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Best toys for 18-month-olds: fun, creative and educational

From building blocks and bath toys, to creative play and toys that even make music, here are the best toys for 18-month-olds, as recommended by real parents 

By Lucy Cotterill | Last updated Nov 30, 2022

Best toys for 18 month olds

The toddler years are such an exciting time. By 18 months old, your baby is likely to be fully mobile, cruising or taking those first tentative steps. They’re also going to be learning a bit more about the world around them, keen to play independently, explore their surroundings and do things unassisted.

With curious minds, the best toys for 18-month-olds are able to capture and hold their attention; with engaging characters, bright colours or interactive features that allow them to ‘play pretend’ and replicate grown-up behaviours. Toys suitable for 18-month-olds tend to include large, chunky pieces that are easy for small hands to hold, allow them to use their imagination and can help them learn about cause and effect. 

Whether it’s a traditional wooden toy, play food or even a toy for the great outdoors, we’ve researched the best toys for 18-month-olds that can make playtime (and learning) fun. We've got you covered with our pick of the best toddler presents for Christmas 2022.

We've got round-ups of the best toys for a range of ages, all based on authentic recommendations by real parents. Here are our guides to the best baby toys, the best toys for 2-year-olds and the best toys for 3-year-olds.

Here are the best toys for 18-month-olds you can buy in 2022.

1. Best overall toy for an 18-month-old: ELC Happyland Cherry Lane Cottage

ELC Happyland Cherry Lane Cottage

Price on writing £39.99 | Buy now from Amazon

Reasons to buy:

  • Hard wearing, easy to hold pieces
  • Wide range of cute characters and playsets to collect
  • Great for creative play 

Reasons to avoid:

  • Some of the larger sets can be expensive unless on offer

What Mumsnet users say:

“The Happyland is brilliant. My girls played with it from around one all the way through until about five years of age. They were so loved that I couldn’t bear to part with it and still bring the big box out whenever we have younger kids come to visit”  (Tried and tested by Mumsnet writer Lucy Cotterill

“Happyland is brilliant. Really sturdy, chunky, toddler-proof toys! They are bright & colourful and cover a range of interests. We’ve got loads & my four-year-old still plays with them if I get them out for her little sister.” (Recommended by Mumsnet user Zolla

Our verdict 

Our favourite features? - Adorable yet robust characters that encourage creative play

Mumsnet users couldn’t speak more highly of Happyland, a much-loved brand from the Early Learning Centre. With a wide variety of playsets and character packs to choose from, these small but robust play pieces are great for sparking imagination, encouraging role play and developing social skills, as your children act out little scenes and create stories to bring them to life.

This particular Happyland Cherry Lane Cottage set opens up to reveal two floors and a treehouse to explore, with characters, animals and accessories such as beds and chairs included. Kids will love the rabbit hidey-hole and the incorporated carry-along handle that allows them to take it with them as they move from room to room. 

2. Best budget toy for an 18-month-old: Orchard Toys Jungle 2 Piece Puzzles

Orchard Toys Jungle 2 Piece Puzzles

Price on writing: £5.71 | Buy now from Amazon

Reasons to buy:

  • High-quality, durable pieces in bright, engaging designs
  • Great value for money
  • Make learning fun 

Reasons to avoid:

  • Whilst great for toddlers, children may quickly outgrow the two-piece puzzles and want to progress to more challenging Orchard Toys sets

What Mumsnet users say:

“Both mine loved the Orchard toys two piece jigsaw puzzles from 18 months, think they had pets, farm animals and zoo animal sets.”  (Tried and tested by Mumsnet user JellyBelly78)

“I agree with the Orchard Toys two piece jigsaws, My son is three and a half and still plays with them a lot as we turn them over and play matching pairs memory games.” (Recommended by Mumsnet user Pepperwand

Our verdict 

Our favourite features? - Thick, robust pieces in beautiful, bright designs. 

Made from high-quality materials that provide excellent value for money, Orchard Toys are a popular choice amongst Mumsnet users who have toddlers and preschoolers, thanks to their infallible ability to make learning fun. 

With six jungle-themed characters inside the box, children must find the matching halves of these adorable two-piece puzzles before slotting the pieces together. As your child becomes more confident, you can introduce games such as matching pairs as an educational yet entertaining way to spend the afternoon.

3. Best creative toy for an 18-month-old: Tomy Aquadoodle

Tomy Aquadoodle

Price on writing: £19.99 | Buy now from Amazon

Reasons to buy:

  • Creative fun, without the mess 
  • Folds away for easy storage
  • Water fades when dry so the mat can be reused repeatedly without waste

Reasons to avoid:

  • You may find your toddler is tempted to suck the water pen 
  • The ‘large’ size isn’t actually that large - measuring around ‎85 x 65 cm 

What Mumsnet users say:

“They are amazing! We use ours almost daily!”  (Tried and tested by Mumsnet user toomuchangelcake)

“Yes, my daughter loved it and actually still occasionally played with it until recently when we packed it away (she's about to turn five).” (Recommended by Mumsnet user mindutopia

Our verdict 

Our favourite features? - 100% water-based, mess-free fun 

Does your 18-month-old love drawing and painting but the thought of sticky paint-stained fingers is enough to make you break out into a cold sweat? Aquadoodle is a great solution. This 100% water-based art mat allows children to get creative and make fun designs with absolutely zero mess. As the water dries, their designs will fade away, ready for them to start all over again. 

Simply fill the Aquadoodle pen with water and leave them to explore. Their creations will appear like magic as they run the pen across the material. This deluxe set also includes three stampers and a special brush to cover larger areas and is a fun way to practice writing their first letters and numbers. 

For budding artists, head over to our ground-up of the best creative toys for kids of all ages.

4. Best wooden toy for an 18-month-old: BRIO My First Railway Beginner Train Set

BRIO My First Railway Beginner Train Set

RRP: £36.89 | Buy now from Amazon

Reasons to buy:

  • Classic wooden toy
  • Made from high-quality FSC sourced European beech wood 
  • Compatible with all BRIO Railway Sets & Accessories (and some other brands too)

Reasons to avoid:

  • Beginners set only includes one train
  • Not enough track pieces included to make a figure of eight

What Mumsnet users say:

“Our wooden train set has been a consistent favourite from about 18months and now at nearly 3. I envisage it'll still be a favourite for a couple of years yet!”  (Tried and tested by Mumsnet user WilmaJean)

“We have a mix of Ikea and Brio which fit together. Brio have interesting add ons like a station, car parking garage etc (highly recommend the Brio car parking garage it is my two sons most used toy)” (Recommended by Mumsnet user Sandytoes86

Our verdict 

Our favourite features? - A traditional, high-quality wooden toy 

A traditional toy made from safe, high-quality beech wood, this simple track is great fun for young children, who will love pushing the train up and around the guided ramp track before releasing it and watching it slide down the bridge on the other side.

With a magnetic connection to link carriages and rotating sections that rattle as they move, you can expand the pack as your child grows with additional items from the BRIO range. 

5. Best musical toy for an 18-month-old: B. Toys Parum Pum Drum Kit with 7 Musical Instruments

Toy Drum Kit with 7 Musical Instruments

RRP: £29.99 | Buy now from Amazon

Reasons to buy:

  • Easy to store pieces inside drum when not in use
  • Allows your child to experiment with sounds, music and rhythm 
  • Range of child-safe instruments included 

Reasons to avoid:

  • A toddler’s musical creations can be…. lively!
  • Some reviewers felt the overall finish wasn’t as pleasant as the photos  

What Mumsnet users say:

“My sister has just bought my one year old daughter a musical instrument set with various instruments and some drum sticks. They all stored inside the drum. It’s easily the thing she’s played with the most.”  (Tried and tested by Mumsnet user MonkeyPuddle)

Our verdict 

Our favourite features? - A fun yet practical musical toy that makes storage simple.

If your 18 month old is forever bopping along to songs and music, why not allow them to make some of their own? Instrument toys can be a great way to introduce children to rhythm, patterns and sounds, as well as teach them to follow basic instructions such as ‘stop’ and ‘start’. 

This super cute, age-appropriate musical toy comes with a wide variety of instruments including a maraca, tambourine, jingle bell and shaka shaka egg, as well as two drumsticks and a large drum. When your child’s finished creating their musical masterpiece, you can quickly tidy the pieces away; stashing them inside the drum before replacing the lid. 

6. Best car toy for an 18-month-old: VTech Toot Toot Drivers Fix & Fuel Garage

VTech Toot Toot Drivers Fix & Fuel Garage

RRP: £49.99 | Buy now from Amazon

Reasons to buy:

  • Fun and interactive
  • Great for creative role play and developing fine motor skills  
  • Features interactive SmartPoint locations 

Reasons to avoid:

  • Only one vehicle included with other VTech Toot Toot vehicles sold separately 

What Mumsnet users say:

“The Toot Toot cars and garage are a huge hit in my household, there is also a fire station, police station, airport and loads more and they all connect together”  (Tried and tested by Mumsnet user December2019)

“Our Toot Toot track and garage (plus all of the extension stuff) has been played with most days since my children were 18 months old. Our youngest is now six and it's only just stopped being played with so definitely value for money (even if it is bloody annoying!)” (Recommended by Mumsnet user LunaLoveFood)

Our verdict 

Our favourite features? - Interactive SmartPoint locations across the garage help bring your child’s imagination to life

Whilst parents may curse the Toot-Toot songs and melodies when we find ourselves singing them in the shower, kids just can’t get enough of the Toot-Toot cars and vehicles.

This VTech Toot-Toot Fix and Fuel garage is set over two floors, with a lift, refuelling station, opening gates and lots of ramps to zoom around. Ideal for imaginative play and great for encouraging language development, there are six SmartPoint locations across the garage which interact when driven over. Whilst we wish the set included more than one vehicle, other SmartPoint-compatible vehicles are sold separately. 

7. Best outdoor toy for an 18-month-old: Little Tikes Cozy Coupe Car

Little Tikes Cozy Coupe Car

RRP: £60 | Buy now from Argos

Reasons to buy:

  • Fun outdoor ride-along toy
  • Available in a choice of designs including classic, dinosaur and princess 
  • Has been sold and enjoyed by children for over thirty years 

Reasons to avoid:

  • Brand states suitable for 18 months to 5 years, however, you may find your child physically outgrows the car sooner than this. 

What Mumsnet users say:

“My child’s favourite toy at 18 months was a Cosy Coupe Car.”  (Tried and tested by Mumsnet user Felldownabackdonhole)

“I got a Little Tikes Cosy Coupe car for my son when he was two and he absolutely loves it still a year later. You can buy it in the classic yellow and red or they do other designs, a princess one, dinosaur etc” (Recommended by Mumsnet user AlfieandAnnieRose

Our verdict 

Our favourite features? - A removable floor piece and wheels that spin 360 degrees allow you to easily switch between parent and child-operated rides. 

Enjoyed by children for generations, the Cosy Coupe push-along car is an incredibly popular ride-on toy that can be a great addition to your back garden. 

With a removable board for feet, the Cosy Coupe can initially be pushed along by a parent, before removing the base when your child’s confident enough to navigate themselves. With a clicking ignition switch, opening fuel cap, working horn and opening door, your child will have loads of fun driving around on their missions, making up imaginative adventures whilst enhancing their physical and communication skills. 

For fun, fresh air and five minutes' peace, check out our round-up of the best outdoor toys for kids.

8. Best bath toy for an 18-month-old: TOMY Toomies Foam Cone Factory Baby Bath Toy

Tomy toomies foam cone factory

RRP £19.99 | Buy now from Amazon

Reasons to buy:

  • Great for role play and parent-child interaction 
  • Fun entertainment for bathtime 
  • Encourages communication and the following of instructions 

Reasons to avoid:

  • Can come off the wall if your child pulls too hard 
  • May take a few practice pulls before the bubbles start to generate

What Mumsnet users say:

“We had an ice cream maker (bubbles). It has cones and a handle you pull to make an ice cream.”  (Tried and tested by Mumsnet user Spaceman101)

“We had the Tomy Foam Cone Factory – great fun.” (Recommended by Mumsnet user livingthegoodlife

Our verdict 

Our favourite features? - An ice cream factory on the edge of the bath? Need we say more! 

The Tomy Toomies Foam Cone Factory is a big hit with Mumsnet users thanks to its ability to banish boring bathtimes. Encouraging imagination and role play,  all whilst developing fine motor and communication skills, this toy attaches straight to the side of the bath or wall tiles using suction cups.

To help bring their ice cream creations to life, simply add water and bubble bath to the top of the factory. Your child can then pull the lever to fill the cones with foam and add pretend sprinkles using the sprinkle shaker. They’ll love taking your order and lining their creations up on the side of the bath.

If you're looking for more like this, checkout our round-up of the best bath toys for babies and toddlers.

9. Best building toy for an 18-month-old: LEGO DUPLO Classic Brick Box Building Set with Storage

LEGO DUPLO Classic Brick Box Building Set with Storage

RRP: £19.99 | Buy now from Amazon

Reasons to buy:

  • Chunky building bricks that are easy to connect and pull apart
  • Encourages creativity and imagination with endless possibilities 
  • Box doubles up as handy storage 

Reasons to avoid:

  • With 65 pieces, you may end up buying more bricks to extend your child’s collection

What Mumsnet users say:

“Definitely Duplo. I have two daughters and we got our first Duplo when my eldest was 18 months..she's now 6.5 and we have a huge collection. A brick box that comes with bricks a car and a person is a good start along with a set to get you started then people can add as you go. Would definitely recommend getting at least one base plate too as your child gets older, though probably not essential at 18 months but it just helps the build. I think the first set beside the blocks we got was the pony farm.”  (Tried and tested by Mumsnet user 17caterpillars1mouse)

“Duplo is good one - they love the bricks long before they can actually build anything (they enjoy taking them out, putting them in, holding them, taking them apart, pushing the cars etc). It means it lasts ages, up until 4 or 5 easily.” (Recommended by Mumsnet user NuffSaidSam

Our verdict 

Our favourite features? - Brightly coloured toddler-friendly bricks with a car and characters included

At 18 months old, children absolutely love building things (often before knocking them down), making LEGO Duplo somewhat of a must-have toy for toddlers. 

This starter set offers 65 brightly coloured pieces including two LEGO Duplo figures, number bricks and a car, as well as pieces to create a small house with a small roof and opening window. Whilst you may find your child wanting more quite quickly to grow their collection, the pieces are safe and durable, they’re perfectly sized for small hands. It’s also lovely to watch them play, as they repeatedly bring you their creations with pride. 

For master builders of all ages, check out our guides to the best LEGO sets and the best DUPLO sets.

10. Best play food for an 18-month-old: LeapFrog Choppin' Fun Learning Pot

LeapFrog Choppin' Fun Learning Pot, Roleplay Kitchen Toy

Price on writing: £18 | Buy now from Amazon

Reasons to buy:

  • Encourages role play and replication of parent behaviours
  • Educational and fun 
  • ‘Chopping’ action help to develop fine motor skills 

Reasons to avoid:

  • Kids may enjoy the interactive sounds and responses more than parents!

What Mumsnet users say:

“Decent toy food that you can 'chop' up. My daughter loved hers”  (Tried and tested by Mumsnet user BritInAus)

Our verdict 

Our favourite features? - Chopping actions and interactive role-play 

At 18 months old, children love replicating parental behaviour, making toys such as play kitchens and play food. Whilst you may find most wooden role play foods are officially suitable only for children three years and over, this LeapFrog Choppin’ Fun Pot makes a great plastic alternative. 

Following recipes just like grown-ups, children can chop and add a range of ingredients to the pot, before giving it a stir and listening as this interactive toy calls out the colours and vegetable names. We love the little knife and board to prepare their vegetables and cut them in half and the bubbling water effect inside the pot. 

For more like this, here's our guide to the best imaginative toys for kids.

How to choose a toy for an 18-month-old 

Selecting the right toy for your 18-month-old can be tough, so here are some things to consider when making your choice. 

  • Is it appealing to your child? - The best toys will offer enticing elements such as bright colours, moving parts or familiar actions to attract and hold your child’s attention.
  • Is it age-appropriate? - It’s important the toys you pick are recommended for younger children as they may still be tempted to put things in their mouth. Toys for 18-month-olds should have no small parts or choking hazards and be made from BPA-free plastic or high-quality wood.
  • Is it hard wearing? - 18-month-olds aren't always as gentle as they should be, so toys and play pieces need to be robust and be able to withstand some rough handling.
  • Are there any educational benefits? - From creativity to role play, fine motor skills, physical skills, communication or even helping to teach numbers, colours and words, many toys for 18 months old can offer significant educational benefits without your toddler even realising.
  • How long will it last? - Is the toy designed to grow with your child or will they outgrow it quickly? For toys that offer value for money, you may want to consider toys that can be adapted as your child grows or where you can expand their collection as they grow in confidence. 
  • How much do you want to spend? - More interactive toys or toys with sounds and lights can be more expensive, whereas others can be a great stocking filler or budget-friendly toy. Consider how much you’re willing to spend and weigh this up against the perceived benefits.
  • Look out for recommendations - If you’re still not sure, ask for recommendations from friends, family or Mumsnetters with children of a similar age, chances are, their children will have played with many of the toys you’re considering too. 

Why are toys important for toddlers’ development?

At 18 months old your child is going through some huge developmental changes. Becoming more independent by the day, they will be keen to do things without assistance, explore the world and figure things out for themselves. Toys can be a great way to support this, encouraging imagination, role play and trial and error as they play and learn simultaneously. 

What kind of toys do 18-month-olds like?

18-month-olds have really curious minds, so they love any toys that require interaction. 

Toys that move such as trains and cars tend to be a big hit, as well as building toys such as blocks and bricks where they can play freely and use their imagination.

18-month-olds also love being creative, so toys that replicate parent behaviour, characters that can be moved and used to create stories and artistic options such as art and music toys tend to be really popular choices amongst parents and toddlers alike.

What’s the best toy to buy for an 18-month-old?

Our favourite toy for 18-month-olds is Happyland - tough, durable and super cute, it’s ideal for small hands to hold, whilst encouraging creativity, imagination and role play activities. It’s also a toy that can be played with for years and saved for future generations! 

How we chose our recommendations

Recommendations from real Mumsnet users 

With so many toys to choose from, finding the right to for an 18-month-old can be a little overwhelming.

First, we sought out the trusted opinions of Mumsnet users, to get their feedback on their child’s favourite toys, as well as the toys that their 18-month-olds have enjoyed and played with regularly in their own homes.

We also looked out for any negative reviews, where Mumsetters highlighted products that they felt were poor quality, overpriced or failed to keep their 18-month-old entertained. 

Authentic consumer reviews

Finally, to bring you our definitive list of the best toys for 18-month-olds, we thoroughly investigated genuine, in-depth customer reviews on retailer sites such as Amazon, Argos, and Smyths Toys to get wider consumer experiences regarding the products on our shortlist.   

Why you should trust us

We work hard to provide honest and independent advice you can trust and we spend hours scouring the Mumsnet forums and online bestseller lists to find products that real parents rate.

Transparency is really important to us and that's why we're always upfront about where we find our recommendations. We write about products that we feel offer the best value to most parents – the ones that our users would recommend to their own friends and family.