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The Best Gifts for One-Year-Olds

Experts weigh in on the best toys for one-year-old tots.
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By Martina Garvey, E-Commerce Editor
Updated June 26, 2024
Hero Best Gifts for One-Year-Olds
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So your child is officially a toddler—now what? It may seem like just yesterday you had a newborn, and now they’re scooting about, socializing and exploring everything in their path. How time flies! While they’ll still have fun with their old playthings, any new toys and gifts should align with baby’s growing abilities and sense of self. But determining which toys will truly capture their attention can be a bit daunting. Luckily, we’re here to help with an expert guide on how to find the best toys and gifts for one-year-old children.

According to Lisa Lohiser, EdD, manager of Early Childhood Development Research at the Fisher-Price Play Lab kids this age often discover themselves through pretend play and solve problems through trial and error. And while learning opportunities are important, remember that the terms “fun” and “educational” aren’t mutually exclusive. “Play is how children learn best!” explains Mariel Benjamin, LCSW, Vice President of Groups and Content at Cooper Parenting and Program Director at the Mount Sinai Parenting Center. “Children learn by experiencing—by acting out, touching, feeling, and manipulating objects around them.” With that said, Mona Amin, MD, a pediatrician based in Miami, Florida points out that “there’s variability in developmental milestones,” meaning that each child will grow and learn at their own pace and will have unique preferences. If your little one doesn’t show much interest in classic toys for one-year-olds, opt for playthings that better align with their interests.

Ready to shop for your not-so-little little one? Whether you’re searching for first birthday gift ideas or simply want to add a new toy to your kids’ collection, we’re here to help. Check out our pick of the best toys and gifts for one-year-olds, plus expert tips to help them learn and grow.

How We Chose the Best Toys and Gifts for One-Year-Olds

We get it—parenting requires a lot of gear, and it can be hard to find the best fit for your family. To streamline your decision-making process, our goal is to do the bulk of the research for you, so you don’t have to spend hours scrolling through online retailers. Here’s how we put together this roundup of toys and gifts for one-year-old kids:

  • We consulted a variety of experts—including a child psychologist, pediatrician, social worker and toy expert—for advice on what makes a great gift for one-year-olds.
  • To make sure we’re highlighting products that are safe and effective, we followed the safety recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). - We considered a list of criteria including ease of use, quality and durability, value, style and, last but definitely not least, safety—so you can count on getting the best bang for your buck, while also having a dependable product that will meet your family’s needs.
  • We leveraged our familiarity with leading baby brands and made sure items are from reliable manufacturers. And since many of us are also parents, we put our staff to work, asking them to evaluate the toys they’ve used with their own families.

To understand how these toys have worked for a variety of kids, we conducted exhaustive market research, scouring external forums and message boards and reading user reviews to find out what parents nationwide looked for in the best toys and gifts for one-year-olds.

Editorial integrity is at the heart of everything we publish. Read about how The Bump develops and reviews all articles, including product reviews.

Best Toys and Gifts for One-Year-Olds

Personalized nursery rhyme book

Wonderbly Your Treasury of Nursery Rhymes
Image: Wonderbly

All of the experts we spoke to agree that reading to baby is one of the best forms of play at this age. “Reading to your child daily promotes language development,” says Christina Low Kapalu, PhD, a clinical child psychologist at Children’s Mercy Kansas City in Missouri. And reciting nursery rhymes is a great way to bond with your little one. The sing-song stories will soothe and delight little ones at bedtime, all while laying the foundation for strong literacy skills. This personalized pick from Wonderbly, features your child as the hero in 30 classic songs and stories. As an aunt of two, I’ve bought my nieces several books by Wonderbly over the years, and I’m always amazed by the quality and personalization options.

Age range: 0 to 3 years | Batteries required: No | Assembly required: No

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Age-appropriate play kit

Lovevery The Babbler Play Kit
Image: Lovevery
Buying Options
Lovevery|$120

Searching for stage-based toys for one-year-olds? Look no further than Lovevery’s play kits. This set has been designed with newly minted toddlers in mind, and is full of Montessori-inspired playthings to promote healthy development. Inside, you’ll find nine different toys that will teach your child about cause and effect, spatial relationships and establishing routines. Carolyn M., a mom of one, is a fan of the entire kit but was particularly impressed with two items: The Slide & Seek Ball Run and Flexible Wooden Stacker. “The toys get played with multiple times a day, every day. Both toys are also super durable; we've thrown the wooden stacker in our diaper bag to take it on the go, and the ball run has been knocked over countless times with no wear.” Plus, the kit comes with a guide to help parents have meaningful playtime experiences with their children.

Age range: 13 to 15 months | Batteries required: No | Assembly required: No

Our community says:

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Climbing triangle

Avenlur Maple Wood Small Triangle Climbing Set with Ladder
Image: Avenlur

It’s no secret that 12-month-olds are big fans of play that incorporates movement. At this age, your child is pulling themselves up to stand or cruising all by themselves, giving them a newfound sense of independence, says Amin. This makes climbing sets—like this one by Avenlur—top-notch toys for one-year-old kids. The three-piece set includes a climbing triangle, an arched ramp and a wooden slide that doubles as a rockwall. Simply adjust the height and position of the climbing triangle to keep your tot engaged all the way up to 5 years old. Oh and did we mention that this toy recently received a Best of The Bump award?

Age range: 1 to 5 years | Batteries required: No | Assembly required: Yes

Our community says:

The durability of the climbing set is flawless, and doesn't take up a lot of space. I believe this climbing set will last for several years. I have another daughter who is 6 months and I can't wait for her to enjoy it as well! - Rhea S., mom of two

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Toy wagon

Radio Flyer Classic Wagon Walker
Image: Walmart

Push or pull-along wagons make awesome toys for one-year-olds. Why? At this stage of development many children take their first teetering steps and push toys can help beginner walkers build confidence. This shiny red wagon is the perfect size for young toddlers and has a “resist” push feature that’ll help your kiddo master those all important balance skills without gaining too much speed. Plus, bumpers ensure your furniture goes unscathed. And, since the sides come off, this push toy can have a second life as a unique toy or book bin in your child’s room.

Age range: 1 to 4 years | Batteries required: No | Assembly required: Yes

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Plush toy

JellyCat Medium Odell Octopus Stuffed Animal
Image: Amazon

Some young toddlers may feel nervous around people outside of their immediate family bubble. But a plush toy, doll or lovey can help kids self-soothe if they begin to feel a little anxious in new social situations. We think this gangly octopus would make the perfect comfort item, thanks to the long tactile tentacles that are the right size for toddler hands to grip. And, like all Jellycat stuffed animals, this little critter is insanely soft and snuggly.

Age range: 0+ years | Batteries required: No | Assembly required: No

Our community says:

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Pound and tap bench

Hape Pound & Tap Bench with Slide Out Xylophone
Image: Hape

Unleash your mini 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 chose this among the best gifts for a one-year-old. In fact, community member Anahí G-R described it as “the most fun and versatile toy,” mentioning that her 14-month-old loves putting other items through the holes and making them slide down as well as using it to make music. This classic toy with a twist is primed to become a much-prized hand-me-down.

Age range: 1+ years | Batteries required: No | Assembly required: No

Our community says:

My daughter really enjoys playing with this toy! The quality is also really good and it looks like we’ll be having fun with this xylophone for years to come. - Anahí G-R., mom of one

We've been playing with this toy daily for several months! It's fun for all and can be played with in a ton of different ways. We use the hammer on everything in our playroom, we use everything in the playroom as a mallet to play the xylophone and we also use the balls interchangeably with tons of other toys. Our one year old has even flipped the toy on its side and used it as a push-walker! - Carolyn M., mom of one

This is one of our favorites! Still in good shape for when baby #3 is ready to start playing - Catherine M., mom of three

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Building blocks

Mega Bloks Fisher-Price Toy Blocks
Image: Walmart

The easy-to-grab shapes and bright colors make this stackable block set one of the most popular presents for one-year-olds. With 80 different shapes and sizes, these blocks give toddlers the perfect opportunity to get creative with their building. “My daughter is 14 months old and she is just learning how to build towers with them. She has had so much fun with 8 to 10 blocks at a time, but I’m sure she’ll be needing more and more as she gets older,” says mom of one Anahí. Use the blocks to talk with your baby about what they are doing—for example “you’re putting that on top!”

Age range: 1+ years | Batteries required: No | Assembly required: No

Our community says:

The most durable and less of a headache for parents than LEGO! These are a fan favorite in the Stewart house…Some of ours were gifted as early as 2018, and our 5-year-old still reaches for them over newer ‘big kid’ toys. - Lauren S., mom of two

Love the bright colors and how big these blocks are! They are easy to connect and the perfect size for their little hands to handle. - Anahí G-R., mom of one

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Soft climb and crawl set

ECR4Kids SoftZone Climb and Crawl Playset
Image: Amazon
Buying Options
Amazon|$139.99

Have a mini athlete at home? Then this soft foam activity set is a must. It’s no secret that tots love to explore and reach new heights, and this climber will allow them to do so safely and independently. Amin cites this option as “a great example of an open-ended toy, since the play possibilities are endless.” Plus, it’ll help foster the development of their physical skills. Mom of twins and The Bump community member, Kathy S. can attest to this: “It provides a really great way for them to practice using different muscles while climbing on and off, but keeps them low enough to the ground to avoid being hurt if they fall. It also gives them opportunities for more gross motor skills as they grow.”

Age range: 9+ months | Batteries required: No | Assembly required: No

Our community says:

This was such a game changer! My twins received a set for their first Christmas (1 month prior to their first birthday) and it’s still a favorite in our home. Now that my twins are 3, this set is still in great condition and we use it for ‘the floor is lava’ and to make bridges several times a week! - Kathy S., mom of twins

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Balance bike

Retrospec Cricket Baby Walker Balance Bike
Image: Retrospec

An appropriately sized balance bike promotes coordination and builds strength, says Amin, making this next option one of the best toys for one-year-olds. Your child will love zooming around on their new set of wheels—and you’ll love how it boosts their motor skill development. For peace of mind, this bike is equipped with scratch-resistant wheels to keep your kiddo stable whether they’re cruising inside or out. Remember to have your child wear a helmet while using a balance bike to protect their head, says Amin.

Age range: 1 to 2 years | Batteries required: No | Assembly required: Yes

Our community says:

My daughter was gifted this mini balance bike for her first birthday, and it was a massive hit! I was actually pretty skeptical that she could use it at such a young age, but she took to it right away. It was a fantastic way for her to hone her gross motor skills and burn off some energy, it was a favorite in the house for the next two years. - Ashlee N., mom of two

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Textured plush toy

Melissa & Doug K’s Kids Flip Fish Baby Toy
Image: Melissa & Doug

Melissa & Doug K’s Kids Flip Fish Baby Toy Curious about the world around them, one-year-olds love uncovering surprises—and yours will have crazy fun lifting up this fish’s crinkly scales to peep at hidden pictures. Plus, its tail squeaks when squeezed!

Age range: 1+ months | Batteries required: No | Assembly required: No

Our community says:

Great for interactions with textures, counting, colors, animals and we used it a ton during tummy time. [Our] daughter LOVED this toy when she received it. However as she’s gotten older it has become another ‘lovey’ vs. something she comes back to. - Lauren S., mom of two

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Baby doll

Manhattan Toy Wee Baby Stella Doll & Accessories Set
Image: Nordstrom
Buying Options
Amazon|$14.99

At this age, toddlers are taking in their surroundings in a whole new way, which often is expressed through pretend play. A doll can help little ones feel a sense of responsibility as they mimic their parents’ behaviors—plus, they allow tots to self-soothe when they feel anxious. Kathy told us that her twins received a set of baby dolls right around their first birthday and said that the toys were a great way to assist in teaching them how to have “gentle hands” by showing them how to “care for” their baby doll. “It's been two years since they received their baby dolls, and they still love to put baby to sleep, or put them in the high chair to eat, and in general just mimic how we care for them,” Kathy continues. There’s a ton of dolls on the market, but this plush option is a perfect first birthday gift as it comes with a birthday crown, removable bib, cupcake and a magnetic pacifier. How cute is that?

Age range: 1+ years | Batteries required: No | Assembly required: No

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Heirloom-quality pajamas

Hanna Andersson Baby Striped 2-Way Zip Sleeper
Image: Hanna Andersson
Buying Options
Hanna Andersson|$29

Next up is a gift for one-year-olds that parents will appreciate. Crafted from Hanna Andersson’s signature cotton, these PJs are equal parts cute and comfortable. Better yet, the high-quality sleep suit won’t pill or fade, meaning it can be handed down to younger siblings. And get a load of that cute print! According to Lauren, the pajamas run a little large. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing! She recommends buying your child's actual size as you may get more than one season of wear from them.

Age range: 0-3 months to 18-24 months | Batteries required: No | Assembly required: No

Our community says:

The best of the best. Many that we received or purchased for our first born were handed down to our daughter, and even passed along to neighbors and friends. - Lauren S., mom of two

Love the prints, the colors and the fit of these pajamas. The first ones we got were hand-me-downs from my sister in law and they looked and felt like new even after years of wearing and washing. I had to buy a few more after my daughter outgrown them. - Anahí G-R., mom of one

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Sensory toy

Toddlers delight in repetitive tasks. Why? They help kids to learn about the world around them, understand cause and effect and refine motor skills. The Inny Binny is a simple yet ingenious toy that draws on this love of repetition. It comes with six textured blocks (in various shapes and sizes) and a large cube container. Kids can easily push the shapes through the elastic bands of the cube, for a frustration-free game that’ll keep them occupied for longer than you think. “This is a toy that not only helps them develop their fine motor skills but also helps them learn problem solving skills,” says Anahí. Another community member reports that this toy suffered “no damage despite rough play,” but she wishes it was easier to wipe clean as the elastic “ropes” have become stained over time and the nooks and crannies tend to trap dirt. Despite this bugbear, she told us that this toy was a big hit with her 18-month-old.

Age range: 6+ months | Batteries required: No | Assembly required: No

Our community says:

It definitely helped with fine motor skills! They also love to put other, oddly-shaped items in there. Both kids spent a lot of time with this toy. - Kate F., mom of two

“It’s so fun to see my daughter figure out how to put her hand through the elastic bands and how to pull the toys through it. She used to go for the ‘easy’ round ball but as she gets older, she has been able to go for the more complex-shaped pieces.” - Anahí G-R., mom of one

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Plush sensory book

Jellycat Soft Cloth Baby Books
Image: Nordstrom

Lohiser recommends sturdy books that feature familiar pictures, peek-a-boo elements or textures for your tot to explore. And this soft, sensory book by Jellycat certainly meets the mark. Your little one will delight in grabbing the fluffy “tails” poking out from the pages. Each one looks or feels different, encouraging your tot to learn and explore with their hands.

Age range: 0+ years | Batteries required: No | Assembly required: No

Our community says:

My daughter got this book as a gift and loved it ever since. We not only love all the textures and colors, but we also use it to learn and practice animal sounds. It is also a great toy to bring when traveling as it helps keep my daughter entertained during long drives and flights. - Anahí G-R., mom of one

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Toy subscription

KiwiCo Panda Crate
Image: KiwiCo

How about a gift that keeps on giving? Introducing KiwiCo—the bimonthly toy subscription service for babies and toddlers. Designed for ages 0 to 24 months, the Panda Crate is packed with fun, educational projects created by child-development experts to promote bonding, language development, math skills and more. Now that’s a clever gift for one-year-olds. Bonus: For 50 percent off the first month's subscription of any KiwiCo crate, use discount code THEBUMP.

Age range: 0 to 36 months | Batteries required: No | Assembly required: No

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Tractor toy

John Deere Animal Sounds Wagon Ride - Grow with Me Toy
Image: Walmart

The best toys for one-year-olds grow with your child. Case in point: This fun farm wagon by John Deere. Initially, baby can enjoy it as a simple push-along toy. As your child engages in more advanced play, they’ll delight in the sing-along animal song and the built-in matching game. And it's sure to delight kids with a fixation on all things motorized.

Age range: 1 to 4 years | Batteries required: No | Assembly required: No

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Toddler ride-on toy

Little Tikes Cozy Coupe Ride On Toy for Toddlers and Kids
Image: Walmart

Around the 12-month mark children often start to engage in early forms of pretend play. So why not lean into this new stage of development by giving them their very first car? Albeit foot-powered. The iconic Cozy Coupe has been entertaining tots for generations and is a particular favorite among Millennial parents. While a young toddler may not yet be able to drive themselves around independently, in a few short months they’ll be riding up and down the sidewalk. And Lohiser notes that a foot-to-floor ride-on toy will promote self-confidence as your child discovers how to get around independently.

Age range: 18 months to 5 years | Batteries required: No | Assembly required: Yes

Our community says:

The Cozy Coupe has been around for decades, and it's not because parents are dissatisfied with its performance! The plastic is solid, the pieces all come together sturdily. I think my daughter will stop playing with this when she physically no longer fits inside, and it'll still be good to pass on to another child. - Daniel C., dad of one

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Toddler play tent

Babymoov Anti-UV Tent
Image: Nordstrom

Kids of all ages love having a cozy hideaway, and this play tent by Babymoov certainly fits the bill. It’s colorful and comfortable, thanks to the included padded mat. Plus, the UPF 50+ fabric means it’s safe for outdoor play too.

Age range: 0 to 6 years | Batteries required: No | Assembly required: Yes

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Bath toy set

Munchkin Bath Beats Musical Bath Toy Gift Set
Image: Munchkin

Combine baby’s love of water and music-making with this melodious bath toy set from Munchkin. It includes a drum, xylophone and two starfish shakers. Musical instruments support baby's cognitive and emotional development, while splashing around adds a sensory element to playtime, meaning this gift for one-year-olds is sure to hit all the right notes.

Age range: 1+ years | Batteries required: No | Assembly required: No

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Toy telephone

Fisher-Price Toddler Pull Toy Chatter Telephone
Image: Walmart

When in doubt, go for a classic toy. This walk-and-talk telephone by Fisher-Price has sound effects, a spinning dial and a friendly face with eyes that move up and down. Younger children can sit and “chat” on the phone, while little walkers can use it as a pull toy.

Age range: 1+ years | Batteries required: No | Assembly required: No

Our community says:

[My son] loves his Fisher Price Classic pull-behind chatter telephone. It's for 12+ months, but we just supervise him. He is fascinated. - bobbyme, The Bump community forum member

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Music station

Manhattan Toy Musical Llama Wooden Instrument for Toddlers
Image: Maisonette

This award-winning toy is a clever gift idea for one-year-olds. Packed with all the bells and whistles from head to tail—the llama’s removable tail doubles as a maraca!—this colorful wood activity stand is a great way to introduce children to music. “High-quality wooden toys are my go-to gifts for first birthdays, and I've reached for this llama from Manhattan Toy more than once!” says Ashlee Neuman, mom of two and content director for The Bump.

Age range: 1 to 7 years | Batteries required: No | Assembly required: No

Our community says:

It's sturdy, beautifully painted and offers plenty of interactive ways for tots to play. It's also pretty compact, so I don't feel guilty handing parents a massive toy that'll take up space. Highly recommend! - Ashlee N. mom of two

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Interactive toy

Fisher-Price DJ Bouncin’ Beats Electronic Baby & Toddler Learning Toy
Image: Walmart

This dancing dude is one of the best toys to encourage your child to get grooving (aka polishing up on motor skills) by clapping and bobbing to music. It features a variety of tunes—plus, your little one can activate learning games with the press of a button. Thousands of glowing reviews mark this out as one of the best gifts for one-year-olds.

Age range: 9 months to 3 years | Batteries required: Yes | Assembly required: No

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Baby swing

Finn + Emma Macrame Baby Swing
Image: Modern Nursery
Buying Options
Modern Nursery|$99

No need to wait for the perfect weather to take your kiddo to the playground. This handmade bohemian swing is perfect for a nursery or playroom. It can be used indoors or outdoors, and holds up to 50 pounds, making it one of the best gifts for one-year-olds that they’ll be able to enjoy for years to come.

Age range: N/A | Batteries required: No | Assembly required: Yes

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Baby bath robe

Lalo The Hooded Towel
Image: Lalo
Buying Options
Lalo|$39

Bathtime can be a wonderful bonding opportunity for parents and baby. Once baby exits the bath, wrap them up in the supreme softness of Lalo’s hooded towel. Made from 100 percent Turkish cotton, this lightweight robe is gentle on baby’s sensitive skin and keeps them warm from head to toe. Who says luxury towels are just for grown-ups?

Age range: 0+ years | Batteries required: No | Assembly required: No

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Sensory ball

Edushape The Original Sensory Ball for Baby
Image: Amazon
Buying Options
Amazon|$19.99

Sometimes the simplest things can have the most impact: Take this sensory ball for example. Young toddlers have a natural urge to reach out and touch items, and this 7 inch ball is the perfect size for little hands to grasp. It’s durable, lightweight and bouncy, making it the perfect tool for toddler games. Plus, the BPA- and phthalate-free plastic surface has raised nubs that add another layer of sensory exploration to this toy for one-year-olds.

Age range: 6+ months | Batteries required: No | Assembly required: No

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Non-toxic crayons

Honeysticks 100% Pure Beeswax Crayons
Image: Walmart

One-year-olds are just starting to make their mark, so to speak. Encourage your toddler’s artistic side with a set of natural wax crayons. The crayons are made from New Zealand beeswax and food-grade colors, so they’re completely non-toxic and safe for your child. Designed for early grip development the chubby shape makes them easy to use but hard to break—a hallmark of the best gifts for one-year-olds!

Age range: 1+ years | Batteries required: No | Assembly required: No

Our community says:

These crayons are impressively durable, largely due to their thick size. My toddler loved using them, and she's tough on her gear. - Korin M., mom of four

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Ball pit

Little Big Playroom Boho Collection Rainbow On Ivory Ball Pit Bundle
Image: Maisonette

Searching for standout gift ideas for one-year-olds? Check out this plush ball pit. Made from super-cushy fabric, designed to prevent bumps and bruises, this particular model is safe for young toddlers to dive in and explore. The crush-proof balls are light, durable and just the right size for your little one’s hands to grasp. It comes in a few different color combinations, but this rainbow print option is our current favorite.

Age range: 6 months to 6 years| Batteries required: No | Assembly required: No

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Stacking cups

Mushie Stacking Cups Toy
Image: The Natural Baby Company

Matching, sorting, stacking! Tots will exercise critical thinking and fine motor skills as they explore this set of six stacking cups. Each cup has holes in the base, meaning they make excellent water and sand toys too. Burgeoning color-recognition skills will also get a workout, especially when you join in the play. Plus, this set is made from sustainable materials so it’s an eco-friendly (not to mention affordable!) gift for one-year-olds.

Age range: 0 to 3 years | Batteries required: No | Assembly required: No

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Play kitchen

Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Baby & Toddler Toy Learning Kitchen Playset
Image: Amazon
Buying Options
Amazon|$43.43

Does your tot always want to help out with household tasks? Then this is the gift for them. This pint-sized play kitchen gives kids an outlet to mimic their parents and gain confidence with everyday activities. It may be small, but this double-sided kitchen boasts an oven, stovetop, sink and a fridge complete with a shape-sorting activity. Plus, it plays songs and recites phrases in Spanish and English making it an ideal gift for one-year-olds growing up in a bilingual home.

Age range: 6 to 3 years | Batteries required: Yes | Assembly required: No

Our community says:

Buy Now

Toy racing cars

Melissa & Doug GO Tots Wooden Race Cars
Image: Melissa & Doug

Toy cars are a classic one-year-old birthday gift. Why? Aside from the fact that many kids are fascinated by vehicles, toy cars satisfy their love of movement and motion. This duo of wooden race cars comes with two double-sided disks decorated with relatable characters. Simply slot a disk into the car and watch it spin at lightning speed as the race commences.

Age range: 1+ years | Batteries required: No | Assembly required: No

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What Are the Best Toys for One-Year-Olds?

Young toddlers probably can’t tell you what toys they want, but watching what they do is a great way to brainstorm first birthday gift ideas, since it gives you a peek into their developmental stage and interests. “At 12 months, your child is bursting with new skills,” explains Low Kapalu. And given that toys are simply tools to help kids practice new abilities and learn about their surroundings, picking out a good gift for a one-year-old 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). That fine motor skill paves the way for a first attempt at scribbling with a chubby crayon—so toddler art supplies are a good choice for one-year-olds.

Many kids in this age range also 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 (think: sorting cubes, bead mazes and other toys that encourage repetition). 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 little one in your life realizes: “Oh! When I do that, this happens!”

One-year-olds are also making leaps and bounds in their gross motor skills, so toys that support their efforts to explore, move and be on the go are great too. Because one-year-olds are so excited about interacting with others, almost anything can become a toy or a game with a little creativity. A few good starting points for your search include:

  • Open-ended toys. Try to offer toys that have multiple uses and do not have their own set agenda. A musical instrument is a great place to start.
  • Construction toys. A simple set of blocks to bang together, stack or toss are a great first birthday choice.
  • Water toys. Play in the bathtub, get a water table or start with painting. Let your baby have a sensory experience playing, dumping and getting comfortable. - Physical toys. Balls, slides, tunnels, pillows to climb on, push-pull toys etc. Have a variety of materials that support climbing, crawling, tracking, throwing, jumping and getting their body to move.

Whatever you choose, make sure that the item in question is age-appropriate and safe. According to the AAP, toys that can fit entirely in a young child’s mouth—or items with small removable parts—are a no-go, as they pose a choking risk to children under the age of 3.

What to Look for in Toys and Gifts for One-Year-Old

When it comes to toys for one-year-olds, there are a lot of options out there, making it hard to streamline your search. That’s why we’ve talked to experts to get the low-down on what you should consider when shopping. Below, discover what features the best options have in common to create enriching playtime experiences for your tot:

  • Movement. “As the name suggests, toddlers are constantly on the move learning new skills,” says Lohiser. Keep playtime engaging by incorporating toys that encourage your little one to be active. Lohiser recommends “toys with wheels to push or pull, balls to chase or music to dance to.”
  • Problem-solving elements. Toys for one-year-olds that feature doors, lids and switches, or stacking, nesting and sorting elements are all great choices, according to Lohiser. This is because your child is able to pick up smaller objects with their thumb and pointer finger, allowing them to be more precise with their movements, says Amin. Not only will your tot find these toys stimulating, but they’ll also increase your little one’s attention span and teach them perseverance, Amin adds.
  • Collaboration. “Find toys that you can enjoy playing with alongside your child,” Benjamin says. Sit down beside your child and narrate their activities during playtime. Benjamin stresses that “it’s far more important that you’re playing with and interacting with your child than spending a lot of money on toys. A one-year-old is exploring new ways of being independent and discovering their environment. They enjoy playing with and interacting with others above all else!”
  • Musical elements. Toddlers who’ve just hit their first birthday are typically all about tossing, shaking 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.
  • Pretend play. Feel like you constantly have eyes on you? You’re not imagining it. At this age, your little one is closely watching your behavior and will probably start imitating what they see. For this reason, Lohiser suggests picking out toys that allow them to play pretend. Your child may even find fun in household chores, says Amin. For these kiddos, a child-sized vacuum, mop or kitchen set would be ideal.
  • Quality materials. Your little one may be a “big kid” now, but children around the one-year mark will most likely still explore their surroundings via their mouths. With this in mind, opt for items made from non-toxic materials and avoid anything with loose parts.

About the writer:

Martina Garvey is an editor at The Bump, where she writes and edits e-commerce content about pregnancy, postpartum and parenting. Over an eight-year career in educational publishing and digital media, Martina has developed a keen eye for detail and robust reporting skills. As a staff member on The Bump for over three years, she leverages an in-depth knowledge of must-have baby gear and postpartum essentials alongside a passion for the latest trends to create informative content parents can trust.

Sources

Lisa Lohiser, EdD, is a Fisher-Price Play Lab expert, where she provides insights into how kids learn and play, and how to best support their development. She has a doctorate in education with a focus on learning and teaching in social contexts, as well as a master’s degree in creativity and change leadership and a bachelor’s degree in elementary education.

Mona Amin, MD, is a board-certified pediatrician based in Florida. She’s also the host of the PedsDocTalk podcast. She received her medical degree from ATSU School of Osteopathic Medicine in Arizona, and completed her pediatric residency at the Bernard and Millie Duker Children’s Hospital in Albany, New York.

Christina Low Kapalu, PhD, is a clinical child psychologist at Children’s Mercy Kansas City in Missouri. She received her PhD from Washington State University and completed her fellowship in pediatric psychology at Children's Mercy Kansas City.

Mariel Benjamin, LCSW, is the Vice President of Groups and Content at Cooper Parenting and Program Director at the Mount Sinai Parenting Center, and has over 10 years of experience working with families and children. She received her BA and BS summa cum laude from Northwestern University, and her master’s degree from New York University.

Healthy Children (AAP), Choking Prevention, September 2019

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