Mother and Baby

The best educational toys for a 1-year-old

Section: Toys & Education
baby playing

You've finally reached the year mark with your little one. A year that will have been full of milestones, discoveries and fun for you and your baby. It is great to look back and see what developmental firsts they achieved during these important 12 months.

By this point, your one-year-old is eager to learn and develop even more through play. Your 12-month-old will now understand most of what you say and will be able to anticipate your actions and words with visual cues (if you pick up their shoes, they might sit down ready for you to put them on). They have greatly improved their physical skills meaning they can swiftly move from one toy to another (creating unlimited mess!) and they love to mimic others, enhancing their social and emotional skills.

With this in mind, the best toys for your one-year-old are ones that continue to enhance physical development, coordination and walking. For cognitive development, try fun musical or animal-themed toys to encourage independent play and learning.

Best types of toys for a one-year-old

The one year mark is often a tricky one - as our little ones are no longer at the infant phase and require a little more stimulation at playtime. Between one and two years, tots will benefit from toys that incorporate sensory stimulation and motor development.

Examples of toys targeted at sensory stimulation include toys that light up, make sounds and play music - pretend instruments and xylophones are great examples of this.

Motor development can be improved with light-up dance mats, stackers or blocks and any other toy that gets your little one moving their hands and feet repeatedly.

How did we choose our shortlist? 

Our list of the best educational toys for a one-year-old was compiled by our Mother&Baby experts who know about all the latest new releases in the toy world, and, being mums ourselves, know what makes a baby happy. 

Products on the list have been recommended by mums on our team or by our panel of mum testers, who help us decide the winners of the M&B Awards each year. We also pay attention to customer reviews on websites, ratings, and overall satisfaction levels of those who've bought the toys. 

We also test and review a range of the products sent to the office for our feedback. 

Best educational toys for a one-year-old:

Editor's pick

Offer your one year-old this colourful and stimulating multifunctional mini activity cube to encourage learning and exploration. They’ll have so much fun and won’t even realise they’re learning. This cube is crafted to aid the development of cognitive and fine motor skills, colour and shape recognition and hand-eye coordination.  

Sophie Knight, mum to Eli, said: "Eli was given one for his first birthday, and it's still in the living room now (he's just turned three) as it's a toy he still likes to fiddle with. It's great that's it's grown with his development needs. It's so bright and cheery, with lots of different elements to keep babies' attention and focus as they develop different skills."

Best for learning colours

Mushroom Garden

£24.98 - RRP: £29.99

This innovative and educational toy features colourful mushrooms that light up, encouraging little ones to learn colours, numbers and memorise patterns. It plays fun, whacky sounds that will make your little one laugh while at the same time refining their logical thinking, motor function and problem-solving skills.

Review: "I bought this for my grandson, who is one. But the two-year-old loves it too. It's great for teaching different skills, which is why I opted for it, but it's also good fun with the voices and the music. The mushrooms are just right for small hands- not massive nor too small for them to choose the correct one. It doesn't take up loads of space and can be tidied away easily. It came with batteries-always a plus- and was very well received as a present. There is an on/off button, so no wasting of battery. Well-constructed and would definitely recommend it."

Best for learning to read

From the creator of everyone's favourite kid's book 'The Hungry Caterpillar' comes this cute little learning library. This wonderful board book collection makes a perfect first library by introducing the concepts to one-year-olds. Each book is filled with Eric Carle's much-loved collage art and large, simple text. These books are ideal for little hands to hold as the sturdy board pages are durable enough to withstand any rough and tumble.

Review: "A great book for babies, it's a hardcover, so you don't need to worry about them ripping it, and it's a short book so you won't lose their attention."

Best for shape-sorting

Let's play hide and squeak! See if your little one can match the egg shapes to the carton. The eggs have lots of silly faces that are sure to delight little ones, and the chicks will give a little squeak when you push the eggs down for added entertainment. This shape-sorting game is perfectly sized for little hands, improving manual dexterity and promoting colour and shape recognition.

So many mums recommend these to us here at Mother&Baby, and we've all played with these with our children - they really capture the imagination. 

Review: "Bought this for my toddler when he turned one, and he thoroughly enjoyed it - he always wanted to get the eggs out and play with them. He was able to figure out about matching the colours himself and the shapes. It is a good educational fun toy for them, and when played with an adult, it can help develop their understanding of matching shapes and colours."

Best for learning first words

The chair includes Smart Stages technology, an exciting new way to change learning content as your baby grows. It teaches first words, numbers, shapes, colours and more. There are a variety of developmentally appropriate songs, phrases and sounds within three levels of play - just slide the switch or enter baby's age for automatic level changes.

Review: "My 1-year-old Granddaughter loves sitting in it and turning the pages of the book and pushing the buttons. It has 50+ sing-along songs, tunes & phrases that she loves to listen to."

Best for puzzle development

This developmental toy will help your baby recognise shapes, colours, letters and more. They can play music, sort blocks and match letters, promoting their imagination, puzzle development and fine motor skills. 

Review: "My little girl loved this. I was worried it was going to be too large. But it was the perfect size for my 8-month-old girl. She loved the music and can tell she will have great fun learning to fit the shapes in holes. Very sturdy and overall very happy with my purchase."

Best for learning music

This is a real musical instrument that creates perfect tones made with chunky, rounded edges and notebars that are accessible to tiny fingers. It is an ideal first instrument to introduce children to the delights of making music. It also features coloured balls with a hammer (a bit like a whack-a-mole game) - and trust us, the sound of your little one whacking the keys to mae music with the hammer at 6am is what every parent wants for Christmas. 

Review: "I bought this for my 11-month-old granddaughter and she loves it. She loves pushing the balls through and then collecting them. She also loves making some noise on the keyboard. Very pleased with the product."

Best for early role play

Is there any child that doesn't love pretending to be on the phone? This play phone will introduce them to numbers and improve hand-eye coordination as they spin the dial and pick up the receiver. They can learn to say hello and goodbye, engaging in early role play, which encourages imagination and creativity. 

Review: "A very long-standing toy, this pull-along phone should be a must for every toddler. They have the 'chatter' feature, moving eyes, dial-up and usually keep young ones amused for hours. I bought it as a gift for a 1-year-old, she loves it. All children in our family got this toy over the years."

Best for motor development

It's time to get musical! This fun piano mat produces 25 sounds that your little one can activate by running or dancing their way across it. Playing animal sounds, melodies and other tunes, your little one will be busy learning cause and effect, identifying colours and animals, and improving their hand-foot coordination.

Review: "We brought this piano mat for my little boy. He loved it. It has 25 different sounds, so he enjoyed listening to the animal sounds, which we also found educational for him! It kept him very busy and would be a great buy for your little one!"

Best for language development

Suitable from 10 months, this Interactive Smart Duggee soft toy is bound to be a hit with your baby with music, woofs noises and phrases from the hit show. A lovely gift to encourage your baby to talk, there are three activity modes to choose from, including voice-activation mode, question mode and press mode, which are bound to ensure plenty of giggles from your youngster. 

Review: "This is a great toy for young kids. It's so interactive, you can ask it questions, and it responds in woofs! His heart lights up too. It's a decent-sized toy and is soft and snuggly. A lovely gift."

Best for sing-along

This play microphone is the ideal toy for any budding singers and entertainers. The toy helps little ones discover new experiences and encourages role-play. When your little one doesn't want to sing, they can listen to the built-in musical tunes or sound effects and watch flashing lights.

Review: "Bought for our 2-year-old, but even our nearly 5-year-old loves it! It amuses them, especially being able to sing along. The only drawback is it is so annoying to be in the same room as them!"


Catriona originally joined the team as an Editorial Assistant to work on the 2019 M&B Awards. As a Digital Writer, she has written and updated hundreds of articles on the site from medical explainers to celebs news and shopping galleries.

Catch her running along the Thames or eating her way around London's restaurants.


Other contributors

Sophie Knight - Contributing Editor

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