Best children’s toys for boys and girls

toddler playing with building blocks

by Samantha Ball |
Updated on

The best children's toys help develop those all-important fine motor and cognitive skills through play, as well as teaching interpersonal skills, like how to share and bond with others, and often playing from the safety of a playpen.

Children's toy trends are changing all the time — one moment, stem toys are all the rage, while the next, they could be related to a new kids' movie or TV franchise — so it can be hard knowing which are the best children's toys to buy. A lot of our favourite retailers, including Amazon, Argos and John Lewis, have a 'best-selling' toy section on their websites to make things easier, so you can quickly find out what's hot on the toy agenda.

Editor's Pick:

Best outdoor toy - Little Tikes Cozy Coupe Car

Best toy for fine motor skills - MEGA BLOKS Big Building Bag Set

To stop you from scrolling through multiple sites for hours, we've compiled a list of all the best children's toys, including the best baby toys. Get ready to play, learn, repeat!

Best children's toys

Best spelling game

match and spell
Price: $24.22
Alternative retailers
Walmart$17.00View offer

The Orchard Toys Match and Spell game is all about matching the words to the picture to help your child with their spelling. It can be played alone or with multiple players. Each animal card has an 'easy' side — where the name of the picture is already written out next to it, and a 'hard' side, where the squares are blank next to the animal. Once they've mastered the easy side, test their spelling memory by flipping over to the challenging side.

One parent review said, "I like that you can use it with letters as a guide or without letters for an extra challenge! This means my son (4) and daughter (2) can both play in their own way."

Pros

  • Develops spelling skills
  • Encourages discussion

Cons

  • May become repetitive very quickly
Age suitability:4 years+

Best slime toy

If you struggle to get your toddler in the tub, then the Slime Baff in Green could be one easy way to convince them that bath time is fun. Simply pour the contents into your bath and watch the water turn into brightly-coloured, eco-friendly slime for some multi-sensory playtime. This product claims to be skin-safe, drain-safe, stain-free and also vegan.

One parent review said, "Product is brilliant. My grandchildren just loved it and had a lot of fun with it. Cleaned up well."

Pros

  • Biodegradable and is skin safe
  • Three colours to choose from

Cons

  • Can be hard to clean
Age suitability:3 years+

Best outdoor toy

Little Tikes Cozy Coupe Car

Rrp: $64.99

Price: $54.99
Alternative retailers
Walmart$11.99View offer
Target$54.99View offer
Kohl's$61.99View offer

There's no denying how much enjoyment this children's toy has brought kids of all ages over the generations, which is why it's no doubt one of the best children's toys around. The Little Tikes Cozy Coupe Car truly is a classic toy that's not going out of fashion any time soon. It's a must-have outdoor toy for toddlers and a great way of getting them outside during the summer months.

One parent review said, "My little one absolutely loves zooming around on this. He can go as fast or slow as he wants as it is foot to the floor. There is also a floor provided for little ones that are too small to reach the floor themselves so they can be pushed by an adult."

Pros

  • Two designs to choose from
  • Kids aged 18 months to 5 years

Cons

  • The instructions can be confusing to build
Age suitability:18 months+

Best wooden toy

Melissa & Doug Safari Shape Sort Truck
Price: $23.99

With this rugged Melissa & Doug safari shape sort truck, two figures are ready to zoom across the savanna to help their animal friends. The alligator, zebra, rhinoceros, elephant, giraffe, hippopotamus, and lion fit into the sides of the wooden truck through die-cut slots, making it perfect for imaginative play and fine motor skills.

One reviewer said: "Bought as a birthday present for a two-year-old. A well-made wooden toy with figures and animals that also doubles as a jigsaw. The removal figures can also be used in creative play settings, and the safari truck used along side other play vehicles. Best thing about this toy? It doesn't make any annoying noises or need batteries."

Pros

  • Improving fine motor skills
  • Ideal for imaginative play

Cons

  • Not suitable for children under 2 years
Age suitability:2 years+

Best toy for fine motor skills

mega blocks

Rrp: $34.97

Price: $30.99
Alternative retailers
Walmart$46.02View offer

This brightly coloured MEGA BLOCKS big building bag set are a brilliant building toy to encourage fine motor skills and imagination, while the chunky size is ideal for little hands. The set of 60 blocks comes in a reusable storage bag for easy cleanup and is compatible with all Mega Bloks First Builders sets for little construction fans and endless building possibilities. They may be simple, but these Bloks are some of the best children's toys around.

One parent review said, "These are bright, chunky and strong. I purchased these for my 1-year-old, just as I did with my other three children. All four of my children have loved these, and even the older ones, 6,10 and 12, are happy to sit down with the youngest and build and create things. Definitely, a must-have in my house."

Pros

  • Great for creative thinking
  • developing motor skills

Cons

  • Quite loose-fitting bricks
Age suitability:1 year+

Best role play toy

Let your little one go on a pretend picnic and snack on tasty treats while learning about different shapes, food and colours with this LeapFrog Shapes and Sharing basket. The picnic basket will even talk to your tot, making food requests, and then once they've dropped the correct item in, they'll congratulate them.

One parent review said, "This is a well-loved toy! My daughter loves the noises and bright colours. She enjoys emptying the basket and pretending to feed herself! I think this toy will last well, as when she gets a bit bigger, she will be able to make use of the shape sorter feature and role play. Definitely worth the money."

Pros

  • Learning cheerful Phrases
  • Learning to share

Cons

  • Lid is quite awkward to open
Age suitability:6 months+

Best learning toy

Learning Resources Poppy the Count & Stack Flower Pot
Price: $15.99
Alternative retailers
Tractor Supply$14.99View offer
Target$15.99View offer
Walmart$15.99View offer

Your little one can enjoy this counting and stacking toy which helps to strengthen their fine motor skills. They can stack these two-piece flowers with this Learning Resources Poppy the Count & Stack Flower Pot. This is an excellent toy as it helps your child learn crucial life skills, including hand-eye coordination, counting skills, and imaginative play.

Mother&Baby writer, Mother of Three Hannah James said: "My little boys love playing with this flower pot. They like to pretend they are working in a flower shop. I have noticed that this has naturally encouraged their fine motor skills. They love counting the flowers and taking them in and out of the pot."

Pros

  • Counting and stacking fun
  • Team building skills

Cons

  • Can be complicated for younger children
Age suitability:18 months+

Best children's toys from John Lewis

Best toy for developing hand and eye coordination

wooden activity cube best childrens toys
Price: £20.80 (was £26)

www.johnlewis.com

Wooden toys are gaining huge popularity again due to their ability to withstand toddler temperaments and that they look much nicer in your home than plastic ones. This John Lewis Wooden Activity Cube is made from FSC®-certified wood and consists of five different activities for your baby to get stuck into, which will help develop their fine motor skills and hand and eye coordination. Encouraging the learning of problem-solving skills, it'll help build early knowledge of letters, numbers, shapes and colour recognition.

One parent review said, "Contains a variety of activities for the inquisitive one-year-old. Safe so child can be left with the toy without concern."

Pros

  • Encourages the learning of problem-solving skills
  • Helps develop fine motor skills and hand-to-eye coordination

Cons

  • May grow out of it quickly
Age suitability:12 months+

Best bath toy

Alternative retailers
Walmart$7.19View offer
Kohl's$9.00View offer
Macy's$9.00View offer

Bath time just got even more fun with this monkey submarine, which is also great for developing fine motor skills and teaching your child about floating and sinking. They'll love pulling the string and watching the submarine make its way through the water with this Skip Hop Pull and Go Monkey Submarine Bath Toy.

One parent review said, "Contains a variety of activities for the inquisitive one-year-old. Safe so child can be left with the toy without concern."

Pros

  • Creates fun bathtime
  • Encourages motor skills

Cons

  • Only suitable for bathtime
Age suitability:12 months+

Best toy phone

Hey Duggee toys have been hugely popular with children who love the TV show, and we're sure this phone will be too. As well as encouraging some imaginative play, this Hey Duggee Flip and Learn Phone also teaches your child about colours and recognising different numbers. It has a backlit screen and helps with concentration and attention, as well as builds communication skills.

One parent review said, "Chunky little mobile phone for first-timers. Brings Duggee to life perfectly in enthusiastic small hands. Puts smiles on faces."

Pros

  • Helps early colour and number recognition
  • Builds communication skills

Cons

  • Not suitable for children under 18 months
Age suitability:18 months+

Best children's toys from Argos

Best musical toy

Your baby will feel as if they've got another friend in the room with this Fisher-Price DJ Bouncin' Beats Musical toy. At the touch of a button, this little guy bounces to life with colourful lights, music and over 75 songs. It's great for learning and will help teach your child the alphabet, counting, colours, and more with three smart stage levels while keeping little dancers wiggling, giggling and learning as they grow — get ready to boogie.

One parent review said, "This toy is simply amazing! It is loud, bright and draws in the attention of the children. It is interactive. Learn numbers, letters etc., play games with it or just watch it bounce and groove along to the music.

Pros

  • Encourages moving and dancing
  • Can teach the alphabet, counting, colours

Cons

  • No batteries included
Age suitability:9 months+

Best activity table toy

This VTech Little Star activity table will keep your little one fully entertained with its six fun activities to explore. It introduces them to numbers, colours, animals, fun phrases, songs and sound effects, and they'll love the pretend phone for role play and imaginative fun. Simply turn the steering wheel to move the bear around the star and trigger fun reactions and flip the book pages to hear nursery rhymes. The table's legs are also removable too, so your baby can still enjoy all the fun on the floor, in case they haven't learnt to stand just yet.

One parent review said, "I bought this for my granddaughter's 1st birthday, she has just started to crawl and pull herself up to stand. She loves the independence of standing and being able to play. Would recommend."

Pros

  • Create imaginative fun
  • Introduces colours, letters, numbers

Cons

  •  Recommend that it is used by only one child at a time
Age suitability:6 months+

Best soft toy

Bluey Jumbo Plush Soft Toy
Price: £15 (was £20)

www.argos.co.uk

Whether it's Disney toys, In The Night Garden toys or Peppa Pig toys, you're bound to find a toy related to your child's favourite TV show or film. If your child is a fan of the Australian TV show Bluey, then they'll love having their very own Bluey Jumbo Plush Soft Toy to go on adventures with or cosying up to at bedtime.

One parent review said, "Bought this for my little girl as she loves Bluey, and she won't go to sleep without it, plus it's big enough for her to cuddle like a pillow, so I could get mine back."

Pros

  • The perfect companion
  • Super-soft fabric

Cons

  • Smaller than expected
Age suitability:3 years+

Best Play-Doh set

A classic toy many of us will remember - we will never tire of Play-Doh. This fun Play-Doh Kitchen Creations Spiral Fries play set comes with five different Play-Doh colours, and the fry machine lets your child create their very own type of chips. Squeeze pretend straight-cut French fries with the to-go box, cut crinkle fries with the knife and stamp waffle fries with the mould. And then it's time to decorate creations with fun pretend toppings! Reviewers have said it's kept their children occupied for hours — result!

One parent reviewer said: "This has kept my niece occupied for hours. Best gift ever."

Pros

  • Comes with five different colours
  • Can play with more than one child

Cons

  • To be used under the direct supervision of an adult
Age suitability:3 years+

How did we choose the best children's toys?

To select the best children's toys, we researched Mother&Baby's audiences' favourite shopping brands — from John Lewis to Amazon and Argos — to see what their current top-selling toys were. We studied the parent reviews for each of these products and only selected toys with more than a 60 per cent five-star rating. Our mums on the Mother&Baby team also helped contribute their top toys to this roundup too.

What's the best way to clean children's toys?

It will depend on the toy and what type of material the toy is made out of. For example, cleaning wooden toys doesn't have to be done as often, as wood naturally has antibacterial properties. However, germs can survive on plastic surfaces for 24 hours and therefore need to be cleaned more regularly — wiping them down with a cloth dipped in hot water and washing up liquid should do the trick (remember, if the toy contains batteries, remove these first). When it comes to cleaning bath toys, again, these don't need to be done as often as plastic toys and are fine to be rinsed off with some water after bath time. However, give them a deep clean every few months (pop them in the bath with some sterilising tablets) and make sure you allow them to dry properly, to prevent black mould build-up. If you're washing soft toys, the washing machine is usually fine, just make sure to check the toy's label first.

Is it safe to buy second-hand toys?

Buying second-hand toys is a great way to save money and is also good for the environment too. Brands that sell second-hand toys include eBay, Preloved, Gumtree, Etsy, Oxfam online and, of course, charity shops. However, there are a few things to consider/look out for when purchasing a second-hand toy, which we outline here in our guide to buying second-hand toys.

Samantha Ball is a Commercial Content Writer at Bauer Media, specialising in family lifestyle. She is a mum of two and loves to bake and go on family hikes

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