When looking for the best toys for your 1-year-old, it can take time to figure out where to start. Searching for expert recommendations is one way to narrow down your options. But there are also plenty of online forums where parents discuss the toys their children play with and enjoy.
The toy categories that tend to get the most discussion and the most incredible variety of opinions will appeal to older toddlers (1 year plus) who are amid a significant developmental leap.
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Eager to explore their new physical abilities, these kids love something that will challenge them physically or encourage gross motor skills as they learn to climb, hold onto things, walk, and even run. They’re also eager to discover new ways of interacting with others through games like peek-a-boo or face-to-face play.
In addition to games that develop physical skills, some popular toys have an element of pretend play—where young toddlers get a chance to act out situations and roles with other toys in the room or people around them. These toys can include animal figurines or dolls, kitchen sets (with pots and pans), and vehicles like fire trucks or trains. They can help a child learn.
1-year-olds are a unique age group when it comes to toys. They’re growing out of their baby toys but still have much to learn and explore in the world around them. It’s also common for 1-year-olds to start teething, so they might be interested in some essential toys or not! In any event, there are many things to consider when shopping for 1-year-olds.
We asked owner of the Manhattan-based toy store The Toy Store, for her best picks for 1-year-olds. “The toy business is all about timing because you need to hit the market at just the right time,” they said.
“Before they’re one year old, it’s easier to buy them anything — they don’t care what it is. But once they hit that first birthday, it’s a completely different ball game.”
They recommend simple and familiar toys: soft books with a handle, colorful stacking cups and balls (one of her favorite playthings for 1-year-olds), stuffed animals, and dolls (preferably with removable clothing).
“They’re really into repetition, which makes them great imitators,” Frank said. “So if you stack two cups repeatedly, they’ll want to do that themselves.”
Frank says she always advises parents to steer clear of electronic toys — many of which have features that can confuse little ones or even hurt them — in favor of higher-quality wooden or cloth toys that babies can safely chew on and explore by themselves.
“I think too often we put too much pressure on ourselves to come up with the perfect gift for our kids,” Frank said.
To help you find toys that will be both fun and beneficial, we talked with Rebecca Parlakian, M.A., E.D., an expert on early childhood development and education at Zero to Three, an organization that focuses on infant and toddler development during the early years.
She explained why one-year-olds enjoy novelty (like flashing lights or unusual textures), how they learn through play, and what they can expect in terms of their physical, cognitive, social-emotional, and language development over the next year.
Playful toys allow children to act out their interests and explore their environment.
These toys include vehicles, dolls, non-breakable books, blocks (such as wooden blocks), wheels, balls, and musical instruments. Constructive toys encourage kids to use their imagination and problem-solve with building materials (such as wood), manipulative/play food (such as play dough), and puzzles.
In addition to these types of toys, experts also recommend high-quality books because reading is an integral part of a child’s development at one year old.
How we choose the best toys?
|Age-appropriate||The toy should be specifically designed for children who are 1 year old, with features and materials that are safe and appropriate for this age group.|
|Safety||The toy should be free of any potential safety hazards, such as small parts that could be swallowed or sharp edges.|
|Durability||The toy should be made of high-quality materials that can withstand rough play and repeated use.|
|Sensory stimulation||The toy should offer a range of sensory experiences, such as different textures, colors, sounds, and movements, to stimulate a child’s senses and encourage exploration.|
|Motor skills development||The toy should encourage the development of gross motor skills, such as crawling and walking, as well as fine motor skills, such as grasping and manipulating objects.|
|Cognitive development||The toy should offer opportunities for learning and cognitive development, such as shape sorting or cause-and-effect activities.|
|Social and emotional development||The toy should promote social and emotional development, such as through role-playing or interaction with others.|
|Testing process||To guarantee that the toys we choose fit the abovementioned requirements, we consult with specialists in child development. We then test the toys on kids to see how well they encourage growth and engagement.|
Below are The 14 best toys and gifts for 1-year-olds in 2023
|Toy/Gift||Price||Ages/Grades||Why We Recommend||Features||Pros||Cons|
|Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Game & Learn Controller||$11||6-36 months||Interactive and educational||Teaches letters, numbers, shapes, and more; lights up and plays songs||Helps develop fine motor skills; affordable||Limited functions|
|VTech Sit-to-Stand Learning Walker||$39||9-36 months||Encourages movement and learning||Has a removable activity panel with buttons, gears, and a piano; can be used as a walker or sit-down activity center||Helps develop motor skills and early learning concepts; versatile||Can be noisy|
|Fat Brain Toys Dimpl Baby Toys||$12.95||6-18 months||Sensory exploration and fine motor skills||Five silicone bubbles that can be pushed in and popped out; made of food-grade silicone||Easy to grasp and manipulate; encourages tactile exploration||Limited play value|
|Melissa & Doug First Shapes Jumbo Knob Puzzle||$29.99||12-36 months||Early learning and hand-eye coordination||Wooden puzzle with jumbo knobs for easy grasping; teaches basic shapes and colors||Develops motor skills and problem-solving; durable||Limited puzzle pieces|
|HABA Kullerbu Windmill Playset||$129.99||18 months+||Spatial reasoning and problem-solving||Wooden ball track with ramps, curves, and tunnels; encourages experimentation and exploration||Stimulates creativity and imagination; durable||Expensive|
|Green Toys My First Tugboat||$14.99||6 months+||Bath time fun and imaginative play||Made of recycled plastic; floats in water and has a spout for pouring water||Safe and non-toxic; encourages imaginative play||Limited play value|
|Radio Flyer Classic Walker Wagon||$79.99||1-4 years||Encourages movement and active play||Wooden wagon with removable wooden sides; can be used for walking or as a toy storage unit||Develops motor skills and encourages active play; durable||Expensive|
|Skip Hop Explore and More Baby’s View 3-Stage Activity Center||$141||4 months+||Multi-stage activity center for sensory exploration and learning||Adjustable legs for 3 different heights; includes toys for tactile, visual, and auditory stimulation||Versatile and customizable; encourages movement and learning||Expensive|
|Tobbles Neo||$28||6 months+||Sensory exploration and early learning||Stackable and colorful balls with a wobbly base; encourages experimentation and fine motor skills||Develops hand-eye coordination and spatial reasoning; easy to clean||Limited play value|
|Playskool Poppin’ Pals Pop-up Activity Toy||$19.99||9 months+||Fine motor skills and cause-and-effect||Push-button animals pop up and down; includes a carrying handle for on-the-go play||Develops hand-eye coordination and cause-and-effect; portable||Limited play value|
|Manhattan Toy Winkel Rattle and Sensory Teether Toy||$8||0-24 months||Sensory exploration and teething relief||Soft, colorful loops that can be chewed on or twisted; lightweight and easy to grasp||Develops motor skills and tactile exploration; doubles as a teething toy||Can be noisy|
|Fisher-Price Brilliant Basics Rock-a-Stack||$6.99||6-36 months||Fine motor skills and early learning||Five colorful rings that can be stacked on a rocking base; teaches size and sequencing||Develops hand-eye coordination and early learning concepts; affordable||Limited play value|
|LeapFrog My Pal Scout||$24.99||6 months+||Personalized learning and sensory exploration||Plush toy that can be customized with the child’s name and favorite things; includes buttons for songs, phrases, and activities||Stimulates imagination and early learning; customizable||Batteries not included|
|Battat Wooden Activity Cube||$59.99||12 months+||Multi-sided learning and sensory exploration||Wooden cube with activities on each side, including a bead maze, gears, and shape sorter||Develops motor skills and problem-solving; durable||Expensive|
|Infantino Balls, Blocks, & Buddies Activity Toy Set||$14.99||6-36 months||Multi-purpose activity set||Includes 6 sensory balls, 6 color-coded blocks, and 6 animal buddies that can be stacked or nested||Develops fine motor skills and sensory exploration; versatile||Limited play value|
1. Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Game & Learn Controller
Has your 1-year-old mastered the art of pushing buttons? Then it’s time to move on to bigger and better things. Fisher-Price is here with a pretend “portable gaming console” geared toward developing the skills necessary for true gaming with the added benefit of providing some much-needed entertainment for parents whose hands are starting to cramp from playing Candy Land one too many times.
The Laugh & Learn Game & Learn Controller, as it is called, acts like an actual gaming console in that it has an array of buttons on the top that can be pressed in varying combinations to produce lights, music, and sound effects.
The 65+ songs, sounds, and phrases that play when these buttons are pushed make it clear what each one does for little ones who haven’t mastered reading yet.
The joystick can be moved up and down to move left and right through a grid of colors corresponding to the controller buttons. And even children who can’t read yet will benefit from moving the joystick back and forth to learn about shapes and numbers by seeing which shapes they encounter while they explore this game.
2. VTech Sit-to-Stand Learning Walker
The VTech Sit-to-Stand Learning Walker is an interactive toy that keeps babies and toddlers engaged while learning to walk. The toy has a removable play panel with five piano keys that play music and encourage creativity. It also has three shape sorters, light-up buttons, and colorful spinning rollers. The wheels work on carpeted and hard floors.
Sensory development: Babies develop their senses at about two or three months old when they notice different sounds, textures, and smells around them. This baby walker offers plenty of opportunities for sensory development. The toy has three light-up buttons that develop motor skills by teaching cause and effect. Babies can press these buttons to hear things like music, sounds, and phrases like “hello,” “bark,” and “oink.”
The walker’s shape sorters teach babies to match shapes, colors, and numbers. Pressing the piano keys helps develop fine motor skills by using both hands to play notes; the keys also help babies learn about cause and effect as they watch lights flash and hear sounds when they press the keys.
3. Fat Brain Toys Dimpl Baby Toys
The best innovative playthings for a developing infant are Dimpl Baby Toys. This six-piece set is made to stimulate newborns’ tactile senses, aid in the growth of their motor abilities, and promote sensory exploration. The components are plastic spheres in vibrant colors with various properties that motivate your child to balance, nest, spin, and stack them at seemingly impossible angles.
These toys are manufactured of premium ABS plastic, have undergone safety testing, and are intended for children six months and older.
4. Melissa & Doug First Shapes Jumbo Knob Puzzle
The First Shapes Jumbo Knob Puzzle by Melissa & Doug is the perfect game for fostering children’s visual awareness and hand-eye coordination. Large wooden knobs for better handling and colorful farm and geometric artwork decorate this extra-thick wooden puzzle.
Each item has a display showing the matching full-color photographs underneath it. The adorable kitten on the box top further adds to the attraction of this instructional toy.
This Melissa & Doug puzzle will support your child’s development of fine motor skills while teaching them about the world around them. Encourage your youngster to discuss the cow, tractor, horse, rabbit, and chicks they see on each jigsaw piece to keep their cognitive skills strong.
5. HABA Kullerbu Windmill Playset
This toy is perfect for the 1-year-old who is beginning to develop a greater interest in toys that aren’t just fun to play with but toys they can use their imagination and create scenarios with.
The HABA Kullerbu is a 25-piece set that contains everything your budding architect needs to build their first roller coaster.
The pieces are made of sturdy plastic built to last, except the balls, which are made out of much softer plastic.
As long as the pieces remain intact and aren’t chewed on by a puppy or a teething baby, these sets have lasted years for many families. This particular set has an adorable windmill and bell, which kids will love getting Paul the ball to pass through.
6. Green Toys My First Tugboat
Green Toys creates family-friendly toys. This one, titled My First Tugboat, is for your infant. The water play is the main event! Water is placed inside the rubber hull, and a constant stream can be released from the boat’s front spout. My First Tugboat is a sweet little toy created in America and is environmentally friendly.
We adore this toy because it has so many positive attributes. It can be used as a bath toy, taken outside and pushed around in the dirt by your child, or even on a sidewalk or driveway so they can learn to move things.
You may feel secure knowing it will float if your child ever puts it in the bathtub because it is perfectly safe to fill with water.
It is created from recycled milk jugs that have been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before being turned into toys, so the materials are also secure.
Another benefit is that My First Tugboat will continue to look fantastic among other Green Toys products on your shelf over the years.
7. Radio Flyer Classic Walker Wagon
The best present for a one-year-old is the Radio Flyer Classic Walking Wagon. It incorporates resistance clickers to help new users gain balance and self-assurance. The Wagon can’t move too quickly because of the resistance clickers, allowing the infant to concentrate on learning to walk.
As newcomers are learning to walk, the furniture-friendly bumper safeguards your house. This spherical bumper will stop any scratches or wall dents when moving around furniture. A toy box is also a Radio Flyer Classic Walker Wagon feature. Your kid can keep their favorite toys indoors for pretend play or take them outside on walks.
8. Skip Hop Explore and More Baby’s View 3-Stage Activity Center
Skip Hop’s Explore and More Baby’s View 3-Stage Activity Center is the perfect toy for your 1-year-old! This interactive activity center will keep your little ones engaged and learning as they grow. We love that it gives a “whole body” approach to play.
The seat rotates 360 degrees to encourage the baby’s development of gross motor skills. As the baby grows, the activity center converts from a sit-and-play activity center to a table for coloring or playing with toys.
Three stages of use: Sit, swivel, bounce & play; Cruise & interact; Play table. The best part is that this activity center has 25+ developmental activities! It has three suction cup toys that attach easily to the window frame.
There are also five linkable toys—3 are on a string, and two are on a clip—that you can move around the activity center based on the baby’s interest. The Discovery Window allows baby to see their feet while they play and learn cause and effect.
The soft fabric seat pad cradles babies in comfort while they play. There are also links to videos of babies enjoying their activity center on Skip Hop’s website!
9. Tobbles Neo
Tobbles Neo is a set of six stackable spheres; each sphere is a different color and has a slightly different size and weight, making them easy to distinguish. The individual spheres are perfectly sized for little hands, so your child can quickly grasp them. Each sphere also has a smooth surface, making it easy to handle and fun to roll around.
This set comes with a Tobbles Neo base and a stand with a groove where you can nest the spheres. This lets you balance the spheres on end or arrange them in gravity-defying angles! It’s excellent for developing motor skills and coordination in your little one and encouraging imaginative thinking and spatial reasoning.
The set includes:
- One orange sphere
- One yellow sphere
- One green sphere
- One red sphere
- One blue sphere
- One purple sphere
This set of six spheres promotes imaginative play – giving your child plenty of opportunities to use her creativity. She might stack them on each other to make towers or bridges, nesting the smaller spheres inside the larger ones for safekeeping (or just because she likes how they look).
10. Playskool Poppin’ Pals Pop-up Activity Toy
Meet the Playskool Poppin’ Pals Pop-up Activity Toy, where it’s fun to figure out how to make the cute little critters pop up. There’s a monkey, a tiger, a giraffe, and a fox, each with its lid in bright colors—green, orange, purple, and blue, respectively. Kids can help get their hands busy practicing motor skills as little fingers slide, pull, push, twist, and press to make the animals pop.
You can also help get their hands busy practicing motor skills as little fingers slide, pull, push, twist, and press to make the animals pop. Snap the lids shut to play again and again.
From birthday gifts for 1-year-olds to a baby’s first Christmas gift to just a fun activity for toddlers—this peekaboo pop-up toy will surely delight kids and families alike!
11. Manhattan Toy Winkel Rattle and Sensory Teether Toy
The Winkel is a classic baby toy produced for over 25 years for parents of teething babies and toddlers! Its soft, continuous teething tubes are a parent favorite, and its classic design makes it a perfect gift for parents expecting babies.
The Winkel features a maze of soft tubes to hold the baby’s interest and develop his motor skills. Its vibrant colors and lightweight materials make it easy to control and manipulate. The center cube encases a quiet rattle to stimulate the developing of auditory skills.
This timeless toy can be refrigerated for extra soothing comfort and is top-rack dishwasher safe. A great shower gift for new parents, the Winkel will indeed be passed down from generation to generation.
12. Fisher-Price Brilliant Basics Rock-a-Stack
A traditional, long-lasting stacking toy is what your baby needs. Bright Basics by Fisher-Price The perfect rock-on toy for your child is Rock-A-Stack, which has five colorful rings they can arrange as they like and is simple for them to hold and shake.
Even if your baby can’t even create a fist, they will enjoy feeling the rattle beads roll around under their fingers when they stack the rings up since the top of each one has a slick surface with rattle beads inside.
Baby can bat and reach for the base’s many textures and shapes, and it also rattles when shaken.
Since newborns must use both hands and fingers to stack the rings on top of one another, this toy fosters fine and gross motor abilities. It is advised for infants six months and older, so get stacking!
13. LeapFrog My Pal Scout
Meet Scout! This sweet little cuddly toy is so soft; you’ll never want to put him down. And that’s good news if you have a little one to keep entertained during the day while Mom and Dad are busy.
Scout includes more than 15 engaging activities to entertain and educate your child. Your child will be occupied for hours if you pull out Scout’s paw, squeeze his nose, or shake his head.
Even while Scout is still in his box, you can customize some of his settings by connecting him to your iPad or smartphone! Your kid will adore this cute face almost as much as their parents will love this ingenious toy’s reasonable pricing.
Both your child’s speech and touch can elicit responses from Scout. Scout is a great option to encourage young children’s communication abilities.
Your child will be encouraged to touch various body parts so they can learn how they feel. Also, you may record up to two sentences into Scout’s memory so that when your little one says “I love you,” Scout will join in with a pleasant “I love you too!”.
Anything that comes to mind, such as “mommy,” “daddy,” “grandma,” or “grandpa,” might be taught to him.
14. Battat Wooden Activity Cube
There are numerous ways to play with the Battat Wooden Activity Cube! Its abundance of activities and textures promotes discovery and education. Your one-year-old will adore the peek-a-boo farm animals and the loops, zigzags, and beads that are just demanding to be played with by little hands.
The cube comes with a detachable base that doubles as a handy carrying case, making it easy to take on excursions. This wooden and plastic toy is a beautiful present for a one-year-old just starting a developmental adventure!