Mother and Baby

The best educational toys for a 1-year-old

Section: Toys & Education
best educational toys

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.

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 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:

Offer your 1-year-old this colorful and stimulating multifunctional mini activity cube to encourage learning and exploration. They’ll have so much fun and won’t even realize 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."

  • Size: 16.5 x 16.5 x 17cm
  • Weight: 0.6kg
  • Material: Wood and steel 

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.

  • Batteries Required: 3 x AA (Not Included)
  • 50+ sing-along songs, tunes & phrases
  • Three levels of play 
  • Smart Stages technology 

From the creator of everyone's favourite kids book 'The Hungry Caterpillar' comes this cute little learning library. This wonderful board book collection makes a perfect first library by introducing first 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.

  • Contains: 4 books
  • Includes: Words, Numbers, Animal Sounds, and Colours

More than a shape sorter, this is an on-the-go activity centre. Using nine plastic shapes and the padded carrying case, children can lift crinkly flaps, identify the pictures, match the shapes, and drop the textured blocks through the sorter. They can then pull the plush dog around the edge to unzip the case and start it all again.

These 1-year-old-friendly games and learning activities are great for enjoying together or for independent play. The easy-to-grasp padded handle makes it easy to carry the set from place to place - even for crawlers, scooters, and emerging walkers.

  • Size: 9.5 x 24.8 x 34.3cm
  • Material: Plastic and polyester

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 M&B and we've all played with these with our children - they really capture the imagination. 

The Jungly Tails book is full of differently textured animal tails so children can feel the difference as they learn about different animals. The book has no hard or sharp corners and no paper, so it's perfect for one-year-olds.

Sophie Knight, mum to Eli, said: "Eli had two variations of these books when he was little and he loved them. They encouraged him to learn about turning the pages in a book, while being soft and supple for his little hands. The characters and tails meant it was easy to make up stories and playtime with them. Much loved and passed down to other baby friends."

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 make music with the hammer at 6am is what every parent wants for Christmas. 

  • Size: 29 x 30 x 15cm
  • Weight: 600g
  • Interactive

This play microphone is the ideal toy for the 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.

One happy customer said: "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 draw back is it is so annoying to be in the same room as them!"

Tub time is playtime! The Skip Hop Zoo Count & Play Bath Puzzle is the ideal bath toy and learning activity for your water baby. The colourful puzzle and bath book feature fun artwork with a little mischievous monkey on one side, and friendly owl and busy bee on the other, plus number graphics to help children with their counting skills. We love Skip Hop here at M&B and this is another firm favourite. 

Stacking blocks are a super simple and really cheap option for your little one. Educational toys don't have to be complicated. These colourful and durable plastic stacking cups help your little builder with problem solving, counting and co-ordination. These eight brightly coloured cups stack up from large to small and include holes in the bottom so they can be used in the bath.

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. 


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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