13 Expert Approved Toys by The Good Play Guide

15 min read

Last Modified 15 September 2023 First Added 15 September 2023

Are you searching for age-appropriate and engaging toys for your little one’s? Look no further!

The Good Play Guide, a team of experts, have carefully selected and reviewed 13 toys that are sure to captivate and benefit your child’s development.

Let’s explore the expert-approved toys together.

13 Expert Approved Toys:

1. Early Learning Centre Plush Toy – Elephant

Baby with elephant plush toy.

Toy Description: This adorable Early Learning Centre Plush Toy Elephant is perfect for cuddling and imaginative play. It is soft, huggable, and a great toy for any newborn or growing child. This cuddly elephant has embroidered eyes, striped fleecy ears and beans in its hands and feet, this way your child can explore different textures. This toy will stimulate a baby’s senses and be a lovable new addition to their early childhood.

Experts Opinion: The experts at The Good Play Guide praise this toy for making a great comforter, for its sensory appeal, and its potential to encourage imaginative play and emotional development. They found their toy testers quickly bonding with the elephant as one child had named it Jellybean. Older testers enjoyed roleplaying, such as pushing it around in a pushchair and sitting at the table with it.

What The Children Said:

“He is so soft.” – Girl aged 4

“Cuddles with Jellybean.” – Girl aged 2

Skills Developed:

  • Encourages nurturing skills
  • Inspires imaginative roleplay
  • Promotes communication skills


Fun Skill Development Ease of Use Age
3/5 3/5 5/5 All ages

2. Early Learning Centre My First Gadget Set

Boy plays with gadget toy set.

Toy Description: This Early Learning Centre Grey My First Gadget Set is a collection of fun electronic toys designed for little hands (available in grey and pink). It includes a phone, keys and a remote control for lots of imaginative play.

These toys have fun sounds and a light on the keys that activates when your baby presses the button. The smart phone plays different sounds also, and the remote features three different languages; English, French and Spanish. As your baby uses their fingers to press buttons and manipulate the toys, they will begin to develop fine motor skills.

Experts Opinion: The experts believe this set to be engaging and realistic which entices repeat play. They found the children loved using this toy and pretending they were real, this encouraged more imaginative play and developed their social and communication skills by pretending to be on a call with their parents. This toy is easy to use and provided a variety of auditory sensory stimulation.

What The Testers Said:

“It resembles the real remote at home that she plays with. It’s better than the bright shiny things you get instead” – Parent of girl aged 2

“Hello? Who’s there? Answer the phone” – Parent of 17-month-old

Skills Developed:

  • Encourages imaginative play
  • Develops auditory skills
  • Promotes sensory stimulation


Fun Skill Development Ease of Use Age
4/5 4/5 4/5 12 months +

3. Early Learning Centre Frankie the Fish Bubble Machine  

Child plays with bubbles outdoor

Toy Description: Feed the Early Learning Centre Frankie The Fish Bubble Machine with some bubble mixture and watch as he produces a stream of bubbles. This is a fun and interactive toy that encourages active play and sensory exploration. Perfect for garden games and bubble parties, this will fuel a little one’s imagination while aiding physical development.

Experts Opinion: The experts commend this toy for its ability to engage children in active play and sensory experiences. They found the children jumping, running and stretching trying to catch the bubbles, but there were simply too many! This is fantastic for children developing their spatial awareness and hand-eye coordination.

What The Children Said:

“This is lots of fun!” – Boy aged 3

“How many can we catch?” – Girl aged 3

Skills Developed:

  • Promotes hand-eye coordination
  • Encourages children to be physically active
  • Develops gross motor skills


Fun Skill Development Ease of Use Age
4/5 4/5 5/5 3+ years

4. Early Learning Centre Baby Sensory Ball Pit and 20 Balls 

Sensory ball pit.

Toy Description: The Early Learning Centre Baby Sensory Ball Pit and 20 Balls is a fun, safe and exciting place for children to roll, sit and play. This toy provides a stimulating environment for little one’s to explore with 20 colourful balls included, your child can enjoy touching the soft textures while playing peek-a-boo with the mesh panels.

Experts Opinion: The experts have highlighted the sensory stimulation and cognitive development provided by this toy. The babies enjoyed the textures of the balls and the sensation of moving in a ball pit. The experts mentioned this is an easy toy to set up and storage was even simpler. They found the children had a chance to practice colour recognition, hand-eye coordination and could develop strength in their arms and core.

What The Children Said:

“I want to get in!” – Girl aged 16 months

“I put balls in there, Mummy.” –  Girl aged 2

Skills Developed:

  • Promotes hand-eye coordination
  • Encourages sensory exploration
  • Strengthens arm and core muscles


Fun Skill Development Ease of Use Age
4/5 3/5 3/5 6 months +

5. Early Learning Centre Monkey Business  

Monkey business toy.

Toy Description: A fun and lively game of Centre Monkey Business by Early Learning Centre, where players enjoy hanging cheeky monkeys or gorillas on the tree. Each player spins the dial to see how many monkeys (or gorillas) to add. You keep going until the monkeys fall into the crocodile swamp! For older children, you can split the monkeys by colour, once the tree falls, count your monkeys and whoever has the most wins.

A great game for the family, and perfect for 2-4 players. Children can use the monkeys to learn how to count while developing problem solving skills.

Experts Opinion: The experts felt the testers found this toy easy to use. Children can develop their fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and control. The experts suggested that children are able to use trial and error while encouraging turn-taking and team work.

What The Children Said:

“The crocodile has eaten the monkey!” – Girl aged 3

“You should use its tail.”- Girl aged 7

Skills Developed:

  • Develops fine motor skills and hand control
  • Promotes perseverance
  • Encourages counting and colour sorting


Fun Skill Development Ease of Use Age
3/5 3/5 4/5 3 – 5 years

6. Early Learning Centre Giant Activity Aqua Mat

Aqua mat and children playing.

Toy Description: Unleash creative fun with the Early Learning Centre Giant Activity Aqua Mat. Enjoy mess-free art as you fill the pen with water and begin drawing on the mat to reveal rainbow colours. Children can scribble, draw and colour as they try to find 8 cute animals hiding in the mat. When playtime is over, leave the mat to dry and watch as the colours disappear! This is a great toy to inspire creativity while enhancing hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills development.

Experts Opinion: Testers were engaged with this easy-to-use toy. Children understood how to fill the pen without adult assistance. The experts found this toy to aid in teaching a child how to hold a pen as they revealed colours and animals hidden in the mat. There is plenty of space for two children to use the mat together, as the mat is cushioned, it was comfortable for children to kneel or rest on as they drew.

What The Children Said:

“We’ve got a cat at our house!” – Boy aged 3

“I see a rainbow.” – Boy aged 2

Skills Developed:

  • Develops skills needed for writing
  • Encourages creativity
  • Promotes colour recognition


Fun Skills Development Ease of Use Age
4/5 4/5 5/5 18+ months

7. Early Learning Centre The Solar System 100 Piece Puzzle

Boy plays with puzzle.

Toy Description: Discover the solar system piece by piece with The Solar System 100 Piece Jigsaw Puzzle by Early Learning Centre. Explore different shapes and colours and try to piece the puzzle together. As you play, learn the names of the planets in our solar system and read all the fun facts! This vibrant puzzle has 100 pieces inside which are made from sturdy sustainably sourced card. This toy can help your child with problem-solving and hand-eye coordination.

Experts Opinion: Some children were a little overwhelmed with 100 pieces, but by using the image in the box for guidance they felt more confident. This toy has a great educational bonus as children learn the planets and practice their reading. This knowledge inspired conversation between the children, improving their communication, social skills and vocabulary. The children worked together as a team and felt inspired after completing the puzzle as they began to roleplay as astronauts and Star Wars characters.

What The Children Said:

“If we did the puzzle in space, there is no gravity so we would be flying.” – Boy aged 7

“I am going to be Mars, and you are Saturn.” – Boy aged 6

Skills Developed:

  • Encourages problem solving and logical thinking
  • Develops hand eye coordination
  • Provides opportunities for discussion


Fun Skills Development Ease of Use Age
3/5 4/5 5/5 5 + years

8. Early Learning Centre Sand and Water Table with Lid Accessories

Toy Description: Relive all those beach memories by bringing the beach home with the Early Learning Centre Sand and Water Table featuring many toys for hours of fun. There are ten toys to play with, including a spade, a scoop, a rake, funnels, wheels, moulds and much more. Your little one can enjoy filling one of the two troughs with water and the other, sand (bought separately).

This table also has a waterproof lid to keep your water and sand covered after playtime. Fantastic for exploring creative skills and using tools helps to enhance fine motor skills.

Experts Opinion: This set was a favourite amongst the testers and engaged them for long periods of time as they were all immersed in the sensory play experience. Children began carrying out experiments with the water and sand, and seeing how they mix. An adult introduced the concept of floating, the children were excited to use objects such as a plastic boat, a coin, and a magnet to see how they float. Playing with this toy builds strength in the hands, while water-play taught control through pouring.

What The Children Said:

“Penny sink, boat float.” – Boy aged 3

“Scoop scoop.” – Girl aged 2

Skills Developed:

  • Develops motor skills and strength in hands
  • Encourages sensory exploration
  • Promotes language development


Fun Skills Development Ease of Use Age
5/5 4/5 5/5 12 months +

9. Early Learning Centre Soft Sensory Balls

Toy Description: Have your little one discover the tactile Soft Sensory Balls by Early Learning Centre. All six balls feature different textures and bright colours for your child to explore. You can roll them along the floor or a play a game of catch to teach hand control and strength as your little one squeezes each ball. This is a great set for sensory stimulation and encourage hand-eye coordination.

Experts Opinion: These balls were popular with the children, they found the colours appealing and encouraged babies who are not yet mobile to reach for them – great for building core stability and strength. The size of the balls was perfect for little hands to grasp onto. The different textures also encouraged children to investigate with their hands and mouth. This product is durable and safe for children to put in their mouths and would be great for children on their teething journey. This toy promoted interaction and bonding as children would drop and roll the balls to their parents.

What The Testers Said:

“She loves them!” – Mother of 16-month-old

“She’d play with these all day.” – Mother of 36-month-old

Skills Developed:

  • Provides sensory stimulation
  • Helps develop muscles in the hands
  • Encourages interaction with others


Fun Skills Development Ease of Use Age
3/5 4/5 5/5 6 months – 3 years

10. Early Learning Centre Wooden Pancake Set

Toy Description: Have all the roleplay fun with the Wooden Pancake Set by Early Learning Centre. Inspire your little baker with this fun set, have then butter the pan and practice flipping pancakes with the wooden spatula. Don’t forget to add your toppings! Perfect for a gift, this set encourages imaginative and pretend play.

Experts Opinion: Testers were keen to get their hands on this toy and began making their pancakes straight away. The children were talking through their steps and were having conversations with each other about what they will make. The butter comes in three segments and is connected by velcro, children enjoyed slicing through the butter with the knife, which is great for hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. This was a really popular set that the children did not want to stop playing with!

What The Children Said:

“Let’s do cooking!” – Girl aged 3

“I love pancakes! There’s two.” – Boy aged 3

Skills developed:

  • Encourages imaginative play
  • Develops hand-eye coordination
  • Promotes speech and communication


Fun Skills Development Ease of Use Age
4/5 4/5 5/5 3 – 5 years

11. Early Learning Centre Tea Set

Tea set toys.

Toy Description: Set your little hosts and hostesses up for success with this Early Learning Centre Tea Set – perfect for imaginative fun. Invite all your friends and family over to enjoy some afternoon tea and help your little one develop social skills as they colour match the different cups, saucers, and spoons. Create great stories to inspire the imagination.

Experts Opinion: Testers were eager to play with this durable set, it is bright and colourful. Children enjoyed colour matching the props and were enhancing their fine motor skills by stirring with the little spoons and trying to close the products with the lids. This set inspired plenty of conversation and roleplay.

What The Children Said:

“I like red. Which colour spoon would you like?” – Girl aged 4

“I pour water in here.” – Girl aged 3

Skills Developed:

  • Encourages imaginative play
  • Develops fine motor skills
  • Promotes communication and social skills


Fun Skills Development Ease of Use Age
4/5 4/5 4/5 3 – 5 years

12. Cupcake My First Dolly Ava Baby Doll

Baby plays with doll.

Toy Description: The Cupcake My First Dolly Ava Baby Doll is a great first doll for children who want to play grown-up. Ava is the perfect companion, with sparkly eyes and a oh-so-cute face, have your little one feed, dress and nurture this doll for endless fun roleplaying. Your child can easily remove Ava’s onesie and have fun dressing the doll and getting them ready for bed. This doll develops children’s imagination and social skills.

Experts Opinion: The dolls size and soft body makes this toy lightweight and perfect for small hands to carry and play with. Testers enjoyed the detail in the doll’s hands and feet and liked that the doll’s eyes would close when laying down. Some children would carry and rock the doll while others would try to take off her baby-gro. Most succeeded one their own but required adult assistance when trying to redress the doll. Dolls are fantastic toys for encouraging imaginative play, and social and emotional development. Children would also develop their fine motor skills as they practice buttoning the dolls clothes and using zips.  

What The Children Said: 

“Baby go sleep.” – Girl aged 2 

“Come on, get in the car.” – Girl aged 3  

Skills Developed: 

  • Promotes imaginative role-play 
  • Develops communication skills 
  • Encourages caring and nurturing behaviour 


Fun Skills Development Ease of Use Age
3/5 4/5 5/5 2+ years

13. Soft Stuff Mega Learning Dough Activity Set

Child plays with dough set.

Toy Description: The Soft Stuff Mega Learning Dough Activity Set by Early Learning Centre will offer your little one endless fun as they let their creativity run wild. The 20-page (double-sided) activity book teaches your child about numbers, letters, and shapes. You can wipe each activity sheet clean and reuse later. This set encourages early development as children can learn while shaping the dough using cutting tools and practising how to trace numbers and letters. Choose one of the five bright-coloured jumbo dough to roll out and make incredible shapes or build little figures after animals. This set includes time telling, colour mixing, emotions, and solar system activities – there is so much to discover!

Experts Opinion: This educational set was a hit with the testers. With a range of wipe-clean mats featuring various themes like letters, numbers, shapes, the solar system, animals, and vehicles, children can explore endless possibilities. Not only did all the testers enjoy moulding dough and strengthening their fine motor skills, but the set also covers a wide range of learning areas, including letter and number recognition, mathematics, and understanding the world.

What The Children Said:

“I wonder which one is the biggest planet. Definitely Jupiter.” – Boy aged 4

“11 o’clock. That’s when my mummy goes to bed.” – Girl aged 7

Skill Developed:

  • Develops hand and arm strength
  • Promotes creativity
  • Teaches children to follow instructions


Fun Skill Development Ease of Use Age
5/5 5/5 5/5 3 – 5 years

All about The Good Play Guide  

The Good Toy Guide was founded by child development expert Dr Amanda Gummer in 2012. Created to provide an independent, expert accreditation service for children’s products, The Guide provides a trusted resource for parents and gift-givers to find truly Good Toys.

Amanda has a PhD in Neuropsychology, the Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education and over 20 years’ experience working with children and families.

Having worked in children’s industries for many years, Amanda is now widely considered as the UK’s go-to expert on play, toys, and child development. She can regularly be seen in the media, including BBC News, Sky News, The Daily Mail and many more, offering advice on news stories and issues surrounding children, families, and child development.

Home of the Good Toy Guide and Good App Guide, Dr Gummer’s Good Play Guide is an independent, expert organisation, dedicated to ensuring every child can develop the skills they need to thrive during a happy healthy childhood. The team’s mission is to help make the world a more playful place.

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