between now and her or his 2nd birthday. Which means that, this year, toys your child can push and pull come into their own.

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Your child’s also beginning to recognise patterns and shapes, pick up (and drop!) objects, and understand that when something’s hidden, it’s still there. So, toys that pop up or have things to empty and fill, or pile up and push over, are always going to go down well.

Colourful, noisy, moving toys are great for 1-year-olds. They also need to be sturdy as they’ll get lots of, ahem, enthusiastic handling.

And if you’re trying to be a bit more environmentally friendly, wooden toys are particularly good as they tend to be more sustainably made and will take lots of bashing – so a double win there.

Here’s our pick of the best toys for 1-year-olds, as tested by children and rated by their parents…

1. SmartMax Sound and Senses, £17.99

Age: 12 months+

What it is: A set of 4 bars and 4 balls, each with different faces, surface textures and sounds. They’re also all magnetic, so your child can ‘stick’ them together and pull them apart.

Why we love it: Our twin child testers Karter and Kai were initially attracted by the bright colours but then, says their mum Melissa, they delightedly realised that the pieces make sounds when you shake them – and that they come apart and stick to each other in all sorts of different ways. “It’s such a great toy,” she says, “and brilliant for colour-sorting, too!” We agree – and chose this toy for our Top 100 Xmas Toys list.

Available from: Amazon

2. Hey Duggee Flip and Learn Phone, £10.99

Age: 18 months+

What it is: A 15cm-long flip-up toy phone with a back-lit screen and buttons that make sounds, including a ‘camera’ button for pretend selfies. Voice prompts encourage your child to press certain buttons and learn to recognise letters, numbers and colours. Requires 2 x AAA batteries (not included).

Why we like it: Our child testers immediately started pressing all the buttons and the older ones then – often with serious ‘important call’ faces – began ‘phoning’ their parents, Duggee and the Squirrels. Their parents were impressed by the friendly and encouraging voice prompts and that there’s loads to press and look at and listen to. We really like the pretend camera feature – with its ‘smile for the camera!’ instructions and nice ‘taking a pic’ click. Good price, too.

Available from: John Lewis and Amazon

3. Linkimals Smooth Moves Sloth, £34.99

Age: 9 months+

What it is: A 28cm-high clapping, nodding sloth who grooves along to the music that plays when you press the green button on his foot. The orange button on his other foot plays phrases about numbers, colours and opposites. If you have another Linkimals animal (there’s a an equally cute Musical Moose), you can ‘link’ them up so they sing and ‘chat’ together. Requires 4 AA batteries (demo ones included).

Why we love it: He’s nice and sturdy, with cute soft arms. And his clapping and head-wobbling is lovely: all our child testers reacted delightedly. The lights and sounds are fun without being too grating to parental ears – and introduce counting and numbers in a genuinely engaging way.

Available from: Amazon The Entertainer, John Lewis and Tesco

4. Dena My First Rainbow, £20


Age: From birth

What is it: A 11cm-wide BPA-free silicone stacking toy with 6 super-durable coloured arcs that bend and twist and flex. Safe to chew and can be cleaned in a dishwasher. Comes in Neon or Pastel colours.

Why we love it: It looks beautiful and is dinky enough to be scooped up and taken anywhere, from the sandpit to the bath. The pieces are easy for small hands to hold and for teething mouths to chew on. Our child testers’ parents were amazed by how bendy the shapes are – and how well they withstand being chucked about the place.

Available from: Boots, Kidly, and JoJo Maman Bebe

5. CoComelon Bedtime JJ Doll, 24.99

Age: 18 months+

What is it: a 35cm high plush JJ doll, dressed in his iconic onesie and clutching his teddy. Squeeze his tummy to hear 7 sounds or phrases and hearh him sing his Yes Yes Bedtime song. Requires 3 x AAA batteries (included).

Why we love it: Even if your child’s not a fan of the Cocomelon YouTube series, JJ is lovely and soft to cuddle (although his head is hard) and the phrases are cute – our child testers liked his giggle and his “Night night” best. The song is quite loud, which may not be every parent’s idea of a bedtime lullaby but our child testers didn’t seem to mind. Do remember to flip the switch on the back from ‘Try me’ mode before giving it to your child or you’ll find not all the sounds work.

Available from: Very Smyths Toys, Amazon and Argos

6. Thomas & Friends My First Thomas, £19.99

Age: 12 months+

What is it: A 15cm-high Thomas pushalong train with moving wheels and a wobbly cargo car that wobbles. Press on Thomas’ dome for a toot-toot sound. Comes with 2 cargo boxes.

Why we love it: It’s a colourful, chunky, no-frills pushalong: Vicki, mum of our child tester Lincoln, was agreeably surprised to find no electronic bells and whistles – even the toot-toot noise is quite restrained. Lincoln had fun loading up the cargo boxes and was super pleased to be able to hook the cargo car to Thomas all by himself.

Available from: Asda, Hamleys and Argos

7. Ladybird Balance Bug, £39.99
Ladybird Balance Bug

Age: 12 months+

What it is: A 43cm x 30cm x 40cm wooden ride-on ladybird with rotating castor wheels, a padded seat and handle grips. Also comes as a bee, a lion and a panda. Some assembly required.

Why we love it: It’s cute, sturdy, scoots around easily in all directions and, to judge by our child tester Dara, it’s super-comfy to sit on – it’s become his new TV-watching chair, too, says his mum Leighann. We like its rounded corners (kinder to furniture) and the wipe-clean seat cover. Leighan adds, “I’d say it’s worth every penny”. An easy pick for our Top 100 Xmas Toys list.

Available from: Beehive Toy Factory and Amazon

8. Janod Magnetic Rocket, £15.50

Age: 18 months+

What is it: A rocket puzzle your child can build using 6 easy-to-fit-together magnetic pieces.

Why we love it: It’s essentially a simple stacking toy but the magnetic pieces lock together beautifully to turn into a rocket you can play with. We like the fact that the wood is high-quality and the (snazzy) paint job is non-toxic. And our child testers loved finding the hidden astronaut inside.

Available from: Amazon and Kidly

9. Splashtime Submarine, £26.99

Age: 12 months+

What it is: A 27cm x 38cm submarine bath toy with a water-pouring rotating periscope, spinning gears, searchlight sprinkler, and porthole with a starfish inside. It also lights up and play songs and phrases. Comes with suction cups. Requires 3 x AA batteries (included).

Why we love it: There’s loads going on here! Our child tester Ezra is not too keen on bathtime but his mum Charlene says that, with all the things on this submarine to press and spin and pour and watch and listen to, he was actually happily engaged enough for her to get in a sneaky hairwash. It’s not cheap for a bath toy but it looks pretty robust and has plenty to keep a child entertained as they get older. We picked this for our Top 100 Xmas Toys list.

Available from: AmazonVeryArgos and Smyths Toys

10. Zebra Balance Bike, £43.99

Zebra Balance Bike

Age: 12 months+

What it is: A lightweight (2kg) 3-wheeled balance bike, with a seat height of 28cm and anti-skid safety wheels. Also available as a Giraffe. Requires some self-assembly.

Why we love it: It’s sturdy, stable and specifically designed for a 1 to 2 year old learning to balance and scoot along on their own. Our child tester parents were super-impressed with one saying, “It’s amazing to see my 14-month-old using a balance bike: I honestly wouldn’t have thought to buy one for him at this age – but he uses it daily, and his face lights up when he sees it.”

Available from: Beehive Toys  and Amazon

11. John Deere Build a Johnny Tractor, £19.99

Age: 18 months+

What it is: A 16-piece buildable tractor set, that comes with a battery-powered drill (with 2 different drill ‘bits’). When built, the green and yellow tractor is 20cm high. Requires 2 x  AA batteries (included).

Why we love it: Our toddler testers buzzed with the thrill of building – and dismantling – a tractor with their very own pretend power drill (which makes a great ‘drilling’ noise, too). All the parts (including the screws) are nice and chunky, and it’s a great little tractor to play with once assembled, too.

Available from: Smyths Toys and Amazon

12. My 1st JCB Stacking Stanley Mega Truck, £20

Age: 12 months+

What is it: A friendly-looking 43cm tipper truck with 6 large wheels and 4 shape-sorting blocks to stack up or fit into the correct spaces on the tipper bucket.

Why we love it: This bright, big, sturdy, well-made toy was a huge hit with our 1-year-old testers. The spinning wheels and working tipper bucket were a great attraction. Great loading, unloading, stacking – and demolishing – fun, all in one.

Available from: Argos and Amazon

13. ScuttleBug, £24.99

Age: 12 months+

What it is: A 39cm-high, lightweight (2kg), foldable 3-wheeler ride-on with a seat height of 25cm, front-steering and non-scratch wheels (so suitable for indoor and outdoor use). Also comes in purple, green and yellow.

Why we love it: We really like the bright and funky design and the parents of our toddler testers were very impressed by how easily and quickly it folds and unfolds (and has a carry handle).  Inside, it’s definitely better on smooth floors, rather than carpet. A really nice stable first ride-on

Available from: Scuttlebug, Argos, Amazon and Smyths Toys

14. Fisher-Price Baby’s First Blocks, £11

Ages: 6 months+

What is it: A bestselling 14cm-high bucket full of 10 multi-coloured shapes you empty out and then try to post back in through the correct shaped holes in the lid.

Why we love it: It’s the ideal first shape-sorter set: simple, colourful, sturdy, and light. The shapes are a good size for 1-year-old hands to grasp, hold and manipulate and, as our child testers demonstrated, can withstand all sorts of banging together and chucking in and out of the bucket. The bucket itself makes a great portable toy box if you’re off to visit relatives.

Available from: Argos and Amazon

15. Plan Toys Pull Along Snail, £19.95

Age: 12 months+

What is it: An 11cm-high brightly coloured wooden snail with wheels for a shell that your child can pull along beside or behind them. Made from eco-friendly recycled rubber wood.

Why we love it: It’s beautifully designed – and its body wiggles up and down (a bit like a caterpillar, if that’s not too zoologically confusing!) when you pull it along. Our child testers really liked the lovely click-clacking noise it makes as it moves along – that the faster your pull it, the clickier it gets!

Available from: Natural Baby Shower, Babipur and Amazon

16. Hape Baby Einstein Magic Touch Drums, £19.99

Age: 12 months+

What it is: A colourful, animal-themed 20cm x 38cm wooden drum kit with a speaker (and volume control). Choose from Drum mode and Melody mode. Comes with an easy grip handle. Requires 3 AA batteries.

Why we love it: It’s sturdy, easy to hold, wipes clean and the sound quality is very good. Our child testers’ parents were impressed by how sensitive it is to touch and how nicely it curves round a child when they’re sitting down in front of it. A really well designed first percussion toy.

Available from: John Lewis and Amazon

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