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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

10 of the 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. Oaxis My First Drone, £34.99

Age: 4+

What it is: An 11-cm diameter throw-it-in-the-air drone (no remote or controller) with altitude sensor (so it stays below 3m), obstacle-avoidance sensors. Comes with 3.7V rechargeable battery and charger. Flight time: 7 minutes; charging time: 40 minutes

Why we love it: Our child testers giggled so much as they took turns tossing it into the air and chasing it around the room. We like the enclosed propellers that keep it extra-safe for little hands – and from bumpy landings. Maeve, mum to our child tester Rowan, 5, said: “This definitely got my little boy jumping around. He thoroughly enjoyed playing with it and it’s been used nearly every day since we got it.” The only downside we can spot is the patience-sapping charging wait after every 7-minute flight frenzy.

Available from: TKMaxx

2. Ladybird Balance Bug, £39.99

Age: 12 months+

What is it: 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). 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. We choose this for our Top 100 Xmas Toys list.

Available from: Beehive Toy Factory and Amazon

3. Melissa & Doug Let’s Play House! Dust! Sweep! Mop! Pretend Play Set, £29.99

Age: 3+

What it is: A toy cleaning set featuring a broom, duster, dust pan and brush, mop and 70cm-tall storage stand. The broom, duster, hand brush and mop have wooden handles and sturdy cords to hang them on the stand.

Why we love it: It’s a really well made little set that should inspire plenty of enthusiastic pint-size housework. And we reckon it looks nicer – and will last longer – than many of the plastic alternatives around. We especially like the stand: not only does it help keep all the pieces neatly together but hanging the handle cords on the stand’s hooks offers some excellent fine-finger-skills practice after all that running around with mops and brooms.

Available from: JoJo Maman Bebe, Bright Minds and Argos

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

Age: 12 months+

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. Requires 3 AA batteries (not included).

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 we’re 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 from: Smyths Toys, Argos and Amazon

5. Bilibo Sensory Toy, £25

Age: 2+

What is it: 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. 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 from: Kidly, Amazon and Kiddymoo

6. Fisher-Price Bright Beats Dance & Move BeatBo, £29.99

Age: 9 months+

What it is: A 33cm-high rainbow-striped antennae friend with plenty of buttons to press 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. Requires 4 x AA batteries (included).

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 from:Amazon andSmyth Toys

7. Melissa & Doug Hopscotch Rug, £24.99

Age: 3+

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 the beanbags are just the right size and weight for small hands.

Available from: Argos, Amazon and Toy Street

8. Galt Hop, Skip and Jump Game, £19.99

Age: 4+

What is it: A active-play game where you turn your floor into the board by laying out the coloured discs and then spinning the spinner to decide your next move. Comes with 16 double-sided 17cm discs, spinner board and guide. For 2 or 4 players.

Why we love it: It’s great fun – and a good way to burn off some energy on a rainy day. There 3 different levels of play – and the reverse side of the discs also has tasks to complete in between turns, if you fancy making the game last longer. Star jumps, anyone?

Available from: John Lewis, Amazon and Booghe

9. Happy Hopperz, £39.99

Age: 12 months+

What it is: An inflatable bounce-on toy that comes either with a thinner body for smaller toddler (20cm to 25cm) or a bigger body (30cm to 35cm) for older children from about 2½ to 5 (there are also a larger sizes that’ll take over 5s and adults). Available, usually in a choice of 2 different colours, as a cow, bull, moose, unicorn,  dragon, horse, dog and giraffe. Comes with a pump.

Why we love it: Our toddler testers were agog at this bright and jolly inflatable and were soon clambouring aboard for tons of bouncy fun. We love how the ears and horns double up as handles, while the wide, stable feet mean your child less likely to wobble sideways and slip off. They deflate and inflate super-quickly too.

Available from: Happy Hopperz and Uber Kids

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

Age: 6 months+

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 from: Amazon and Smyth Toys

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