11 Best Toys for a 1-Year-Old
From crawling to walking, from babbling to chatting, from tummy time to real fun—a lot has happened this year! The first birthday is a big milestone and the start of a new season of discovery and joy as your baby becomes a toddler. Between now and their next birthday, your tyke will learn and grow so much. Age-appropriate toys foster imagination, sensory stimulation, and physical development in ways that intrigue your toddler.
Bright colors are important for little ones this age, as they are easy for them to differentiate and more enticing at play time. (Pastels and muted shades are still good for sleep spaces, but stock up on rainbow-hued and primary color toys to stimulate that growing mind!). Music and movement are two other pillars of the perfectly stocked 1-year-old play space. Their hand-eye coordination is blossoming, so make sure that their smaller toys and puzzles are easy to grab and manipulate. To get more specific, here are some of the best toys for 1-year-olds.
If there’s one word to describe 1-year-olds, it’s busy. Put that energy to good use with a table that has lots of buttons, levers, screws, and cranks to explore. A grow-with-me table that starts out for sitters and can have legs added later on will be good bang for your buck, but you can also try one geared at older toddlers like the Manhattan Toy Company Treetop Adventure Activity Center that’s recommended for age 12 months to 5 years. Both of these offer visual stimulation and hands-on fun that will keep your tot entertained endlessly, while standing and strengthening those little legs.
Pushcart or Push Walker
At the start of walking, and for months after that milestone is reached, a toy that your little one can push is important. This helps them gain confidence in walking and provides lots of fun. You can also use a sturdy wood doll stroller to fit this need. From a simple push wagon or charming doll stroller, to a sensory walker that features activities, moving balls and so on at its front (as pictured), there are so many options in this category and something for every baby—and every budget.
Doll or Stuffy
Play-acting as Mommy or Daddy starts young, even before 12 months. Your 1-year-old will benefit tremendously from having a baby doll or human-inspired stuffed animal to tenderly care for. At this age, a soft (machine-washable!) doll is best, and one that has simple accessories like Velcro-on diapers and a plastic bottle, is even better. The doll shown with a removable pacifier is a perfect example. Corolle also makes small, soft dolls ideal for tiny hands. Jellycat rabbits are another good option.
Toys that can be pulled are important. Moving around the room promotes gross motor skill development while tots flex their fine motor skills as they hold onto the toy’s string. The pull toy also teaches them that their movement and actions can affect those around them; they see their own hand pull the string and an item moves as a result. The classic Fisher Price pull-phone (shown above) has been a beloved toy for 1-year-olds for generations, but some babies will prefer an animal. There’s a DIY angle here, too: if you have a small shipping or shoe box hanging around, poke a hole at one end, pull a piece of string through it and knot to secure it. Then hand your toddler the end of the string and watch them take off running!
They’re a great way to get those developmentally important bright colors in! Stacking cups like shown, are a parental favorite because they’re easy to store and don’t take up much space, but they’re likely to be an even bigger favorite for your newly minted toddler as they discover the joys of stacking, building, and knocking down structures they build with their own chubby hands. Wooden or soft blocks are also good for 1-year-olds, as are traditional ring stackers on a pole. Found objects work for stacking, too; assorted small gift boxes and plastic measuring cups are fantastic.
It’s one of those things you probably dreaded when becoming a parent, but the fact is musical toys are so important for your baby’s development even if it’s a pain in your ears. Your tyke will love the cause-and-effect of a xylophone, like shown, or the Baby Einstein piano, which are perfect for hand-eye coordination and also not nearly as loud as electric toys that play music on their own. Wander up and down the toy aisle or scroll the online offerings for all sorts of musical toys, because whether your little musician is banging it on their own or pressing a button to get the good stuff, this is one toy type that is essential at age 1.
You don’t need to wait until your little one is able to actually read before letting them in on the pleasure that is curling up with a good book. Crinkly, squishy, reactive books are an absolute must for your 1-year-old, and there are so many available these days, you are sure to amass a collection that suits their interests and your own. See, Touch, Feel is a great place to start, but a simple search will spark endless options.
First Art Supplies
Your little one is ready to make their mark! While painting with a 1-year-old can be very messy, easy-grip crayons like these by Crayola are a wonderful way to help start your young toddler’s artistic journey. Art exploration is important for color stimulation, fine motor skills, sensory development, hand-eye coordination, and cause-and-effect. Aside from comfy nontoxic crayons, another way to play is with finger paints. You can also try the no-mess mini masterpiece technique of placing a piece of paper with a few dollops of paint on it inside of a sealed plastic Ziploc bag, letting your one-year-old squish and manipulate it from the outside.
Physical play is important for so many reasons, from brain stimulation and gross motor skills to plain old tiring them out before naptime. An indoor rocking animal or vehicle is a perfect way to bring the world of active play inside, while creating a special corner of their room or playroom that inspires and delights. Pottery Barn Kids has a beautiful selection that extends far past the classic horse. We also love the minimalist look of this Etsy find and the lush idea of a ride-on motorcycle for some other options.
Fine motor skills, logic, and thinking are all at work with an activity cube for toddlers. Like the activity tables in terms of what it provides your little one, but smaller and more portable, these “busy cubes” are a great gift idea for Baby’s first birthday. And, miniature versions are perfect for car or airplane travel.
SNOObear is kind of like a gift for Mom and Dad too. This super-cute teddy is ready for cuddles and play (it's got built-in finger-puppet holes to make your tot giggle), and it's also equipped with a sound machine that will lull your little to sleep with doctor-designed white noise.
More Toddler Inspo:
- Toddler Playroom Ideas to Feed Your Tot's Curiosity
- Creative Toy Storage Ideas to Cut Clutter
- Sensory Play Ideas for Babies and Toddlers
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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.