15 best stacking and nesting toys for babies and toddlers - and why your little one loves them so much

As well as being a great form of play, the best stacking and nesting toys are key for your infant's development too

collage showing the best stacking and nesting toys for babies and toddlers
(Image credit: Future)

Not only are the best stacking and nesting toys fun for your little one to play with, they are also a critical part of your child's development. These types of toys are some of the best toys for six to 12 month olds, and not only help your child to develop their hand-eye coordination, but also foster spatial awareness and problem-solving and help to improve your little one's understanding of size and shape too. Gripping the blocks will also give fine motor skills a good workout, and in the case of textured blocks, can be a great form of sensory play too.

Child development specialist Dr Amanda Gummer explains: "Activities such as building blocks, rattle play, exploring toys with levers and push buttons can enhance skills of grasping and manipulating, especially when there are different sizes, textures and shapes to explore." She adds: "You can stimulate a baby’s curiosity with interesting things to see and hear whilst playing. Brightly coloured toys and images hanging from cots or on floor mats will all help encourage creativity and provide simple entertainment for little ones." 

While your child might start playing with stacking toys from about six months old (although, remember that all children develop at different rates), these toys can easily keep kids entertained well into pre-school age.

We've picked the best stacking and nesting toys available to help you buy something suitable for your child. As we commit to sharing more sustainable products, we've also included lots of wooden stacking toys in the list too. We've also got great options if you want something more design focused, before your little one gets enamoured with more garish plastic toys.

15 best stacking and nesting toys for babies and toddlers

Why are stacking toys so good for babies and toddlers and why do they love them so much?

There are multiple complex reasons why children love stacking and nesting toys so much, from the skills they promote to the sensory experience they provide, as well as how the bright colours or characters that make up the design are so engaging for children from a young age.

According to a study, until they are two years old, children explore objects in increasingly complex ways. While initially infants might explore a single object, as they grow, they start to explore objects in relation to other objects - which is key to their cognitive development.

Stacking and nesting toys are also brilliant for developing a child's fine motor skills as they practice grabbing and using pincer movements to pick up the pieces, and their hand-eye coordination as they try to stack or nest the pieces together. This can also help your child understand sequencing and the size or colour of objects in relation to each other. Child development specialist Dr Amanda Gummer agrees, saying: "Stacking cups or blocks allow babies to practice grasping, stacking, and knocking down which promote hand-eye coordination and spatial awareness."

Another study from the University of Kent found that toys like this can help to bring on a child's linguistic skills, as the shapes and patterns are easy for a parent to articulate to a child. The research says: 'A child must be able to understand easily and clearly what a parent is referring to for vocabulary acquisition to proceed smoothly... This will be especially the case when a toy has multiple parts and if the intended purpose of the toy is to do something with the parts in a specific sequence, such as stacking ring or nesting block toys. For example, if there are four blocks or rings that are part of a toy, being able to refer to each block or ring in a clear manner will be helpful to both the parent and the child.'

Stacking and nesting toys can also be a key part of an infant and toddler's sensory exploration thanks to the colours, textures and sounds they embody. Dr Amanda Gummer adds: "Babies at this age love exploring different textures to stimulate their sense of touch and encourage sensory exploration... vibrant colours and high-contrast patterns capture attention and aid in visual development."

Dr Amanda Gummer
Dr Amanda Gummer

Dr Amanda Gummer is a child development expert and has a PhD in Neuropsychology, the Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education and more than 20 years’ experience working with children and families. In 2012, she founded The Good Play Guide, an independent, expert accreditation service for children’s products, including toys, apps and more.

Continue reading

Sarah Handley
Consumer Writer & Money Editor, GoodtoKnow

Sarah is GoodtoKnow’s Consumer Writer & Money Editor and is passionate about helping mums save money wherever they can - whether that's spending wisely on toys and kidswear or keeping on top of the latest news around childcare costs, child benefit, the motherhood penalty. A writer, journalist and editor with more than 15 years' experience, Sarah is all about the latest toy trends and is always on the look out for toys for her nephew or Goddaughters so that she remains one of their favourite grown ups. When not writing about money or best buys, Sarah can be found hanging out with her rockstar dog Pepsi, getting opinionated about a movie or learning British Sign Language. 

With contributions from