20 Best Gifts for 1-Year-Olds
Wondering what the best gifts for a 1-year-old are? Now that little ones have a year of learning and growing under their belts, they’re even more interactive in their play—and enthusiastic about their toys. But knowing which toys will truly capture their attention can be a little daunting. After all, toddlers are developing at warp speed, and their abilities and interests are constantly changing. To help you narrow it down, we checked in with an expert to determine the types of playthings that are most appropriate and engaging for tots this age—and included some awesome, shoppable gift ideas for 1-year-olds you can toss into your cart. Gifting made easy!
Young toddlers probably can’t tell you what toys they want, but watching what they do is a great way to get the best gift ideas for 1-year-olds, since it gives you a peek into their developmental stage and interests. “At 12 months, your child is bursting with new skills,” says Christina Low Kapalu, a clinical child psychologist at Children’s Mercy Kansas City in Missouri. And given that toys are simply tools to help kids practice new abilities and learn about their surroundings, picking out a gift that encourages those newly gained skills is key.
While every child hits developmental milestones on their own unique schedule, at the one-year mark many toddlers can manage a pincer grasp (aka holding something between the index finger and thumb), Low Kapalu says. That fine motor skill paves the way for a first attempt at scribbling with a chubby crayon—so toddler art supplies can make for good gifts for 1-year-old boys and girls.
One-year-olds also often love taking items in and out of containers, which helps them hone those fine motor skills and spatial awareness—which is probably why so many toddler toys are designed around this action. Also, your mini mover and shaker might start to look for (and find) hidden objects incorporated into toys, and appreciate playthings that demonstrate cause and effect. It’s pretty thrilling to watch as the 1-year-old in your life realizes, “Oh! When I do that, this happens!”
Toddlers who have just hit their first birthday are typically all about tossing and shaking toys, and banging two objects together–which, as you can imagine, can get noisy. “You can use their natural interest in being ‘noise scientists’ with toys that can be easily manipulated and make fun sounds,” Low Kapalu says.
She also notes that toys with high-contrast colors make for some of the best gifts for 1-year-olds. “And soft toys, like stuffed animals, are great for your 1-year-old to interact with, especially when you join in,” she adds. “Finally, books always make my list of gift ideas for 1-year-olds. Reading to your child daily promotes language development.”
Now that you have some idea of what types of toys are perfect for this age group, it’s time to get shopping. Here, some of the best gifts for 1-year-old boys and girls.
Lamaze Grab & Hide Ball
This squishy sphere makes a chiming sound when rolled. Tots can “hide” and then “find” the cheery characters—but don’t worry, the critters are tethered to the ball so they won’t go missing. As one is pulled out in giggly glee, another slides inside.
Buy it: $25, Amazon.com
Jellycat Medium Odell Octopus Stuffed Animal
A beloved British kid brand, Jellycat is known for irresistibly tactile and oh-so-soft stuffed animals, and are some of the best gifts for 1-year-old girls and boys. This gangly octopus, sporting ribbed, floppy tentacles, is the ideal size for toddler hands to explore.
Buy it: $49, Nordstrom.com
Flora Forager ABC Book
You’ll be as fascinated by this beauteous board book as your child will. To illustrate each letter, the artist-author arranged images with petals, plants and other natural materials found in the wild and her Pacific Northwest yard. From angel fish to zebra, it’s a stunning gift for 1-year-olds.
Buy it: $11, Amazon.com
Melissa & Doug Flip Fish
One-year-olds go ga-ga over uncovering surprises—and yours will have crazy fun lifting up this fishie’s crinkly scales to peep at hidden pictures. Plus, its tail squeaks when squeezed! Up the aww factor by getting it personalized with the child’s name. Personalized Christmas gifts for 1-year-olds can get pricey, but here, 10 characters are included in the cost.
Buy it: $30, personalcreation.com
Manhattan Toy Treetop Adventure Activity Center
What do babies who are no longer infants yet barely toddlers love to do? Pull themselves to standing, and then explore. This stylish, gadget-filled activity table gives them a spot to do just that. The four “neighborhoods” of this mini jungle are populated with birds, bees, monkeys, ladybugs and more friendly faces, all ready to play. We’ve seen plenty of cool gifts for 1-year-olds in our day, but this is among the most exciting.
Buy it: $71, Amazon.com
Step2 Ultimate Christmas Bundle
If you’re shopping around for Christmas gifts for 1-year-olds, you’re going to love this set. Each toy here—My First Advent Calendar, My First Christmas Tree, My First Gingerbread House and My First Snowman—has interactive elements to boost fine motor skills and teach cause and effect. For instance, the wreath on the Gingerbread House lights up and chimes a Christmas song when pressed.
Buy it: $165, Step2.com
Janod Pure Ball Track
This fresh take on a marble maze is sure to wow any 1-year-old. As they help the wooden spools follow the track, children develop hand-eye coordination. Their sense of cause and effect will be bolstered too, when they realize each spool rings the bell as it hits the bottom.
Buy it: $28, Maisonette.com
Pottery Barn Kids Animal Wooden Puzzle
A puzzle is among the most classic gifts for 1-year-olds. Why? Because they help toddlers practice hand-eye coordination, motor skills and imaginative play. This wooden puzzle is extra a-roar-able thanks to the dinosaur pieces and tactile materials underneath.
Buy it: $29, PotteryBarnKids.com
Haba Fire Brigade Stacking Cubes
Toys that are lightweight but long-lasting are a winning combination for newly minted toddlers. Enter these super-sized cardboard blocks. They’re easy for little heros to stack and will hold up splendidly for many more daring rescues to come. Such a great set of tools for open-ended play deserves a spot on any list of the best gifts for 1-year-old boys and girls.
Buy it: $17, Amazon.com
Toothbrushes as gifts for 1-year-olds? Absolutely, when we’re talking about funny finger puppets doubling as pearly-white polishers. These first toothbrushes are made in the USA and come with a matching book starring the monkey, piggy, whale and dinosaur, all extolling oral hygiene in the cutest possible way. Because good habits start young.
Buy it: $30, TheBrushies.com
Custom Mini Elephant
Never underestimate the play power of a simple, squeezable friend. A 1-year-old’s concept of pretend play is just starting to take hold. This budget-friendly pachyderm stands ready to accompany your child on every adventure ahead. (It comes in a choice of fabrics.)
Buy it: $10, Etsy.com
Fisher-Price Linkimals Smooth Moves Sloth
Move over, llama: Sloths are the new “it animal.” This dancing dude will encourage your child to get grooving (aka polishing up on gross motor skills) by clapping and bobbing to music. Aside from a variety of tunes, your little one can activate learning games by pressing a button.
Buy it: $24, Amazon.com
Hape Pound & Tap Bench
Unleash your budding maestro’s musical genius. This toy offers two ways to play: Drop the balls through the holes onto the keys, or remove the Xylophone and bang on it with the mallet. (Musical fun and banging? You can see why we named this among the best gifts for a 1-year-old.) This classic toy with a twist is primed to become a prized hand-me-down.
Buy it: $26, Amazon.com
Montessori Sorting Toy
Matching, sorting, stacking! Tots will get plenty of pincer-grasp practice as they fiddle with rainbow-hued spheres and pots of this handmade set. Burgeoning color-recognition skills will also get a workout, especially when you join in the play.
Buy it: $16, Etsy.com
Skip Hop Explore and More Egg Shakers
The shape, size, and weight of these mini musical instruments make grabbing them irresistible to 1-year-olds. After all, shaking stuff is something they’re really good at. The fox, owl and hedgehog each make a different sound.
Buy it: $10, Amazon.com
Fat Brain Toys Dimpl
The eye-catching simplicity and tactility of this hand-held toy is what makes it completely captivating—and a good gift for 1-year-olds. Jewel-tone silicone bubbles push through to the other side with a satisfying pop. (Basically, it’s the fidget toy of your dreams.) Trust us, it’ll preserve your sanity more than once during long car rides.
Buy it: $13, Amazon.com
PlanToys Coast Guard Boat
A bath toy made of wood? You don’t see that every day, but here’s proof toys can be sustainable and wonderfully functional. Captains-in-training will explore the high seas of their imaginations with this buoyant rubberwood craft.
Buy it: $14, Amazon.com
Honeysticks Beeswax Crayons
One-year-olds are just starting to make their mark, so to speak. Encourage your toddler’s artistic side with a set of these chubby first crayons. The shape makes them easy to use but hard to break—a hallmark of the best gifts for 1-year-olds! They’re made of New Zealand beeswax (a natural byproduct of honey production) and food-grade colors.They even smell sweet!
Buy it: $23, Amazon.com
If (or rather, when) your 1-year-old tosses things around the house, you’ll want those things to be these soft, handmade balls that won’t leave wreckage in their wake. They’re sold as a set of six—handy, since you know one is getting lost the first day. You can make up your set from any combination of nine colors.
Buy it: $16, Etsy.com
Radio Flyer Classic Wagon Walker
Christmas gifts for 1-year-olds tend to be more significant toys, and this one is a prime contender. The wagon can be set to roll easily or with more resistance to help beginning walkers build confidence. Bumpers ensure your furniture goes unscathed. Bonus: Since the sides come off, it can have a second life as a unique toy or book bin in your child’s room.
Buy it: $79, Amazon.com
Published October 2019
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, some of which may be sponsored by paying vendors.
Plus, more from The Bump: