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10 of the best toys for active play

We've selected the best toys for keeping babies, toddlers and older children jumping, bouncing, hopping, dancing inside on days when you can't get out

best toys for active play

Small children are full of energy (don’t we know it!) and, even when it’s bucketing down outside, they still need ways to run, throw, dance, wiggle, rock and jump off steam.

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Toys specifically designed for active play indoors are a can’t-leave-the-house godsend – and they’ll also help your child develop their coordination, balance and strength.

With the help of our child testers, we’ve spent hours trialling active-play toys to find the top ones, in a range of prices, for children of all ages from 6 months to 6 years and more…

Here’s our pick of the best toys to keep babies, toddlers and older children active indoors, as tested by kids and rated by parents

1. TOMY Games Active Snap, £4.99

– Great for all the family

Age suitability: 4+ | Best for age: 5+ | Batteries: None
Awards: Gold, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2021

What it is: A 50-card game of snap with an interactive element: when you successfully spot a match, everyone else playing the game has to do what it says on the card. Activities include jogging on the spot, shadow-boxing dancing, jumping and stretching. For 2 to 4 players.

Why we love it: This modern, active take on traditional Snap has been around for a couple of years now but it’s still making our child testers laugh and laugh. As tester Melanie, mum to our child tester Leonardo, 6, said, “Our family, aged between 10 months (watched and tried to copy) and 60, all played and enjoyed it. The routines are great and not too difficult or long. We had so much fun!” Another child tester Paige, also 6, probably enjoyed it a little too much: “I liked watching Mummy do sit-ups,” she said. “It was funny as she kept losing.”

Available at: Amazon and Mapes of Millport

2. Casdon Dyson Toy Cord-free Vacuum, £21.99

– Great for role play

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 3+ | Batteries: 3 x AA (not included)
Awards: Silver, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2021

What it is: A 71cm-high mini version of a Dyson cord-free with working suction and colourful balls that move around the cylinder in a simulated cyclone action. Can be used as a handheld cleaner or with a long handle.

Why we love it: There are a lot of toy vacuums around but not many that actually suck up bits of paper and fluff and can be opened and emptied – just like the real thing. Our child tester Luke, 3, couldn’t wait to get his vacuum out of the box, saying: “Wow Mummy!” and fitting on the handle attachment. His mum Katie was impressed with how sturdy it is and declared it definitely worth the money.

Available at: Very, Amazon and Argos

3. Air Hogs Gravitor, £24.99

– Great for hand eye co-ordination

Age suitability: 4+ | Best for age: 6+ | Batteries: USB charging cable included
Awards: Bronze, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2021

What it is: A 17cm x 20cm toy drone that can sense altitude and objects, so responds to your hand movements without the need for a remote control. It comes with a trick stick to help you master a selection of stunts and a USB charging cable. Suitable for indoor use.

Why we love it: We’re impressed by how sturdy this little drone is – it bounces off walls and furniture without breaking – and how lightweight (no damage done to aforementioned walls and furniture). It does take a little a bit of mastering but once our child testers got to grips with it, they were enthralled. “I love it,” said Andy, 6, “Learning new tricks is amazing. I like to check the videos on YouTube to help me learn more tricks. It is really fun to try and control it and it’s really funny when it bounces into stuff around the room. I feel like a magician when I play with it.”

Available at: Amazon and The Entertainer

4. Micro Ride-On Air Hopper, £39.95

– Great for bouncy fun

Age suitability: 18 months+ | Best for age: 18 months+ | Batteries: None
Awards: Bronze, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2021

What it is: An inflatable 31cm x 28cm x 54cm bouncy-friend–on-wheels, with 2 antennae to use as handles. The 4 non-marking PU wheels turn 360° and the wheeled chassis can be removed to use the toy as a hopper. Comes in blue and pink.

Why we love it: We like its dual-play feature (scooting and balancing/hopping) and were won over by its cute, contoured looks. It’s also got plenty of longevity – although we do think the starting age of 18 months would only really work for a very long-legged toddler. Jan, mum of our child tester Emily, 2, loved the design and build quality – and particularly liked the robust material used, saying, “It looks like it will last and will survive the amount of play my little girl will put it through!” She was also impressed with how quickly Emily took to the toy, adding, “From the moment we opened the package she’s loved riding around at top speed!” Emily’s verdict? “Cool! Fun! Weeeeee!” 

Available at: Micro Scooters and Amazon

5. Ladybird Balance Bug, £39.99

– Great for developing balance and steering skills

Age suitability: 12 months+ | Best for age: 12 months+ | Batteries: None

What it is: A 43cm-high wooden-based ride-on for toddlers with 5 fully rotating castor wheels, handle grips and a padded foam seat with a wipe-clean ladybird cover. Also available as a Lion, Panda and Bumblebee. Suitable for children weighing up to 20kg. Requires some self-assembly.

Why we love it: Super-cute, sturdy and compact, this is a great first ride-on that’s especially suited for indoor play (although it’s fine outdoors, too, our testers report). The 360°-rotating wheels mean your child can whizz forwards, backwards and sideways, and we like how the handles are fixed at a good height for toddlers.

Available at: Beehive Toy Factory and Amazon

6. Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Smart Stages Chair, £34.99

– Great for toddler learning

Age suitability  12 months+ | Best for age: 18 months+  | Batteries: 3 x AA (not included)

What it is: An interactive activity chair, which plays songs, phrases and sounds when you sit  on it or stand up again. Has 3 different age-related levels of play. Comes with a flip book, a light-up remote control and a lift-up cushion.

Why we love it: It’s ever so bright and colourful and had a very friendly face. We like that there are lots of buttons to press and love the lift-up cushion. And our child testers’ parents were impressed that there are over 50+ different songs and sounds, all themed on early-learning concepts such as numbers, shapes, opposites and colours. Good fun.

Available at: Smyths Toys, Argos and Amazon

7. Bilibo Sensory Toy, £30

– Great for imaginative play 

Age suitability: 2+ | Best for age: 2+ | Batteries: None

What it is: A 39-cm diameter curved dome made from durable, high-quality plastic. Available in 8 different colours.

Why we love it: It’s simple, sturdy and effective: there are so many ways to play with this, from spinning or rocking in it to using it as a stepping stone – or even a huge space helmet, as one of our child testers insisted. With no switches, sounds, lights or instructions, it encourages children to really use their imagination and turn it into whatever they want it to be.

Available at: Kidly, Amazon and Kiddymoo

8. Fisher-Price Bright Beats Dance & Move BeatBo, £39.99

– Great for singing and dancing

Age suitability: 9 months+ | Best for age: 9 months+ | Batteries: 4 x AA (included)

What it is: A 33cm-high rainbow-striped antennae friend with plenty of press buttons that play more than 40 songs to encourage dancing and learning. Has 3 different modes to introduce letters, numbers and colours, including one where you record a phrase and BeatBo remixes it into a song for everyone to dance to.

Why we love it: This is an active-play toy with plenty of musical and educational extras. All our baby and toddler testers really  liked BeatBo’s smiley face and enjoyed moving along to the tunes. Loretta, mum to 15-month-old child tester, Noah said:”Noah and I love this toy. His smiles and giggles when it’s playing songs are fantastic to see. It’s an exciting toy which has provided hours of fun already.”

Available at: Amazon and Smyth Toys

9. Melissa & Doug Hopscotch Rug, £23.99

– Great for traditional active fun

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 3+ | Batteries: None

What is it: A 79m x 26cm rug with a hopscotch design. It has skid-proof backing and comes with 2 beanbags. Machine-washable.

Why we love it: We love the idea of a hopscotch game you can play at home. The colours on this rug are great, the numbers are really clear and the skid-proof backing work well. And our child testers found the beanbags just the right size and weight for small hands.

Available at: Amazon and Toy Street

10. World’s Apart Zebra Square Sensory Ball Pit, £24.99

– Great for baby fun

Age suitability: 6 months+ | Best for age: 9 months+ | Batteries: None

What it is: An 80cm x 80cm x 30cm pop-up ball pool with insert rods at the corners and holes in 1 wall for posting balls and bean bags through. Comes with 30 balls and 3 sensory bean bags. Folds flat for storage.

Why we love it: This is so bold and colourful, and the extra sensory bean bags and shape-sorter-style holes make it a cut above bog-standard ball pools. Our little child testers liked the bean bag with the squeaker in it best.

Available at: Amazon and Smyth Toys

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About the author Helen Brown

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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