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 and Christmas 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 around them 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
This gorgeous wood pony is chock-full of activities that challenge all those motor skills. We're talking flapping ears, gliders, spinning dials, bead runs, a shape sorter, and blocks that teach them the basics of the alphabet. Boring? Quite the opposite.
It's a mashup of two great concepts: Sesame Street and magnetic tiles. Kids play with Elmo, Big Bird, and Oscar while learning about shapes, numbers, colors, and building whatever their imaginations dream up.
A sensory smorgasbord, this push and pull toy features shape sorters, spinning dials, and bead runs. In other words, plenty of things to activate those fine motor skills and keep your 1 year old highly engaged.
What's more fun than loading up a buggy and pushing it around? Unloading it, what's what. This hardy, durable, and very cute stroller is perfect for little adventures.
Is it a dog? A caterpillar? A worm? All the above. Kids work on their motor skills as they twist the puzzle pieces to create a specific creature.
Birds and bunnies, oh my! This train is made up of three wagons that kids can push or pull, and they stack 17 blocks, along with the animals, so everything stays safely in place when the caboose hits the road.
It's a working garage for the win. Kids turn the crank to ride the elevator up and down, and when a car breaks down, they put it on the mechanic’s platform to look underneath and fix what's wrong.
Beginner and more expert walkers can go shopping with this wood trolley, which includes cardboard food boxes and two paper shopping bags. They put stuff in. Take stuff out. And it never gets old.
A great movement toy for walkers, this one transforms from rocker to push toy to ride-on in seconds.
These wood blocks help toddlers learn about colors and gravity. And they can stack and stack with impunity until they inevitably fall down, which just makes it all the more fun, and challenging.
The turtle is hungry, and the only way to solve that problem is by having kids feed it different shapes. Thus working on shape recognition and hand-eye coordination.
So simple and so perfect: Kids' problem solving skills get a nice workout as they try to fit the correct shapes into the correct openings.
Children learn by watching and doing. And this wood kitchen lets them hone their motor skills as they make breakfast or lunch by stirring what's in the pot.
These cards help children with social-emotional learning, as they match the expressions on kids' faces with the corresponding feelings.
They thought of everything with this tool belt. The measuring tape retracts. And kids can start fixing things around the house with the pretend hammer, screwdriver, and saw with real wooden handles. There's a donut when they get hungry.
Children love to take stuff out of a bag and put it back into a bag. And these soft balls, which rattle or jingle, Iare easy for them to manage. In doing so, they learn to problem-solve, as they maneuver the ball in and out and in and out.
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.
Playing with your food just got even more fun. This 13-piece cooking set includes bendy felt-covered spaghetti and a slew of weird ingredients kids can attach to the noodles. Thus giving their motor skills (and imaginations) a workout.
Dolls are nurturing toys, teaching kids how to care for something. This 15 inch doll is soft, cuddly, and more diverse than the mostly all-white offerings out there. The pacifier is magnetic, and she has removable and interchangeable doll outfits and diapers.
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
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.
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 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.
If you're looking for a total splurge, the kind of gift that will make your toddler go nuts, behold this stunner of a play kitchen. It's made by Amish artisans from sustainable Baltic birch and North American maple, and topped with water-based, low-VOC, and HAPs-free finishes. It's a keepsake that will last for years, and it's also perfect for pretend play, as kids cook up dinner, and clean up.
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