The Best Gifts For 1-Year-Olds 2021: Picks From Early Childhood Experts

12 Best Gifts For 1-Year Olds, According To Experts

September 30, 2019 Updated January 4, 2021

Gifts & Toys 1 Year Old

The best gifts for 1-year-old boys and girls instill curiosity, nurture learning, and yes — keep their attention! One of the wondrous things about watching kids grow in those first 12 months is seeing them learn to figure stuff out on their own. What no one tells you is how quickly they go from sitting to crawling to devouring that smash cake at their first birthday. As they transition from adorable little lumps to sentient creatures interested in the world around them, you’ll begin searching for the best learning toys for 1-year-olds to help them along the way.

And it turns out, there are a plethora of educational toys for 1-year-old boys and girls on the market, but it can be overwhelming figuring out which ones are appropriate for a developing toddler. So if you’re looking for the best 1-year-old birthday gifts, award-winning toys for 1-year-old, or an amazing Christmas present, consider taking an expert’s advice.

For more gift-giving inspo, check out our toys for 2 year olds3 year olds4 year olds5 year olds6 year olds, 7 year olds,  8 year olds9 year olds10 year olds11 year olds and 12 year olds.

Choosing The Best Toys For 1-Year-Olds, According To An Expert

“One-year-olds are extremely active at this time in their lives,” says Monica J. Sutton, a New York and New Jersey-based Early Childhood and Special Education expert. “They are moving, pushing, pulling, taking things apart, and putting them together. Your little one may have just started walking or is on the verge of walking, so they need some toys to encourage them to be mobile.” Sutton recommends gifting toys that promote open-ended play as well as shape sorters, walkers, and sensory board books with bright colors and different textures. “Children can control board books a little easier and turn the pages for a new surprise every time,” she adds.

With these recommendations in mind, we’ve curated the best developmental toys so you’ll have plenty of gift ideas for the 1-year-olds in your life. Needless to say, these smart picks go beyond the typical stuffed animals.

The Best Gifts For 1-Year-Olds

Best Infant Playsets

“Toys such as playsets encourage children to explore and play naturally,” Sutton says. “They can pull, push, bang, turn, and discover many different ways to manipulate playset toys.” Bonus: Playsets can keep little ones busy for a very long time, and slides and climbers can help burn excess energy.

Little Tikes Activity Garden Playset

This multi-functional play center is a world of wonder for a 1-year-old. Kids can crawl through the archway, sort shapes in the mailbox, look through the movable telescope, and more. It can also be positioned to be fully enclosed in case Mom needs to step out of the room for a minute. A removable take-along panel features a bead tumbler, spinner with mirror, gears, clicking bugs, and a button that plays songs.


Little Tikes Little Baby Bum Wheels On The Bus Climber

Inclement weather doesn’t have to put a stop to playground fun. This Little Tikes Climber is like a mini jungle gym for indoor or outdoor adventures so your youngster can play, rain or shine. In addition to riding down the slide and playing “bus driver,” tots will love the interactive dashboard, which plays music and sounds from buttons, levers, and more.


Best Shape Sorters

Every kid loves shape sorters, and they’re one of the best learning toys for 1-year-olds. They help develop fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and introduce shapes and colors.

Melissa & Doug Shape Sorting Cube

This beautifully made wooden toy features 12 brightly-colored, easy-to grip-shapes that fit into corresponding holes. Melissa & Doug are experts at making award winning toys for 1-year-olds and this one is no different. This cube promotes color and shape recognition plus problem-solving skills for screen-free fun.


WowWee Pinkfong Baby Shark Melody Shape Sorter

Have a baby shark fan on your hands? This musical shape sorter will sing lines from the viral song when each piece is put into place. Once the puzzle is complete, the entire melody plays, so it’s great motivation for toddlers to learn their shapes.

Pro and con: reviewers say that the volume on this puzzle is rather low, but this could be a good thing if you’re afraid the catchy song will annoy you all day. Also note that it requires three AAA batteries, so you’ll want to have those on hand.


Best Toddler Walkers

The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend infant walkers (the kind that babies sit in, allowing them to move around before they’re ready to walk). However, toddler walkers — toys that toddlers push around when they’re becoming mobile — are great for development. According to Sutton, “Walkers encourage children to be mobile and move around their environment”

Melissa & Doug Chomp And Clack Alligator Push Toy

This activity walker features three chomping alligators that make a soft clacking noise when pushed, encouraging walking and discovery. Non-skid wheels allow kids to walk on smooth surfaces without moving too fast. Plus, you gotta love that classic wood construction!


VTech Sit To Stand Learning Walker

This walker has over 7,000 5-star reviews on Amazon! Before they’re walking, babies can play with the removable activity panel and discover music, animals, lights, colors, and ABC’s. Attach the panel once kids are ready to practice walking and off they go! This encourages musical creativity, motor skills development, and pretend play.


Toomies Cannon Ball Pic & Pop

This unique walker launches balls with a push of a button, then toddlers chase after the balls and roll over them to reload the chute. It encourages gross motor skills and teaches a lesson in cause and effect, but kids just know they’re having fun. This kind of motivation will have your tot cruisin’ in no time!


Best Musical Toy Benches

These musical baby toys will keep your mini maestro occupied for hours on end.

Leap Frog Learn And Groove Musical Table

Your musician-in-training will love learning notes, instrumental sounds, and songs, thanks to the LeapFrog Learn and Groove Musical Table. It includes tons of interactive elements like a keyboard, storybook, and buttons for hours of educational play.


Hape Pound & Tap Bench with Slide Out Xylophone

This multifunctional toy encourages kids to explore music while developing hand-eye coordination. Its bright colors capture attention and different ways to play keep it there. The three bright balls can be tapped onto the xylophone for a tinkling serenade, or the instrument can be be removed from its base for kiddos to make up their own tunes. This award-winning wooden toy has a nostalgic look to it, too. 


Best Sensory Board Books

Sensory board books for 1-year-olds “allow children to see different images, bright colors, and feel different textures” which helps with their sensory development.

Never Touch A Dinosaur Board Book

Your little one can explore a dinosaur’s textured “skin” with this board book that offers a new tactile surprise with every page. Despite the title, as your child will learn, it’s actually quite fun to touch dinos. (Also check out Never Touch A Monster and Never Touch A Shark!)

$19.99 AT AMAZON

Touch Think Learn: Colors Early Learning Book

This colorful book is full of traceable cut-outs of shapes your little one is learning to recognize. Combined with bright hues, adorable illustrations, and raised, touchable shapes, young kiddos will love learning about the colors of the world. 


Best Interactive “Friend”

Give your sweetheart their very first “friend”! Interactive toys get little ones thinking, moving, and learning.

Tiny Love Wonder Buddies - Thomas

Your LO will love their adorable, incredibly animated little buddy, which is specially designed for developing toddlers ages 1 and up. It talks snores, nibbles its snack, makes bouncing noises, plays peek-a-boo and more — and it’s just the right size for little hands. Tots can make their friend come alive with a press of the nose (“Achoo!”) or the big red heart button (“Hee hee hee!”). Other actions activate more reactions, like lying it down for a nap or shaking it for some spirited “woo!” sounds. Just note that this critter has no volume control and it can be rather loud (however, there is an on/off switch). But, whatever makes Baby happy, right?

$24.99 AT AMAZON

Although we only recommend picks we really love, we may earn a commission on purchases made through links from our site.
stroke red
Little Tikes Activity Garden Playset
Melissa & Doug Shape Sorting Cube
Melissa & Doug Chomp And Clack Alligator...
VTech Sit To Stand Learning Walker
Toomies Cannon Ball Pic & Pop
Hape Pound & Tap Bench with Slide Out Xy...
Leap Frog Learn And Groove Musical Table
Never Touch A Dinosaur Board Book
Touch Think Learn: Colors Early Learning...
WowWee Pinkfong Baby Shark Melody Shape ...
Little Tikes Little Baby Bum Wheels On T...
Tiny Love Wonder Buddies

Tiny Love Wonder Buddies - Thomas