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10 of the best toddler toys

Stacking toys, learning toys, activity toys, first construction sets and bouncy ride-ons: we've found – and tested – the top toys for boys and girls aged 1 to 3 years

10 of the best toddler toys

Toddlers are such fast-learning and energetic little explorers that the best toys for this 1 to 3-year-old age range are the ones that challenge, entertain and stimulate – both mentally and physically.

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Look for toys that call on your child’s fast-emerging sorting and stacking skills, as well as simple interactive toys that react with music or lights when your child presses buttons, turns dials or scores goals. Many great toddler toys also encourage early learning skills, such as letter recognition and simple counting.

We’ve tested loads of toys aimed at toddlers and, with the help of a group of toddler testers and their parents, selected the top toys for children aged between 12 months and 3 years – from amazing activity ‘suitcases’ to classic building toys and wooden shape sorters…

Here’s our pick of the top toys for toddlers, as tested by children and rated by parents…

1. Little Tikes Learn n Play Learning Activity Suitcase, £44.99

– Great for learning about the world

Age suitability: 2+ | Batteries: 3 x AA (included)
Awards: Gold, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2021

What it is: A 39cm x 28cm x 12cm interactive suitcase on wheels. Comes with a boarding pass and passport that you can scan to trigger over 60 songs and phrases, plus 6 interactive, wipeable maps, a light-up display, a dry erase marker, sticker sheet and extendable handle.

Why we love it: This was such a hit with our child testers. “I like my suitcase, Mummy, and the passport,” said our child tester Hazeema, 3. “We had lots of fun and I write my letters and I made elephant, didn’t I?” Hazeema’s mum Lauren was seriously impressed by the amount of activities packed into this little suitcase. “It helps with your ABC and numbers and you can do dot-to-dot animals and learn about countries and animals – we have hours of fun and, when we’re finished, we can wipe clean ready to start all over again!” We also like how light and portable it is: easy for a child to trundle around and great for taking with you on trips. “I’d highly recommend this,” said Hazeema – and we’d definitely agree.

Available at: Little Tikes

2. VTech 3-in-1 Sports Centre, £41.99

– Great for active indoor fun

Age suitability: 12 months+ | Batteries: 3 x AA (included)
Awards: Silver, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2021

What it is: A 58cm x 66cm x 44 cm active-play toy that encourages you to shoot a basket, net a goal or hit a target (not shown in the picture above; it’s round the back). The adjustable-height electronic scoreboard counts the succcessful shots and plays encouraging phrases. There are also buttons to press that trigger songs and encourage learning about shapes and colours. Comes with a pint-sized football, a pint-sized basketball and small throwing ball. Some (tool-free) assembly required.

Why we love it: This isn’t going to win any prizes for quietness but it’s bright and fun – and we really like the encouraging way it interacts with the toddler who’s trying to score. We also love that the scoreboard is height-adjustable (giving the toy some longevity) and that you can pull down the hoop for a slam dunk! Joni, mum of our child tester Natalie, 2, said, “Natalie loves the scoreboard and how it counts every time she scores a goal – great for encouraging number learning. The panda in the goal was a hit, too, as she tried to hit him with the ball. And, actually, all the balls are a lovely size and quality – Natalie also played with them separately to the rest of the toy, which was great.”

Available at: Smyths Toys and Argos

3. Melissa & Doug Blue’s Clues & You! Wooden Take-Along House, £42.99

– Great for shape-sorting

Age suitability: 18 months+ | Batteries: None
Awards: Silver, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2021

What it is: A 30cm x 15m x 30cm wooden house with a strap handle, opening door and window shutters, and an opening shape-sorter roof. In the eaves, there are 3 gears to spin and there’s a 9-piece double-sided flipover puzzle on one of the walls. Comes with 2 figures: Blue and Magenta from the popular TV/YouTube series.

Why we love it: This is a bright and engaging toddler toy and we like its portability and the colour-coding element to the shape-sorter holes. While there are plenty of cheaper shape-sorter toys out there (you’re definitely paying a bit more here for the Blue’s Clues association), it’s sturdy, wooden and great quality. Our child testers really liked the bungee-hinged door – many a shape was posted in that way! – and the carry handle. Mum Aaysha, of Amal, 20 months, said: “From the first day, she found the different colours and shapes of the blocks engaging and loved picking the house up by the handle. It’s one of her new favourite toys.”

Available at: Amazon

4. Grimms Green & Blue Stacking Wobble Tower, £14.89

– Great for sustainable stacking

Age suitability: 12 months+ | Batteries: None

What it is: A 13cm high wooden toy with 5 stacking discs and a curved base that makes the tower wobble. Made from limewood and finished with a non-toxic water-based stain. Also comes in Red & Pink.

Why we love it: It’s beautifully and sustainably made, and the wooden rings feel lovely to hold. We really like how the small, wobbly base adds an extra challenge to the stacking – particularly if you start stacking with the smallest ring first. Our child testers also liked playing with the rings separately: because they’re slightly flat around the edges, you roll them and stack them independently of the tower.

Available at: Babipur

5. Fisher-Price Bounce and Spin Unicorn, £65.99

– Great for ride-along fun


Age suitability: 12 months+ | Batteries: 3 x AA (not included)

What it is: A 72cm-high musical, ride-on unicorn with a light-up rattle roller, ABC sounds, buttons with numbers on, and multicoloured lights. It also spins 360° and bounces, and has easy-grip handles. Some self-assembly required.

Why we love it: It’s easy to put together, feels nice and sturdy and bounces really nicely. And it’s a good height for a toddler to clamber on and off on their own. Our toddler testers were immediately attracted by the bright colours, and loved all the lights and sounds. Sarah-Jayne, mum to Shelby, 14 months was impressed by how educational it is – for a ride-on toy. “I’m amazed with how many things there are for Shelby to learn while playing on this!”she said. “Also, she’s been a bit delayed with her walking and this is helping her build her strength and coordination – especially when hopping on and off.”

Available at: Smyths Toys

6. LEGO DUPLO Classic Deluxe Brick Box Building Set 10914, £44.99

– Great for creative construction

Age suitability: 18 months+ | Batteries: None

What it is: A giant (37cm x 18 cm x 26cm) LEGO brick containing 85 plastic bricks in a range of bright colours, including a window, 1-2-3 number bricks, a car, a slide, flowers, a shovel and bucket, 2 people figures and a dog. Comes with a building guide.

Why we love it: It’s a great, brightly coloured construction-brick starter set, with a good pile of nice chunky, varied pieces and plenty of scope for imaginative, open-ended play. We really like the slide and the flowers and our toddler testers had a lot of fun stacking bricks on the car and opening and shutting the window.

Available at: Smyths Toys and LEGO

7. Lamaze Airtivity Centre, £69.99

– Great for sensory play

Age suitability: 6 months+ | Batteries: 4 x C 1.5V batteries (not included)

What it is: A 47cm-high air-powered, sea-themed, lights and sounds baby activity centre, with waving seaweed, a spinning starfish, a swimming fish and a whale with a spinning spout of ‘water’. Can also be used as a floor toy.

Why we love it: This lovely-looking activity centre is full of sensory-play fun, with loads to look at, feel, touch and hear (blessedly with a 2-level volume control and a no-sound play mode). It’s also designed to be played with by babies (in floor toy mode) but we think it comes into its own as a table toddler toy. Our 18-month-old child tester was transfixed by the bright colours and the waving seaweed. And she, likes us, loved using the fish tail to play ‘air hockey’ with the sea creatures that hover over the centre of the table.

Available at: Amazon and Very

8. Peek-a-Boo House, £28

– Great for stacking and hiding


Age suitability: 18 months+ | Batteries: None

What it is: A set of 5 nesting/stackable recycled-cardboard blocks, decorated to look like houses – with doors and windows. Comes comes with 3 solid beechwood animals, who fit inside the houses.

Why we love it: The design is lovely (the box it comes in doubles as the biggest block and is beautifully decorated inside with vegetable-ink colours) and the blocks stack up really nice and high. It’s great to see a non-plastic toy that really does grab toddlers’ attention. Becky, mum of one of our  toddler testers Heidi, 22 months, said, “It kept her entertained for ages. She has fun standing the houses and hiding the animals inside – and then knocking the houses down again! I also like how it all packs up inside the house for easy storage.”

Available at: Amazon

9. VTech Chase Me Casey, £39.99

– Great for active fun


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

What it is: A 35cm-high electronic dancing and skating monkey toy with 2 play modes: Catch Me and Dancing. Includes front and back sensors that detect when your child is near, so it can scoot away to be chased. It also features 5 shape buttons to introduce letters, numbers, body parts, music and more to your child.

Why we love it: This toy really got our child testers smiling and moving – and their parents, too! And we love how he says “Excuse me” when he bumps into things. He moves well on all surfaces, from carpet to paving slabs.

Available at: Smyths and Amazon

10. Hape Take-Along Activity Box, £32.49

– Great for hand-eye coordination

Age suitability: 10 months+ | Batteries: None

What it is: A 21cm-high, 5-sided activity box with moving gears, balls, blocks, a maze, and a mirror. Made from wood and finished with water-based paint.

Why we love it: It’s a well-thought-through, compact activity centre, with enough moving parts to satisfy curious toddlers while being robust enough to withstand being knocked over and – dare we say – even thrown about. We particularly like the side with the maze on and our child tester was very taken with the twisty-turny painted-animal gears.

Available from: Huggle and Amazon

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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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