Finding the best gifts for one-year-olds is surprisingly difficult. Sure, at this age, anything can be a toy. But not all toys are created equal. You want toys for one-year-olds that inspire and challenge your kid, not to mention help them to develop crucial social, fine motor, and hand-eye coordination skills. Plus, you want one-year-old birthday gifts to be open-ended, engaging, and fun, while still achieving all the above.
So what to look for? While 12-month milestones vary widely, your child will likely be able to play simple games like peek-a-boo, wave bye, and say a few simple words. Your child will also likely shake, bang, and throw toys and objects as well as be able to take things out of a container.
This means you want products like shape sorters or stacking toys — any toy that encourages problem-solving. And because kids are figuring out how the world 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.
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 includes very few electronic toys, or toys that otherwise engage children with battery-powered prowess, instead of beautiful and thoughtful design.
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 parrot is a stacking toy that doubles as an interactive voice recorder.
How does that work? Well, once the plastic base and four wooden stacking pieces come together, the parrots starts talking and listening. Kids practice their hand-eye coordination skills by pressing a button. Then, they say something, and the parrot will play the phrase back in bird-speak.
This bird teaches kids about shapes and colors, and helps hone their fine motor skills.
Hoot is an interactive curiosity for little kids. 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 is a pull toy that's handsome, promotes activity in kids, and is built to last — a combination that can't be beat.
This pull toy is cute — as the wheels roll, the giraffe driver rocks back and forth and the monkey in the back bounces around. But it’s also responsible: It’s made from recycled plastic milk jugs, which is something every parent can feel good
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.
This stacking toy is a great way to indoctrinate the kids into Sesame Street. Yup, Cookie Monster, Oscar the Grouch, and Elmo are all present. Your kid will be coming back to this one over and over.
Kids practice motor skills and learn cause and effect when they whack the balls with the hammer.
When your one year old uses the bee hammer to hit the three falling balls, the xylophone’s keys ring out. Cause and effect in action! And the xylophone is removable, so your kid can play it anywhere.
The ultimate in open-ended creative play, these blocks stack together to create unlimited worlds your child dreams up.
Stacking blocks are a perennial toddler favorite, and this set takes blocks to a new level but letting babies click them together to create their own stunning garden.
Another standout from Janod, this cube features eight activities that promote hand-eye coordination and concentration.
The top of this activity cube has a bead maze with wooden balls, butterflies and clouds. The other sides of the cube feature gears, a flipping caterpillar, and a twisting moon.
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.
We absolutely love these soft plastic pop-together manipulative toys. Kids get 10 mix-and-match pieces to build a horse, cow, pig, sheep, and hen.
Not only does this help kids develop hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills, but it’s also dope AF. That’s because kids can build a half sheep – half hen, or any other barnyard creation they dream up.
Another great option from Melissa & Doug, these toy cars teach kids about motion.
These bright cars are stackable, and have wheels that are easy for little hands to maneuver.
This sensory toy helps kids learn about shapes, colors, and even word recognition.
Plus, this silicone toy makes a very satisfying pop when kids push each button. It’s compact and great for travel or restaurants, too.
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. It’s fun as hell. And the cups are made from recycled plastic milk containers.
Haba's shape sorter is actually a zoo feeding slot. Kids pretend to feed the animals while becoming ever more comfortable with color and shape recognition.
Oh, but there’s a twist. With each opening, if it’s pushed down, only the half wood shapes fit through the opening. If pushed upward, the opening is large enough for the whole wood shape to fit through. Cause and effect, anyone?
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.
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.
What’s more fun than banging stuff? Nothing, that’s what. And this ball hammer toy teaches kids to recognize colors when they fit each ball into its designated color slot.
The Melissa & Doug wooden activity table has eight different hands-on activities to help one year olds build developmental skills, including fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Plus, it's hella fun.
This animal-themed activity table has a ton of activities to keep your one year old occupied. There are gears to turn, a tube to roll, beads to slide, flaps to open, and a wheel to spin. All the while, your kiddo is honing his or her fine motor skills.
When your little walker pulls the alligator along, the wooden pieces make rhythmic click-clack sounds.
When kids pull this alligator along on their walks, he wiggles and makes clapping sounds. It’s simple. It’s fun. It’s timeless.
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.
Pretend play gets a real-life twist with toys that look just like what's in an actual adult kitchen.
Kids can whip up dinner or snacks with this 11-piece set, which features two kid-sized metal pans, a pot with a lid, a spatula and a ladle. And the broccoli will, we hope, teach them to love their veggies.
It's never too early to be part of the Lego universe, and this colorful train building block set is a solid entry point.
The chunky train is easy for small hands to grab and build. And the cars have numbers on them, so your child will be exposed to counting and number recognition. There’s even a cat, because why wouldn’t there be?
The minute your toddler demands an actual dog, get this one instead. You pull the cord, and you hear music and other sounds. The puppy trots along and all is well in the world.
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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