So you survived the first year of parenthood and maybe even got your kid to sleep through the night. Nice work! And seemingly overnight, you now have a toddling, babbling, drooling little person in your home who’s grabbing everything in sight and shoving it into their mouth. Twelve-month milestones vary wildly, which is why finding 1-year-old birthday gifts can be tougher than changing a diaper while standing up. Gifts for 1-year-olds should, of course, be fun, but also help kids this age explore the world while mastering gross and fine motor skills.
You want products like shape sorters or stacking toys — any toy that encourages problem-solving is a winner. And because kids are figuring out how stuff works, give them things that look like the real deal: Pretend food is a great example. Plus, you absolutely want to invest in toys like Duplo blocks that will grow with your kids, and are modular so toddlers don’t get bored.
“From 1 to 2 years old, babies become ‘big kids’ — walking and talking. They increasingly want to do more for themselves and enjoy toys that give them a sense of independence and mastery. Think about stacking rings, simple knob puzzles, chunky toy cars and trains, big balls to toss, roll, kick and throw, and push-toys they can move,” says Rebecca Parlakian, the senior director of programs at Zero to Three.
One thing worth noting: The less a toy does, the more your child has to do with his or her imagination. And that’s what you want. Which is why this list is light on electronic and battery-powered toys that engage kids through hi-tech prowess — and loaded instead with beautiful and thoughtful design.
The Best Toys for 1-Year-Olds
Kids practice motor skills and learn cause-and-effect when they discover all the ways in which bird makes music — hidden away in this veritable Trojan chicken are a maraca, xylophone, guiro-like notched and textured surfaces, saddle-blanket clackers, wooden mallets, blocks and whirling gears.
Kids work on their fine motor skills, and their color recognition, as they use the pincers to put each bee in its respective hive.
Not only is this toy colorful and fun, but it also helps kids develop their coordination, balance, and motor skills.When kids push the toy, butterflies spin around. Kids learn about cause and effect, and burn off some energy.
A bright and engaging wood knob puzzle, this one teaches kids about shapes and colors while also helping them with their motor skills.
This bird teaches kids about shapes and colors, and helps hone their fine motor skills. They'll grab his spinning eyes, squeak his beak, and put coins in his slot. Once they figure out this last trick, they can flap his wings and let him hoot up a storm.
This funky monster teaches kids about gravity, weight, balance, and velocity as they place the various weights on the scale.
The cuddliest apex predator imaginable, this velveteen T-Rex (measuring 11 inches tall, and 14 inches from nose to tail) is the perfect sidekick for a tiny toddler. With weighted legs, it can stand up tall or be squeezed like a big dinosaur cloud for comfort.
Kids toss these textured balls, which help develop their senses, and learn all about movement and their own physicality.
This is a pull toy that's handsome, promotes activity in kids, and is built to last — a combination that can't be beat. But it's also responsible: It’s made from recycled plastic milk jugs, which is something every parent can feel good
Wood blocks can be stacked or piled to build a castle or a fort or a car or a mountain. It's nonstop open-ended play that feeds the imagination. Your kid will have hours of fun piling up and knocking down these 70 pieces that come in 18 colors, more than a dozen shapes, including arches, wheels, bead threader, rolling ramp, and shape sorter. And it all converts into a pull car.
These chunky toy cars teach kids about motion. These bright cars are stackable, and have wheels that are easy for little hands to maneuver.
Real world toys like this gorgeous fruit set help kids make sense of what they see around them. Not to mention, pretend toys encourage, you guessed it, pretend play. As kids serve up pretend meals.
The four simple solid-wood blocks on this shape-sorting tray offer kids a surprisingly rich world of possibilities — the cloud, bird, bee, and apple each make a different sound, engaging curious kids with color and musicality, stimulating sensory learning.
This four-piece puzzle is made from recycled milk jugs — which means, 100 percent safe recycled plastic (no BPA, phthalates, or PVC). It's also dishwasher-safe. With colorful, chunky puzzle pieces, it's a perfect first puzzle for a 1-year-old.
If your kid loves Elmo, this stacking toy will be your child's favorite for a long time to come and will help him or her learn about shapes and colors.
Pretend play gets a real-life twist with toy pots and pans that have the look and feel of the real thing. Whether they're used as metal drums or wooden-block carriers or in a play kitchen, to cook up some felt-and-velcro veggies, a kitchen play set launches years of edifying, screen-free fun. This stain-steel set includes a colander, pot with lid, two pans, two wooden utensils, and a rack.
A wonderful, modular set of blocks that teaches kids problem-solving as they figure out for themselves how things fit together.
You can go super high-tech with toys, but we love this back-to-basics stacking cup set, which encourages motor skills. It's a surefire winner. Kids can scoop and pour water, build towers and forts by turning the cups upside down, or just sort the cups by size.
One year olds match each brightly-colored ball to its designated slot. The hammer toys help promote hand-eye coordination and improves dexterity. Plus, it lets kids bang stuff while learning their colors.
A stroller like this beauty encourages kids to engage in pretend play, which, in turn, can help them develop problem-solving skills. Plus, loading it up and moving it from one place to another is just endless amounts of fun.
A more electronic take on the traditional pull toy. This canine plays more than 60 songs and has a light-up nose to keep your child's attention focused. It helps teach numbers and colors, too.
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