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16 of the best toys for 1 year olds

We've tried and tested toys for boys and girls aged 12 months to bring you the best choices for development-boosting play – and fun

best 1 year old toys

Your 1 year old is making huge strides in her or his physical development – typically going from rolling or crawling to walking and running. This means that toys your child can push and pull are particularly appealing, as are some ride-on toys aimed at younger toddlers.

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

As your child moves further into toddlerhood, they'll start to find enjoyment in pretend play, particularly when it's focused around household tasks that grown-ups, such as cooking, or daily routines, such as going to bed or taking a bath.

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.

How to choose and use baby toys safely

It's particularly important with babies to consider safety when choosing toys. Here's what to look out for.
  • Look for the CE mark, which shows the manufacturer has ensured the toy meets regulatory requirements
  • Look for the voluntary British Toy and Hobby Association's Lion Mark (a red lion inside a yellow triangle)
  • Buy from retailers that you know and trust
  • Ensure the toy is appropriate for your child's age. Small pieces (including things such as plastic eyes on teddy bears that appear 'fastened on', rather than really securely integrated into the toy) are choking hazards for children under 3.
  • Beware of any items that detach or have sharp edges
  • Check toys regularly for things like loose threads, broken pieces or escaped filling

Best toys for 1 year olds at a glance

  • Great toy for learning to walk: Little Bird Told Me Dexter Dog Push Along, £109.95
  • Great toy for early pretend play: Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn 3-in-1 On-the-Go Camper, £74.99
  • Great toy for naming and sorting: My 1st Years Wooden Animals Ark, £45
  • Great toy for early imaginative play: Golden Bear Bing's House Playset, £44.99
  • Great toy for bedtime and cuddles: CoComelon Bedtime JJ Doll, £24.99
  • Great toy for sounds and memory: Linkimals Cool Beats Penguin, £34.99
  • Great toy for open-ended play: Dena My First Rainbow, £20
  • Great toy for comfort and cuddles: The Wiggles Emma Cuddle Doll, £8
  • Great toy for learning cause and effect: Plan Toys Pull Along Snail, £24.95
  • Great toy for honing fine finger skills: SmartMax Sound and Senses, £19.99
  • Great toy for gross motor skills: Bumblebee Balance Bug, £39.99
  • Great toy for stacking and early sorting skills: My 1st JCB Stacking Stanley Mega Truck, £19.99
  • Great toy for gross motor skills and balance: ScuttleBug, £29.99
  • Great toy for early problem solving: Fisher-Price Baby's First Blocks, £13
  • Great toy for role play: Hey Duggee Flip and Learn Phone, £11.49
  • Great toy for problem solving and fine motor skills: Janod Magnetic Rocket, £15

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

1. Little Bird Told Me Dexter Dog Push Along, £109.95

– Great for learning to walk

Age suitability: 12 months+ | Batteries: None

Awards: Gold, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2021

What it is: A walker in the shape of Dexter, a soft, furry padded labrador dog, in a solid wooden frame with wooden wheels and rubber tyres. Dexter has crinkly ears, a button nose, a collar and a squeaker in his tail. Can also be used as a ride-on toy (up to a weight of 20kg). Comes in a display box with carry handle.

Why we love it: Dexter is undoubtedly expensive but he's gorgeous to look at and huggably soft to feel, and the walker itself is sturdy, supportive and well made. We loved Dexter's squeaky tail and that he's robust enough to double up as a ride on. When our child tester Theo, 1, first saw Dexter, his mum Liey said he crawled straight up to him and gave him a cuddle and kiss. She said Dexter is helping him gain balance and strength in his legs, adding, "Theo loves pushing him around the room, squeaking his tail and crinkling his ears."

Available from: Samuel Johnston, Amazon, Little Bird Told Me and House of Angus

2. Fisher Price Laugh & Learn 3-in-1 On-the-Go Camper, £74.99

– Great for early pretend play

Fisher Price Laugh & Learn® 3-in-1 On-the-Go Camper

Age suitability: 9 months+ | Batteries: 3 x AA (not included)

Awards: Silver, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2021

What it is: A 53cm x 50cm x 35cm plastic light-up activity centre on wheels with a handle for pushing it along. The activity buttons trigger 3 learning levels of phrases, songs and sounds about letters, counting, shapes and colours. Comes with over 10 removable accessory toys, including a camp fire, fishing rod, a coffee pot and a variety of play food.

Why we love it: We really like the walker element (although it's probably not quite sturdy enough for your baby to use the handle for pulling up to standing) and we love the coffee pot that rattles and the turning dial on the little hob. It's also a toy with longevity – the fishing rod that you can use to pick up fish shapes and put on the shape sorter 'cooler' will come into its own as your child gets older and develops more dexterity. Anna, mum of our child tester, Finn, 18 months, said, "My son loves it and – honestly – he plays with it every single day. It's colourful and the sound is fantastic. You get so much for the price."

Available from: Amazon and John Lewis

3. My 1st Years Wooden Animal Ark, £45

– Great for naming and sorting

My 1st Years Ark

Age suitability: 12 months+ | Batteries: None

Awards: Bronze, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2021

What it is: A 29cm x 15cm x 30cm wooden ark in muted, pastel colours with 4 portholes, an opening door that turns into a ramp, a sliding lid, 2 skylights in the roof and a rainbow carrying handle. Comes with pair of zebras, elephants, parrots, tortoises, crocodiles, lions, giraffes and monkeys. You can also personalise it, with your child’s name painted on the roof.

Why we love it: It's beautifully made and we love how the rainbow carry handle has elastic hinges, so there's no chance a wobbly legged toddler could hurt themselves on it if they stumble or fall. Some of our child testers' parents noticed – and liked – the absence of any religious features on this ark (no Noah, no dove) and that the animal pairs were carefully gender neutral. Abbey, mum of Lilah, 12 months, said, "Lilah squealed with excitement when she first saw this. She makes all the noises for the animals and walks them around her play table, up the drawbridge into the boat. She loves taking the lid off for the animals to get in that way, too!"

Available from: My 1st Years

4. Golden Bear Bing’s House Playset, £44.99

– Great for early imaginative play

Golden Bear Bing’s House Playset

Age suitability: 12 months+ | Batteries: None

Awards: Bronze, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2021

What it is: A 33cm x 12cm x 33cm fold-out playhouse with a carry handle and chimney, inspired by the popular CBeebies show. Features 4 room sets (kitchen, bathroom, bedroom and living room) and comes with 2 posable figures (Flop and Bing) and 9 accessories including a sofa, bath, toilet, fridge and Brenda the Blender.

Why we love it: It's pretty robust and portable, with well-sized accessories for little fingers and plenty of sweet details to savour (carrots in the blender, curtains you can close). The fridge and cupboard open and close and there are little places to place the figures – after you tuck Bing into bed, for example, you can pop Flop in the bath to recover from a long day of dealing with Bing. Susan, mum of Bella, 15 month, said: "She likes opening the cupboards and putting items in them. And she loves putting Bing to bed. It's really good for her imagination."

Available from: Very and Bing Bunny Store

5. CoComelon Bedtime JJ Doll, £24.99

– Great for bedtime and cuddles

Age: 18 months+ | Batteries: 3 x AAA (included)

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 hear him sing his Yes Yes Bedtime song.

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 sound is quite loud, which may not be every parent's idea of bedtime soothing 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 and Argos

6. Linkimals Cool Beats Penguin, £34.99

– Great for sounds and memory

Fisher Price Linkimal Penguin

Age: 9 months+ | Batteries: 4 x AA (included)

What it is: A 26cm-high interactive penguin who lights up and bobs and flaps his flippers along to the music that plays when you press the green button on his foot. The red button on his other foot plays phrases about shapes, the alphabet and opposites. If you have another Linkimals animal (there's an equally cute Musical Moose), you can 'link' them up so they sing and 'chat' together.

Why we love it: He's nice and sturdy, with cute soft arms and we like how his tummy lights up. He's not very cuddly and he's fairly hefty (a toy for keeping on the ground, rather than carrying around) but his flapping and bobbing is lovely: all our child testers reacted delightedly to his dance moves. 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 and The Entertainer

7. Dena My First Rainbow, £20

– Great for open-ended play

Age: From birth | Batteries: None

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: JoJo Maman Bebe and Kidly

8. The Wiggles Emma Cuddle Doll, £8

– Great for comfort and cuddles

The Wiggles Emma Doll

Age: 12 months+ | Batteries: None

What is it: A 50cm-tall plush rag doll designed to look like Emma, the yellow Wiggle. She has Emma's famous red hair with a bow, and wears her trademark Wiggles uniform, complete with dance shoes and belt buckle. She's made from premium fabrics with woollen hair.

Why we love it: She's generously sized and perfect for cuddling, with no plastic parts or hard edges. Fans of The Wiggles music and TV shows will instantly recognise all of Emma's accessories and her famous yellow top. Separation anxiety can often peak around 1 to 1 and a half, and a toy like this can be a real comfort for those who are struggling.

Available from: Smyths Toys

9. Plan Toys Pull Along Snail, £24.95

– Great for learning cause and effect

Age: 12 months+ | Batteries: None

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 – and the faster your pull it, the clickier it gets!

Available from: Kidly, Natural Baby Shower and Babipur

10. SmartMax Sound and Senses, £19.99

– Great for honing fine finger skills

Age: 12 months+ | Batteries: None

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!"

Available from: Amazon and Smart Toys

11. Bumblebee Balance Bug, £39.99

– Great for gross motor skills

bumblebee balance bug

Age: 12 months+ | Batteries: None

What it is: A 43cm x 30cm x 40cm wooden ride-on bumblebee with rotating castor wheels, a (wipe-clean) padded seat and handle grips. Also comes as a ladybird, 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 13-month-old 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."

Available from: Amazon and Beehive Toy Factory

12. My 1st JCB Stacking Stanley Mega Truck, £19.99

– Great for stacking and early sorting skills

stacking Stanley truck

Age: 12 months+ | Batteries: None

What is it: A friendly-looking 43cm tipper truck with 6 large wheels and 5 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 all our 1-year-old testers. The spinning wheels and working tipper bucket were a great attraction. Brilliant loading, unloading, stacking – and demolishing – fun, all in one.

Available from: Argos and Amazon

13. ScuttleBug, £29.99

– Great for gross motor skills and balance

scuttlebug

Age: 12 months+ | Batteries: None

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). If you're riding inside, rather than out, it's definitely better on smooth floors, rather than carpet. A really nice stable first ride-on toy for toddlers.

Available from: Amazon, Argos and Smyths Toys

14. Fisher-Price Baby's First Blocks, £13

– Great for early problem solving

fisher price first blocks

Ages: 6 months+ | Batteries: None

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 been selling consistently well for years and we can see why – 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: Amazon

15. Hey Duggee Flip and Learn Phone, £11.49

– Great for role play

Age: 18 months+ | Batteries: 2 x AAA (not included)

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.

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: Amazon and Argos

16. Janod Magnetic Rocket, £15

– Great for problem solving and fine motor skills

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: JoJo Maman Bebe, Amazon and Kidly

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About the author

Helen is Deputy Editor of MadeForMums, the author of Parenting for Dummies (Wiley, £17.99) and the Head Tester for our MadeForMums Toy Awards. She has written about parenting for Mumsnet, Pregnancy & Birth, Prima Baby, Boots Parenting Club and She Magazine and she's also been Consumer Editor of Mother & Baby. She has 3 boys and a heavy-duty washing machine.

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