20 of the best toys for 1 year olds in 2021

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  • Choosing the best toys for 1 year olds can be tricky. What does a 1 year old even need, and how can they develop their skills through play? 

    Around the age of 1, children are gaining more mobility and usually start to learn how to pick up small objects between their thumb and index finger. This is known as the ‘pincer grip’. This new skill will make it possible for children to start doing activities like scribbling or playing with blocks.

    Many children will be mobile by their first birthday. Whether they are bottom shuffling, crawling or walking, kids will be keen to explore more of the world around them as they are growing up fast. This means they will be less likely to want to spend lots of tummy time on a play mat. They will likely prefer toys that will help support them as they try to stand up or even move around, such as the best baby walkers.

    With all of this in mind, now is a good time to choose gifts or the top Christmas toys that specifically help them develop their gross motor skills and fine motor skills.

    What toys should a 1 year old play with?

    The best toys for 1 year olds working on their gross motor skills are;

    • ride-on toys
    • pull along toys
    • balancing or crawling-through toys

    The best toys for 1-year-olds to enhance fine motor skills are;

    • stacking rings
    • nesting toys
    • stringing toys
    • pom poms and tongs 
    • clothes pegs

    Jump down in this article to learn more about gross motor skills and fine motor skills.

    Don’t be too worried about buying specifically educational toys for children as young as 1. ‘All toys can help a child’s development,’ says child psychologist Dr. Amanda Gummer. ‘The important thing is to provide children with a range of playthings and allow them to play freely with different toys. This helps with things like decision-making skills, self-awareness, emotional wellbeing, and creativity.

    Best toys for 1 year olds in 2021

    1. Kid Active My First Caterpillar Tunnel

    Image of a colourful caterpillar shaped crawling tunnel

    Credit: Amazon

    Age suitability: 3 months – 5 years Batteries required: none

    The best toy for a 1 year old helps to develop their skills. And this tunnel is great for crawling through, which can enhance the physical activity they are gaining. The crawling movement helps them control their arms and legs. We love it as it easily closes together to save space when not in use or to take to play-dates/grandparents house.

    VIEW AT AMAZON £14.99

    2. Magformers stick-O 10-piece basic set 

    Magformers stick-o 10 piece shaped as duck

    Credit: John Lewis

    Age Suitability: 18 months + | Batteries required: None

    It really is a great open-ended toy. With only 10 pieces it’s surprising how many different ways there are to play with this. The brightly coloured chunky magnetic sticks, balls and other solid ‘sticky’ shapes are so easy to hold. And, this selection of shapes really encourages fun construction play.

    “I noticed that, when I left my three-year-old to play with this on his own, his imagination really took off. It was a rocket, a caterpillar, a car. It was incredible to watch! Though it took me sitting on my hands to stop me helping him to play with it ‘properly’. – Mum-of-two, Dionne J.

    VIEW AT JOHN LEWIS | £11

    3. Oskar & Catie Personalised Noah’s Ark

    Oskar & Catie Personalised Noah's Ark

    Age Suitability: 1 year + | Batteries required: None

    This colourful Oskar & Catie Personalised Noah’s Ark wooden toy comes in 2 different sizes and makes for a great gift. It is beautifully finished with a personalisation and 7 pairs of animals. This toy will introduce kids to a range of various species and engage them in imaginative play.

    This ark toy has a range of entertaining elements – from the steps up to the ark, to the drawbridge that opens to reveal the animals. Playing with the animal is great for developing those fine motor skills. GoodtoKnow mums who have bought this as a gift have told us that they love the personalised touch. ‘I love the colourful wooden finish to this toy,’ says Gemma, mum to Oliver and Sienna. ‘I think it’s great value and makes a really good present for a 1 year old who is developing their play skills.’

    VIEW AT NOTHS | £49.99

    4. Little Bird Told Me Scottie Dog Push Along

    Scottie Dog Push Along toy - ideal for 1-year-olds

    Age Suitability: 1 year + | Batteries required: None

    This dog walker toy is great quality and can be used as a ride-on or push-along walker. It’s a fluffy and loveable addition to any child’s toy collection. The walker will help little ones practice their balance and coordination. It’s great for concentration and a firm favourite in our best toys for 1 year olds in 2021 round up.

    ‘My child can spend ages going round and round our open-plan kitchen with this walker,’ says Jenny, mum to Logan and Becky. ‘The wheels are very smooth and it works well on both carpet and wooden floor.’

    VIEW AT AMAZON |£105

    5. Tidlo Wooden Activity Walker

     Tidlo Wooden Activity Walker

    Age Suitability: 1 year + | Batteries required: None

    A durable walker such as the Tidlo Wooden Activity Walker features plenty of activities to keep toddlers entertained. It is ideal for helping 1 year olds take their first steps. With a spinning cage rattle, mini abacus, spinning mirror and matching blocks there’s plenty to stimulate young minds, which is why we’ve included it in our best toys for 1 year olds in 2021 round up.

    ‘I like the fact that this is made from wood and makes a change from some of the bright plastic designs you can buy,’ says Gemma, mum to Oliver and Sienna. ‘I’ve decided to keep hold of it as it makes a lovely keepsake.’

    VIEW AT AMAZON | £51.99

    6. Hape Baby Einstein Magic Touch Drums

    Baby Einstein Magic Touch Drum

    Age suitability: 12 months + | Batteries required: None
    A wonderful way to channel their inner Ringo Star, the Hape Baby Einstein Magic Touch Drum will nurture a child’s sense of rhythm from an early age. The drum comes with four colourful icons including a frog, bird, tiger and octopus to make it enticing to touch. As your child prods and taps the top, the toy plays realistic drum sounds.

    The Magic Touch Drum features two modes including melody and drum. This means kids can switch between playing classic songs and drumming up their own beat. Beautifully made from wood, with a plastic trim where the on-off switch is, the top of the drums are smooth and tactile and enticing enough for a curious 1 year old to get lost in music.

    VIEW AT JOJO MAMAN BEBE | £25

    7. My First Activity Pull Along Train Wooden Toy

    John Lewis My First Activity Pull Along Train Wooden Toy

    John Lewis My First Activity Pull Along Train Wooden Toy

    Age Suitability: 12 months + | Batteries required: None

    Beautifully finishes, the My First Activity Pull Along Train wooden toy is a staple first toy for any little 1 year old boy and girl. It’s also a toy you can treasure for them as they grow up.

    The animal characters on this train and building blocks are designed to develop the pincer grip. Kids can have lots of practise taking the blocks on and off the train. It is designed to encourage learning and counting and keep little ones active as they pull the string along. Kids will enjoy taking the animals on tour from room to room. This train is FSC-certified, which makes it a sustainable choice too.

    VIEW AT JOHN LEWIS | £30

    8. SMARTMAX SMX230 Construction Toy

    SMARTMAX SMX230 Construction Toy

    Age Suitability: 1 year + | Batteries required: None

    My First Totem has picked up multiple awards for innovation and being a great toy for stimulating young minds, which is why it has made it onto our list of best toys for 1 year olds in 2021. The set features 8 colourful magnetic building blocks, with different sounds, styles and textures. Little ones can combine the sensory blocks to build the coolest totem; or follow one of the 24 fun challenges.

    Once they get a little older, you can upgrade onto the Smartmax Megaball Run. It comes with 71 pieces that includes tubes and X-shaped bars with 4 magnetic ends. This makes it a little more challenging.

    VIEW AT AMAZON | £21.99

    9. mzimoon Kids Piano Mat

     

    Kids Piano Mat and keyboard toy for 1-year-olds

    Age Suitability: 18 months + | Batteries required: Yes

    Great for encouraging children’s creativity and musical expression, this musical mat comes with eight different piano ‘keys’. Each one makes the sound of a different instrument. Easy to use like a retro dance mat, children will love jumping around and experimenting with sounds.

    ‘I love the fact that this toy encourages kids to get moving and burn some energy,’ says Susan, mum to Charlotte and Emilie. ‘It’s large enough for adults to have a go too.’

    VIEW AT AMAZON | £16.99

    10. Djeco – Topanifarm

    Djeco - Topanifarm

    Djeco – Topanifarm

    Age Suitability: 18 months + | Batteries required: None

    This little farm-themed set may look simple, but it’s a great way to get little kids practising their construction skills and for improving hand-eye coordination. With 5 cute animals in the set, it’s a great way to get kids to learn about the names of different animals and their homes.

    Kids can nest the boxes together or stack them too. It’s colourful in design too, which will help kids with their colour recognition too. There are six animals in the set including a rabbit, dog, cat, pig, cockerel and cow, and each animal has its own vibrant colour finish. This bold design makes them very enticing to play.

    VIEW AT AMAZON | £20.22

    11. Mega Bloks DCH55 Big Building Bag

    Mega Bloks toys for 1-year-olds

    Age Suitability: 12 months + | Batteries required: None

    This set contains 80 multi-coloured building blocks with shapes that are perfect for little hands. It’s designed to encourage hands-on play for early childhood development. And, they can be combined with other Mega Bloks sets too and kids can build towers as tall as they like. This toy has made it onto our list for best toys for 1 year olds in 2021 as it’s such a popular choice.

    The colourful finishes makes the set that much more enticing as kids can build and knock down their constructions to their hearts content. ‘We’ve had so many hours of play out of Mega Bloks set,’ says Emily, mum to Bethany and William. ‘Much like Duplo in that fact that the blocks are great for little hands of under-5s, it gave my kids endless opportunity to get creative in their play.’

    VIEW AT AMAZON | £15.99 

    12. Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Smart Stages Puppy

    1 year old playing with Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Smart Stages Puppy toy

    Age Suitability: 6 months + | Batteries required: Yes


    All little kids love huggable presents. And this Laugh & Learn Smart Stages Puppy provides the opportunity to do just that. On board there are 75+ songs, sounds, tunes and phrases the bear can play. The bears hand, foot, ear and heart all light up to respond to baby’s touch, all designed to encourage a 1 year old to say their first words.

    ‘You can’t really beat Fisher Price baby toys,’ says GoodtoKnow consumer editor and mum Heidi Scrimgeour says. ‘They fun and educational and great value for money. What’s more, babies love them!’

    VIEW AT AMAZON | £15.99

    13. In The Night Garden Musical Activity Bubble Train

    1 year old playing with In the night garden ninky nonk musical activity bubble train

    Age Suitability: 12 months + | Batteries required: Yes

    This colourful train toy includes 15 fun activities to help to stimulate senses. It’s designed to build motor/construction skills and aid hand/eye coordination. It includes a shape sorter and a chute for Iggle Piggle and Friends to slide down. It also blows bubbles and plays music.

    ‘By age 1 my daughter was completely mesmerised by In The Night Garden,’ says Jenny, mum to Becky and Logan. ‘She would smile every time she heard the theme tune and this In the Night Garden Musical Activity Bubble Train got a lot of play.’

    VIEW AT AMAZON | £37.49

    14. ELC Sensory Stacking Rings

    Early Learning Centre Sensory Stacking Rings

    Age suitability: 6-12 months | Batteries required: None

    This classic toy has lots of textures to explore and is great for problem-solving. It’s also ideal for stimulating the senses and developing hand-to-eye coordination. The fun, colourful giraffe will delight your little one during playtime. Our edit for best toys for 1 year olds in 2021 includes this gift as it’s a firm favorite option. 

    ‘While this is such a simple toy, it is no doubt get played with time and time again,’ says Emily, mum to Bethany and William. ‘I’ve seen many versions of this stackable toy online. This design is one of my favorites as I love the giraffe themed pattern.’

    VIEW AT BOOTS | £20

    15. Baby Einstein Hape Magic Touch Deluxe Piano

    1 year old playing with Baby Einstein Hape Magic Touch Deluxe Piano

    Age suitability: 6 months + | Batteries required: Yes

    Inspire a love of music in your little one with this wooden piano toy. It’s great for children aged 1 and up. Featuring 11 colourful keys with magic touch technology, the piano comes with 5 music sheets that play 10 melodies. Simply insert the sheets inside to play along to classic tunes or compose your own tune.

    Listening to music and singing is such a great way to engage children and this wooden piano toy provides such a great way to encourage them to learn the piano.

    VIEW AT JOJO MAMAN BEBE | £39.99

    16. Bernie’s Number Bus

    Bernie's Number Bus

    Bernies Number Bus from Great Little Trading Co

    Age suitability: 6 months + | Batteries required: No

    This solid wooden toy comes in a beautiful pillar-box red finish with little wooden passengers that can sit inside. The passengers are the perfect size for little hands to grip. They can place the character in coloured, matching seats. Kids can easily lift the roof off to discover what’s inside. This encourages them to practise their number learning and encourages imaginative play. No batteries are needed and it can also be wheeled around the room freely as because it is just the right size for little hands. That’s why we’ve included it in our round up for best toys for 1 year olds in 2021.

    ‘What I love about wooden toys is that no matter which brand they come from they all seem to work well together as a whole,’ says Emily, mum to Bethany and William. ‘We’ve got a wooden train track, wooden cars and a wooden bus and my kids love getting them all out to create a small ‘town’ for play.’

    VIEW AT GREAT LITTLE TRADING CO | £39.99

    17. Exploration Blocks

    Kidly Exploration Blocks - one of the best toys for 1 year olds

    Age suitability: 3+years | Batteries required: No

    The manufacturer states that this toy is suitable from 3+ years, but we see no reason why it isn’t a great choice for a 1 year old. A classic wooden toy like this will help kids explore shapes and textures and develop their visual attention. As kids pick up the pieces and explore the design it will also help with fine motor skills. It’s a colourful toy too and finished in a range of colours and made from eco-friendly wood and non-toxic paints.

    There are a number of similar exploration block toys available to buy online,’ says Emily, mum to Bethany and William. ‘I like the vibrant colorful finish of this design, however.’

    VIEW AT KIDLY | £21

    18. Personalised Doll in Gingham Outfit

    Personalised doll for one year old

    Age Suitability: From birth | Batteries required: None

    Children love to mimic what they see around them. Looking after and caring for their very own ‘baby’ is definitely a popular activity for kids, which is why this toy makes a great gift for a 1 year old. My 1st Years Personalised Rag Doll in Gingham Dress is soft and machine washable. What we love most about it is that it can be personalised, making it a lovely idea for a present for a 1 year old.

    ‘My kids loved to put their dollies in the toy buggy and walking around and around the house,’ says Gemma, mum to Oliver and Sienna. ‘This rag doll makes a nice change from plastic baby dolls, and the fact that it can be personalised with your child’s name makes for a nice touch.’

    VIEW AT MY 1ST YEARS | £26

    19. Personalised Wooden Rainbow Xylophone

    Personalised Wooden Rainbow Xylophone - one of the best toys for 1 year olds

    Age Suitability: 18 months + | Batteries required: None

    A bright, colourful xylophone always makes a great gift for a 1 year old. It’s a favorite in our best toys for 1 year olds round up. An xylophone will let kids express themselves and teaches early note recognition and develop motor skills. This xylophone design as it can be personalised, which makes for a great gift.

    ‘Aside from the personalised aspect of this toy, I love how colorful this design is,’ says Emily, mum to Bethany and William. ‘My kids love playing music. Our xylophone still gets a lot of use. This design comes with beaters that look just the right size for 1 year olds to hold with ease.’

    VIEW AT NOTHS | £29.90

    20. Personalised Disney Dumbo Read & Play Gift Set 

    Personalised Disney Dumbo Read & Play Gift Set

    Personalised Disney Dumbo Read & Play Gift Set

    Age Suitability: From birth | Batteries required: None

    Dumbo is a true classic Disney film – the 1941, not the 2019 version we say – and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a 1 year old or adult on the planet who isn’t moved by the tale of the adorable baby elephant. This Personalised Disney Dumbo Read & Play Gift Set makes for a cute gift and delightful keepsake. That’s why we’ve included in our best toys for 1 year olds round up.

    A great way to mark a first year, the soft toy can be personalised with up to 7 characters. It comes packaged as part of a box set with a copy of the Dumbo tale inside. Kids will love listening to you read the book and they snuggle up with this charming Disney toy. What we love most about this gift is that it is timeless, which means it can be kept to pass down along the generations.

    VIEW AT MY 1ST YEARS | £41

    How do 1 year olds develop through play?

    At this age, you may notice 1 year olds want the remote control, the dog’s water bowl, or a set of car keys. They want ‘non-toy toys’. These non-toy toys are great, too. As a parent, everything you’re doing with your child is helping them to develop – from jangling your keys as they reach out, to giving them a pan and a wooden spoon. You know your baby better than anyone else.

    In addition, Dr. Laverne Antrobus, a child psychologist who teamed up with kids toy giant Hasbro to remind us; “While for most adults, ‘work’ and ‘play’ are separate pursuits, for children play is their work – instead of being just a fun break, it is in fact how they learn, both about the world and themselves.” 

    What are Gross motor skills?

    The NHS defines Gross Motor Skill as ‘the big skills’, they use the big muscles. They require balance and coordination and include a variety of big movements in play, such as running, jumping, hopping, crawling, climbing, kicking, pushing and pulling. Most 1-year-olds can sit without leaning on anything, crawl on hands and knees, pull to standing and coast between furniture. 

    What are Fine motor skills?

    Fine Motor skills are the opposite, using smaller muscles for little things. Picking up small objects between their thumb and index finger; this is known as the ‘pincer grip’.
    Children are either completely walking by their first birthday or getting there. Whether that’s bottom shuffling, crawling or walking. They will want to explore more of the world outside the play mat.

    They will likely want to start using toys that will help support themselves, stand up or even move around – such as walkers.

    “All toys can help a child’s development,” says child psychologist Dr. Amanda Gummer. “The important thing is to provide children with a range of playthings and allow them to play freely with different toys. This helps with things like decision-making skills, self-awareness, emotional wellbeing, and creativity.”

    In order to engage a baby/toddler they have to feel challenged but also to feel triumphant with some aspects of what they are playing with. Toys to  support early learning at home – encourage exploration, curiosity and decision making.

    See more of our toy features