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 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.
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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. And you can never go wrong with books.
“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.
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The Best Toys for 1-Year-Olds
Chock full of the industry-leading Montessori toys, a box of goodies arrives every three months, making this a gift that keeps on giving. From puzzles to learning aids, it's got it all in forms sure to please a little one. It's also tailored to specific ages, ensuring your child is never without an appropriate challenge.
One of our favorite toys, this one is a sensory sensation that lets kids explore shapes and colors while also burning off some energy. Kids play with 60 soft plastic balls, that come in two sizes and six colors. And when they're done, the balls zip up inside the turtle.
Getting the felt and fabric pineapple, banana, strawberry, slice of watermelon, apple, pear and orange out of the basket, and back into the basket, takes effort. Coordination. Focus. Concentration. All the skills you want your toddler to develop while engaging in open-ended play.
You don't need a ton of space for this wood climbing wall, because it folds up when not in use. But when it is in use (and it locks into place), it helps your toddler work on her balance, learn about her center of gravity, and develop her motor skills. Best of all, the inside doubles as a tunnel.
The hands-on activities on this wood table help toddlers develop their fine motor skills, as they turn, roll, flip, spin, slide, and shake all the attached pieces. Best of all, this table is low enough to the ground that wobbly walkers can sit down and play with the jungle animals.
Dolls are nurturing toys, teaching kids how to care for something. This 12 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.
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.
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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