10 of the best toys for active play

From indoor ride-ons to dance along playmates, find out which rainy-day toys are the best buys to get your child moving when you’re stuck inside

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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. 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. Mini-trampolines, activity play centres and bounce-on toys are great for encouraging toddlers to burn off heaps of energy while staying active, but there are also toys that encourage little ones to use their brains while moving about too. With the help of our child and parent testers and toy experts, we’ve spent hours trialling the best toys to keep kids active and here’s our pick of the best…

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1. Oaxis My First Drone, £34.99 – best for flying magic

Age: 4+

Awards: MadeForMums Toy Awards 2019 Best Toy for Active Play – Gold

What it is: This easy-to-use drone is perfect for young kids, who will love throwing it into the air and seeing it hover. It can be used indoors without a remote or controller and the battery allows for 7 minutes of flight time.

Why we love it: This fun drone is perfect for active kids, who can simply toss it into the air and chase it around the room as they watch it fly about. It features an altitude sensor to ensure it won’t fly too high (always staying below 3m), 2 sensors to detect and avoid obstacles, and air bounce technology.

It’s safe for little hands to play with too – as the propellers are enclosed.

MFM tester Maeve Willey, mum to Rowan, 5, says: “This toy definitely got my little boy jumping around and chasing after it. He thoroughly enjoyed playing with it and it’s been used nearly every day since we got it. The protective casing was also fantastic and the drone never got damaged after a lot of use.”

Just bear in mind that you do only get 7 minutes of play (for 40 minutes of charge), which some children (and adults!) may get frustrated at.

If you’re looking for active toys to keep your little ones amused for longer, you may prefer something like the Bazoongi trampoline, or the Bandai Froggy Party (see our list below).

Available from: Maplin and Amazon

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2. Bazoongi 48-inch Frog Mini Bouncer, £69.99 – best for burning off energy

Age: 3+

Awards: MadeForMums Toy Awards 2019 Best Toy for Active Play – Silver

What it is: A mini trampoline that’s 48 inches wide and comes with a sturdy handle.

Why we love it: What child doesn’t love jumping up and down on a trampoline? This award-winning option from Bazoongi is ideal for using inside and will keep your little one entertained for hours.

Our testers loved how bouncy it is (which is due to the fact the trampoline uses springs, rather than bungees) and also the fact it can be kept inside or out. In fact, our testers commented on the fact it can withstand all sorts of weather conditions well.

MFM tester Heather Candlish, mum to Brooke, 3, says: “Overall, the Bazoongi is fantastic. It’s safe, fun, super bouncy and a really decent size for a mini trampoline. It also doesn’t rattle or squeak like most do.”

At £69.99, it is a little pricey – especially when compared to other toys on this list – but it will last the distance.

Available from: Argos and JumpKing

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3. Hauck Ride-on 1-2-3, £69.99 – best for encouraging walking

Age: 6 months+

What it is:  A height-adjustable mobile play centre with padded seat that converts to a walker and then to a ride-on. It features handles, a ‘steering wheel’, ‘headlamps’, (noisy) horn and a panel of colourful buttons to press. Includes non-slip rollers and 6 safety stoppers.

Why we love it: The Ride On 1-2-3 is great value, saving parents from splashing out on lots of different equipment for each stage of their child’s mobility. Our testers also liked its space-saving potential, and that fact that if you have a baby and toddler you get twice as much use. Babies will have lots of fun with the interactive buttons, while young adventurers can take their first steps with the walker before whizzing around on the ride on. It’s also easy to change from one element to another.

Ijeoma, mum to 8-month-old Joel says: “I’m truly impressed with this walker and the various ways you can use it. I haven’t seen anything like it before. It doesn’t take up space, the seat fabric is washable and it’s good value. I can see us using this for a long time.”

While it will last for many years, it’s worth noting that older toddlers may be more entertained by toys such as the electronic football goal net or the Froggy Party from Bandaii, which both offer more opportunity for longer periods of play at that age.

Available from: Amazon, Uber Kids and Very

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4. Chicco Goal League, £29.99 – best for ball-obsessed toddlers

Age: 2+

What it is: An electronic football goal net, measuring 58cm x 14cm x 45cm. It offers 3 play modes with different challenges and levels of difficulty, plus flashing lights and 25 sound effects like crowd noises and songs. Comes with a soft ball and scoreboard. Suitable for outdoor use, too.

Why we love it: This is perfect for engaging ball-obsessed younger toddlers and letting them burn off some steam. The crowd noise was a particular hit with our testers.

Hayley, mum to Oakley, 3, says: “We are so impressed with this. It was easy to set up, and the sounds and interactive features are really fun. Oakley can get bored with toys quite quickly but the positive reinforcement of sounds has captured my son’s attention and really given him the confidence to play and even challenge his siblings.” 

Available from: Amazon, The Toy Shop and Very

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5. Bandai Froggy Party, £19.99 – best for multiple players

Age: 3+

Awards: MadeForMums Toy Awards 2019 Best Toy for Active Play – Bronze

What it is: An interactive game that sees a frog croaking commands for more than 50 physical activities – from running and jumping, to flying like an aeroplane. The bundle also includes 5 lily pads and a stamp to mark points.

Why we love it: Kids will love following instructions from this cheery frog and with more than 50 different commands and 15 minutes of playtime, your little ones won’t get bored.

MFM child tester Emily, 5, says: “I really loved the frog game and I liked how the froggy would tell us to do things, like jump like a kangaroo or run to the lily pad. The lily pads were brilliant and the red was my favourite. I also liked all the stamps we got for our hands!”

Just bear in mind that the sound can be a little quiet to hear – so noisy kids may struggle to make out the instructions.

It also offers a similar type of play experience to the Peppa Interactive Playmat – which Peppa fans may prefer for the fact it features the lovable pig.

Available from: Argos, Smyths and Amazon

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6. Fisher-Price Bright Beats Dance & Move BeatBo, £29.99 – best for dancing

Age: 9 months+

What it is: A freestanding toy with rainbow-striped antennae and plenty of buttons to press to play more than 40 songs that 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 testers showed great pleasure at seeing BeatBo’s lovely smiley face.

Loretta, mum to 15-month-old Noah says: “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.”

It does seem quite expensive for what it is (the Bandai Froggy Party is £10 less, for example), but our testers says it offers excellent value for money – especially as it can entertain a 5-year-old as easily as a 15-month-old.

Available from: Argos, Boots and Smyths

Peppa's Interactive Playmat

7. Peppa’s Interactive Playmat, £19.99 – best for Peppa fans

Age: 3+

What it is: An interactive floor mat encouraging little ones to get active as they follow Peppa Pig’s instructions. It has 4 different modes, including a numbers game and a sing and dance option (including the infamous Bing Bong song!).

Why we love it: Frankly, almost anything with Peppa on gets an excited squeal but we like how this mat also encourages early number and colour recognition, as well as memory, concentration and attention skills.

And the bright surface is wipe-clean (always a bonus). It’s great that it’s easy to store and doesn’t take up a lot of space (unlike the football net from Chicco or the Bazoongi trampoline which are both quite bulky) and at £19.99 it won’t break the bank.

Available from: John Lewis and Amazon

Little Tikes 3 in 1 Adventure Course

8. Little Tikes Lil’ Ocean Explores 3-in-1 Adventure Course, £79.99 – best for exploring

Age: 6 months+

What it is: A multi-activity assault course (55cm x 55cm x 150cm) that is suitable from sitting to walking. It features more than 20 sounds, a crawl through tunnel, play balls, mirror, hanging toys, clackers and knobs, and a stretchy wall. Needs 2 AA batteries and a fair bit of assembly.

Why we love it: There’s so much here to keep your child busy, whatever stage they are at, from pushing the submarine door to putting balls in the octopus.

We love how the modules can be fitted together in different combinations or used individually, and it’s definitely a toy that your little one will love exploring – especially when they’re crawling.

At £79.99 this is fairly expensive (more than double the price of the Fisher-Price Bright Beats Dance & Move BeatBo) – and it’s also quite a big and bulky toy which may not be suitable for smaller spaces.

Available from: Amazon and Outdoor Toys

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9. Happy Hopperz, £25.99 – best for an updated classic

Age: 12 months+

What it is: An inflatable bounce-on toy. Choose from a cow, dog or puppy design with a thinner body for smaller toddler, or a bigger dinosaur, horse or bull for children up to age 5. Each design comes in 2 colours.

Why we love it: A toddler-friendly twist on the classic Space Hopper, these are tons of fun to use and look really cool.

We love how the ears and horns double up as handles, while the feet mean your child won’t roll off.

They deflate and inflate super quickly too. They offer a similar type of bouncing fun as the Bazoongi trampoline, but for less than half the price!

Just bear in mind, this may not be one for smaller houses.

Available from: Amazon and Uber Kids

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10. World’s Apart Zebra Square Sensory Ball Pit, £24.99 – best for pre-walkers

Age: 6 months+

What it is: An 80cm x 80cm x 30cm pop-up ball pool with 30 balls and 3 sensory bean bags. The walls have holes for posting balls through and it folds flat for storage.

Why we love it: This is so bold and colourful, and the extra-sensory toys and shape-sorter-style holes make it a cut above bog-standard ball pools.

Younger babies and toddlers will love exploring the different elements, although once they’re on the move, you may not be able to keep them – or the balls – contained in it!

Older toddlers may not be entertained for long in the pit – and for this age group something more interactive and engaging like the Froggy Party from Bandaii may be more suitable.

Available from: Amazon and Smyths

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