These Are the Best Gifts to Help 1-Year-Olds Learn and Grow

Our favorite picks from Green Toys, Radio Flyer, Hape, Melissa & Doug, and more

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The Spruce / Lecia Landis

When you're looking for the perfect gift for a 1-year-old, thinking about their development level can make narrowing down your many choices a little easier.

To help you with your search, we researched the best gift options for 1-year-old girls and boys, considering age-appropriateness, safety, and educational value. Our favorite picks include a T-Ball Set from Little Tikes to burn off energy, colorful stacking toys from Fisher-Price, and soft blocks from B. Toys for fostering fine motor skills.

Here are the best toys for 1-year-olds in your life.

Our Top Picks

Little Tikes T-Ball Set

4.7
Little Tikes T-Ball Set

Courtesy of Amazon

Introduce your child to baseball, softball, or Wiffle ball in the least intimidating way with the Little Tikes T-Ball Set. The height is adjustable, so toddlers of various sizes can play, and the toy can grow with your child over time. Let your toddler enjoy some solo play or have siblings and friends join in for social interactions for your little one.

This set includes five plastic tee balls so your child can practice batting over and over again. Thanks to the unique hang-on-the-wall design, you can easily store this set on any hook once playtime is over. One thing to note is that it can be a bit difficult to snap the bat in place.

Holding the bat can be tricky for 1-year-olds, but this toy helps develop their fine motor skills as they learn how to do it, adding to the educational value of this pick. Reviewers appreciate that the tee stands up easily and feels sturdy, even when hit with the bat, ensuring this toy will provide years of fun with minimal wear and tear.

Green Toys Dump Truck

Green Toys Dump Truck

Walmart

Inspired by a playtime classic, this toy truck is actually made from durable, recyclable materials that are easy to clean with mild soap. The wheels and working dumper help improve your child's motor skills, help him become more aware of dirt versus cleanliness, and teaches cause and effect.

Fisher-Price Rock-a-Stack Bat-at Ring-Stacking Toy

Fisher-Price Rock-a-Stack Bat-at Ring-Stacking Toy

Courtesy of Amazon

Grabbing, tossing, and stacking are all fair game with this toy set. The simple stacking mechanisms enforce building and motor skills in the easiest way possible. At the same time, she can work on learning her colors and numbers when playing with the different discs.

Manhattan Toy Wee Baby Stella Sleepy Time

Manhattan Toy Wee Baby Stella Sleepy Time

 Kohl's

Why do dolls make such great presents for little ones? Whether you have a boy or a girl, it's never too early to introduce your child to the idea of being a nurturer. Dolls can also encourage pretend play, as your kiddo mimics his or her parents' actions, such as rocking to sleep or changing a diaper. This 12-inch option is the perfect size for hugging during story time, and it has a light lavender scent. The pacifier comes with a skillfully hidden magnet that allows it to stick on perfectly (your baby will soon become obsessed with taking it on and off) as well as a magnetic-tipped bottle, book, and teddy bear. If you're hoping to expand beyond the usual blonde baby dolls, the Baby Stella line offers a variety of skin tones and hair styles.

Radio Flyer Little Red Roadster

Radio Flyer Little Red Roadster

Courtesy of Amazon

You were probably dragged around in a Radio Flyer wagon as a kid, but this ride-on option, which has a working steering wheel, puts the power back into your little one's hands. Not only that, scoot toys like this one encourage kids to practice their gross motor (or large muscle) skills, which are important for proper physical development. Although it's priced a bit higher than other wheeled toys, it's built to last through several kids: The tires are rubber, the seat is ergonomic and supportive, and the front accent piece is made from shiny chrome, giving it stylish retro vibes.

Fisher-Price Corn Popper

Fisher Price Corn Popper

 Walmart

This loud, addictive toy has a simple premise: Your kid pushes or pulls, and the balls move around, making a delightful racket. (It's also quite affordable and gender-neutral, so it's worth stashing one or two in a closet for those times when you need a last-minute birthday gift.) As your child gets older, it can be a fun part of imaginative play as he or she pretends to vacuum. It's true that those jiggling balls may hurt your ears, but they're helping teach the important concept of cause and effect (move the toy, see the balls bounce), which is an important part of learning.

Oliver and Olivia Wild One First Birthday Shirt

Wild One Shirt

Etsy 

This whimsical, gender-neutral t-shirt, which pays homage to the classic children's book Where the Wild Things Are, is perfect for first birthday photos. Made from soft cotton, it will also get plenty of use beyond the party. It comes with either short or long sleeves, and you have the option to choose either a black or white background. Note that the shirts run slightly fitted, so some parents preferred to size up.

Edushape See-Me Sensory Ball

Edushape See-Me Sensory Ball

 Amazon

Whether you're rolling or tossing, engaging in ball play can help babies develop hand-eye coordination. But many of the balls designed for older children can be heavy and hard to hold. This one was built with little ones in mind: It's 7 inches across and weighs just under 7 ounces, with a nubby texture designed to stimulate the developing sense of touch. The ball comes in blue, pink, and red, as well as a glow-in-the-dark version that would be fun to play with outside on a summer night.

Fisher-Price Little People Big Helpers Home

Fisher-Price Little People Big Helpers Home

Courtesy of Kohl's 

This fabulous, fold-out house has five rooms across two levels, and comes with three easy-to-grasp Little People figures (two children and a dog). The homey layout will feel comfortable and familiar to a little one, who will eventually come to love acting out household scenarios such as taking the dog for a walk, putting toys away, and tucking a child into bed. There are also lots of cool sound effects, like a barking dog and flushing toilet, and the house can be folded closed with the pieces inside when it's not in use.

Hape Walk-A-Long Croc Toddler Wooden Pull Along Toy

Hape Walk-A-Long Croc Toddler Wooden Pull Along Toy

Courtesy of Amazon

Attractive and sturdy, this colorful crocodile will quickly become one of your child's favorite things to drag around the house. Even if they aren't walking yet, they'll enjoy pushing it back and forth on the floor. The wheels are rimmed with rubber so they won't scratch wood floors, and your little one will love watching the croc's tail wiggle as it moves.

B. Toys One Two Squeeze Baby Blocks

B. Toys One Two Squeeze Baby Blocks

Courtesy of Amazon

There's a reason why blocks are so beloved by seasoned preschool teachers: They can help kids practice hand-eye coordination, get familiar with early math concepts, and understand cause and effect (build a tower too high, it falls down). These are colorful and ideal for teething toddlers, since they have a silicone-like texture that's safe and comfortable for chewing. Each of the 10 blocks is hand-sculpted, and the sides are decorated with animals, numerals, and shapes that create different textures.

Melissa & Doug Large Farm Jumbo Knob Puzzle

Melissa & Doug Large Farm Jumbo Knob Puzzle

Amazon 

This chunky wooden puzzle makes an ideal gift for a one-year-old. Fitting the pieces into the correct shapes helps them practice hand-eye coordination, and they'll also learn about patience and trial and error as they make mistakes. The smiley farm animals will be familiar to a toddler, and you can even sing Old MacDonald or try out the different animal sounds as you put the pieces into place.

The First Years Stack Up Cup Toys

The First Years Stack Up Cups

Courtesy of Amazon

One of the nice things about your baby passing the one-year mark is that he or she will start to really love taking baths, and you'll suddenly realize there's a whole world of tub toys to explore. But as with many kids' playthings, often the simplest ones have the most staying power, like these multi-hued stacking cups. The cups are all numbered to help kids get familiar with concepts like counting and numeral recognition, but the most genius aspect is the fact that each one has holes on the bottom which correspond to the number of the cup, which creates a fountain effect and also means less water spilled on the bathroom floor.

What to Look for in Gifts For One-Year-Olds

Safety

When it comes to one-year-olds, safety is always the priority. In some toys, there are small pieces that can be dangerous to little mouths and little hands. As you search for the right gift, take a peek at the recommended age ranges and note if there are any little parts. It's best to avoid anything that can be choked on (which is really anything smaller than a fist).

Ages/Levels

Before you purchase a gift, consider the individual child's learning/development level. Some children are typically-developing, and some may be behind their peers. As you choose a game, be sure that the age range and difficulty level appropriately matches the child you're buying for, otherwise the toy will be frustrating or disengaging.

Education vs. Play

Some toys are intended solely for play and some are more learning-based. You'll want to think about the child and his/her family before making a purchase to ensure there's a match. For example, if the family prioritizes play, then a toy that's more 'fun' and/or engaging would be best. If the family is striving to introduce learning through play, than something more educational would be a best fit.

Why Trust The Spruce?

Lexi Dwyer has written about hot holiday gifts and Frozen-themed presents for The Spruce. Her kids are now in elementary school, but she still thinks the best gift for a one-year-old is a pair of strong cocktails for their parents. Additional reporting was done by Marisa Donnelly, a writer and editor with over 12 years of experience. Her work has appeared in Huffington Post, Bustle, BossBabe, Thought Catalog, and more.

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Marisa Donnelly
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Marisa Donnelly is a lifestyle expert and writer with over a decade of experience sharing her knowledge about what home decor reveals about personalities. She also writes about small business, parenting, and education and her bylines have appeared on HuffPost, Bustle, and BossBabe. Marisa is the founder of an online homeschool program and a support site for blended families.

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  1. "Domain 2: Gross Motor". Illinois Early Learning Project, https://illinoisearlylearning.org/ielg/gross-motor/.

  2. Wardle, Francis. "Having A Ball! Using The Toys In The Early Childhood Classroom". Scholastic, https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/articles/teaching-content/physical-development-having-ball/.

  3. Healey, Aleeya, and Alan Mendelsohn. "Selecting Appropriate Toys For Young Children In The Digital Era". Pediatrics, vol 143, no. 1, 2019, p. e20183348. American Academy Of Pediatrics (AAP), doi:10.1542/peds.2018-3348.

  4. Swartz, Rebecca. "Five Things Children Gain From Puzzle Play". Illinois Early Learning Project, https://illinoisearlylearning.org/blogs/growing/puzzle-play/.

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