By the age of one, most toddlers can sit up, play “Peek-A-Boo,” and according to the CDC, are into banging items together to make noise and see what happens. They’ve developed an attachment to items and now might have a favorite toy, blankie or stuffed animal. Having been read to, they’re now apt to hand you a book, most likely their favorite one, and ask (or demand) that you read them the story. One-year-old children are starting to notice their environment and have become curious about it. They might be standing up — either on their own or with a bit of assistance, and by wobbling around, they’re becoming adventurous and want to explore, touch and taste everything.
So how do you choose the best toys for 1-year-olds? Whether you’re a new parent or an aunt or uncle searing for the perfect gift, there are many different types of toys that naturally appeal to young kids. Below, we’ll share some expert recommendations on the most stimulating toys and gifts for 1-year-old children as well as some of our favorite toys.
The Best Types of Toys for 1-Year-Olds
The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) has a list of the best types of toys for one-year-olds that will activate their minds and bodies. These include:
- “Recordings with songs, rhymes, simple stories, and pictures.”
- “Things to create with — wide non-toxic, washable markers, crayons, and large paper. Remember that toddlers have little hands, it’s better to give them large-sized crayons as those are easier for them to use.”
- “Things to pretend with — toy phones, dolls and doll beds, baby carriages and strollers, dress-up accessories (scarves, purses), puppets, stuffed toys, plastic animals, and plastic and wood ‘realistic’ vehicles.”
- “Things to build with — cardboard and wood blocks (can be smaller than those used by infants — two to four inches.)”
- “Things for using their large and small muscles — puzzles, large pegboards, toys with parts that do things (dials, switches, knobs, lids), and large and small balls.”
In addition to the recommendations from the NAEYC, research shows that brightly colored toys are also ideal for this age group. According to Sciencing, these types of toys “Help kids distinguish objects from one another in their field of vision.” For this reason, when shopping for the best toys for 1-year-olds, look for colorful toys and blocks, which will naturally attract their attention.
Even the simplest toy can hold a child’s interest and imagination for hours. When it comes to toys, they may immediately be drawn to it, or they may ignore it, and then return to play with it later. Don’t be surprised if you start to take a toy away from a little one thinking that they’re not interested, and they’ll get upset. There may be times when they’re not using the item, but they still want it near them.
When shopping for gifts for little ones, keep in mind that the best toys for one-year-olds should not contain magnets or small parts, as both can be a choking hazard. Make sure that the soft toys and stuffed animals/dolls can be washed and are flame retardant. Remember kids stick things in their mouths, so when purchasing crayons, markers, and paints, make sure that the packaging states that they’re non-toxic and use lead-free paints.
The Top 20 Toys for 1-Year-Old Kids
We’ve hunted around and found the best toys for one-year-olds that are gender-neutral, will spark their imagination, help them with parallel play, and keep them mentally and physically active. There are also soft plush animals and dolls they can use as nap friends. You might even come across a toy or two that you used when you were a little kid. With very few exceptions, most of these toys fall into a moderate price tag. No need to blow a lot of money on a sturdy gift that could be gummed.
And if you have slightly older children as well, be sure to check out our round-up of the top toys of 2020 for all ages.
1. Ikea Mula Toddle Wagon/Walker
When little ones are getting up and going, this could be one of the best toys for a one-year-old. We know toddlers are figuring out how their legs work, so this wagon from Ikea can help them stay upright while working on their muscles. The handle can be adjusted to either be used vertically or horizontally. Using the handle of the wagon/walker offers them stability on their journey around the room. Since the wagon has a bin, they can take their goodies with them. The wagon’s wheels can be adjusted to move very slowly or at a normal speed, so it can keep up with the tyke while also preventing spills. Made from lightweight materials, it can easily be washed with soap and water.
2. Baby Einstein Flip & Riff Keytar Musical Guitar and Piano Toddler Toy
Baby Einstein resurrected the 80s glam band favorite, the keytar and then turned it into an educational toy for toddlers. This could be on the list of one of the best toys for one-year-olds for a couple of reasons: it’s two toys in one, as the guitar converts into a piano. And, the toy allows children to increase their hand-eye coordination, memory and creativity skills. According to UNICEF, music “ignites all areas of child development,” so the keytar can promote a love of learning in a fun, no-pressure way. The Flip & Riff Keytar comes with 30 melodies and six different instrument sounds, allowing toddlers to easily tap out music using their magic touch technology.
3. Haba Discovery Blocks
Haba is a family-owned business that has been making children’s toys since the 30s. They’re environmentally responsible and only use trees from a sustainable forest in Germany. This is one of the best toys for one-year-olds as it lets their imagination fly when they use the primary color wooden building blocks to create anything they can imagine. And to keep their imagination soaring and their hand-eye coordination growing, each wooden block has a toy in the center. Inside the yellow block is a bell, the middle of the dark blue block has a kaleidoscope (which is a cool toy in and of itself), the orange block holds a rattling ball, the red block has a mirror in its center, the light blue block has a big red pushbutton right in the middle, and the green block has yellow plexiglass.
4. Jellycat Bashful Bunny Stuffed Animal
Soft toys AKA stuffed animals and dolls can be used to activate the imagination; either used as a toy to play with or as a comfort object. This sweet plush lop-eared bunny can be tucked into a backpack, kept on a bed, or dragged around the house. The bunny stands about seven inches tall and is full of love. It has been tested and passed the European Safety Standard for toys EN71, parts 1-3. The bashful bunny can be hand-washed. It comes in peony, buttermilk and seaspray.
5. Tupperware Shap-O Toy
Does this toddler toy bring back memories? It’s a classic learning toy that’s been enjoyed by generations of kids. This BPA-free sphere has 10 shapes that can be slid into the correct sized slot. The open spaces also make it easy for little ones to pick up and use, and it rolls too. This gets them up and moving and creates fun, gentle exercise. The bright primary colors are perfect eye-catching shades for little ones. Each shape has a number on one side, and dots on the other. As they get older, they’ll be able to match the dots and numbers to each slot, sneakily reinforcing basic math, problem-solving and recognition skills.
6. Melissa and Doug Float Alongs — Playfun Penguins
Like Baby Einstein, Melissa and Doug is a learning toy company that has items for every stage of a child’s development. As many parents, aunts and uncles have experienced, bath time can be an exhausting experience. Mellisa and Doug have come out with a waterproof tub toy that not only makes bathing fun but also educational. The set includes a soft waterproof six-page book, three soft waterproof penguins and their mesh bag. Little ones can listen to and read along (as they get older) to the story, and yes, it’s okay if they gum the book’s pages. The penguins can be completely immersed in the tub. This toy helps one-year-olds explore their creativity and develop a sense of play.
7. Fat Brain Toys Suction Kupz
Made from 100% food-grade silicone and BPA-free plastic, these cool suction bottomed cups can be stacked up to create a tower, stuck on a wall or used as a drinking cup, scooper, floaty bathtub toy . . . the possibilities are endless. According to the manufacturer, these toys promote spatial reasoning, motor skills and creativity. They’re dishwasher-safe and can be compressed to an almost flat shape. Toss one or two in a bag for trips.
8. LeapFrog 100 Animals Book
LeapFrog’s known for their educational tablets for older kids, and for one-year-olds, there’s a wide selection of toys that can stimulate their imagination and make learning fun. This six-page double-sided book, made to hold up to anything a toddler can put on it, is interactive and features 12 animals. Toddlers can press any of the pictures on each page to hear what the animal sounds like, learn their names, get animal fun facts, and information on where they live too. On the side of the book is a colored star, once touched, they will hear and eventually sing along to any of the three educational songs in the book. The LeapFrog 100 Animals Book is bilingual, so children can learn in English and Spanish. It runs on two AA batteries and is easy to clean
9. Olivia and Cocoa Blast-Off Bear Crate
Olivia and Cocoa’s Blast-Off Bear Crate helps to spark a tiny person’s imagination, sense of wonder and love of science while also promoting pretend play and creativity. The crate contains a 100% cotton interplanetary print swaddle blanket, a stuffed bear wearing an astronaut’s costume, and Heart on Pluto, a picture that book that describes NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft trip through the stars. As little ones grow, they’ll be able to read the story to themselves.
10. iPlay, iLearn Bouncy Pals Yellow Hopping Horse
The iLearn Bouncy Pals horsie could be a perfectly sized toddler’s chair. It is, and it’s also a faux furry friend and a mini gym. Yes, three toys in one. The hopping horse works like the bouncy balance balls for little tykes where they sit on it and then hop around. While both toys are fun, ILearn’s toy is covered in plush, so it won’t rub skin raw, and when not in use, it deflates. The bottom of the horse’s hooves are skid-resistant, so there’s very little chance of someone toppling over. As the child moves around on the horse, they’re constantly working their upper and lower body. It can help children with physical activity, creativity, and pretend play. If a horse isn’t your thing, there’s a cow and a unicorn to choose from instead.
The toy is made from eco-friendly PVC and plush that conforms to the safety requirements of EU EN71, US CPSIA & ASTM F963. It comes with its own pump.
11.Manhattan Toy Squeezable Sloth Stuffed Animal
This toy for one-year-olds is a bit like the squishy stress balls that adults use. This soft sloth is filled with memory foam, as your toddler plays with it, they’ll squish it down and then watch it slowly pop back up. It’s a cute silly toy that’ll give a little one a case of the giggles. There’s also an elephant, koala, leopard, lion, and reindeer versions.
12. Pottery Barn Kids Wishbone 3-in-1 Bike
Made for children ages one through five-years-old, this bike grows with them. This pedal-less bike starts off as a tricycle, then as the child grows it becomes a small bike, and then finally the perfect sized bike for a big five-year-old. Made with non-toxic glues and finishes, the plantation-free birch and eucalyptus wood is kiln-dried. It can be used for physical activity and pretend play.
13. Hape Pound and Tap Bench with Slide-out Xylophone
Raise your hand if you had a xylophone when you were a tyke. This toy won the 2018 Cribsie Award of favorite first musical toy suitable for ages 12 months to three years. Included with the xylophone is a wooden mallet that lets them bang on the brightly colored balls, which then in turn sends them dancing over the xylophone. The mallet can also be used to “play” the musical instrument. Little ones can either play catch or toss the balls too. The Pound and Tap Bench was designed specifically for small hands, so it’s easy for them to grasp and use. They can create their own melodies while working on hand and eye coordination, and it also helps them develop motor skills and works the arm muscles as well. Crafted with child-safe non-toxic paint is also has rounded edges and is easy to wipe clean.
14. Haba Counting Friends Wood Layering Puzzle 1 to 5
Here’s another toy for one-year-olds that will grow with them. At first, they’ll have fun matching the tile to the correct layer, and as they age, they’ll learn about matching numbers with the animals that are printed on each layer. Using the toy, one-year-olds will be able to work on fine motor skills and cognitive and problem-solving skills while using it. The layered puzzle is made from linden plywood and can be wiped clean with a damp cloth.
15. Learning Resources Max the Fine Motor Moose
Max has many antlers that hold bright primary-colored discs. The goal of this game to stack the rings (which have two types of textures) on one or all the antlers. The rings are made to be easily picked up and used by little hands and assist little ones’ fine motor and problem-solving skills. The 12 rings also promote creative play and color matching too. When playtime is over, the rings can be packed in Max; there’s a door on the back of it, and all 12 rings fit inside. Max and the rings can be easily cleaned.
16. Melissa and Doug Pop Blocs Farm Animals
The five barnyard animals: chicken, horse, cow, pig, and sheep are big, yet can be played with tots as young as six months. Each animal comes in two pieces and are easily be popped together via a knob and socket closure. This toy can be used to refine motor skills as a child will not only take them apart, but put them back together again, and they can also move them around a table or through a room. They assist in developing social, emotional, and cognitive skills. The animals are made from non-toxic materials and can be cleaned quickly.
17. Fat Brain Toys Wimzle
Four spheres attached to bars jut out from a round ball. Each chunky-shaped sphere (easy for little hands to manipulate) are in different colors, textures, and shapes. The spheres can move up and down, can be twisted around, and they spin too. Made for children ages six months to two-years-old, this is a playful toy for one-year-olds that could be used for years. It helps with fine motor skills, works on hand-eye coordination and exploration skills too. Made from BPA-free plastic, it’s durable, and can be either hand washed or washed via dishwasher.
18. LeapFrog Spin & Sing Alphabet Zoo
The song Old MacDonald and the ABC song get updates for the digital age. By clicking on any of the three buttons, either the animal, music, or ABC button, and then spinning the wheel, this machine will either play a song, or when it stops, speak either the letter or the corresponding animal, as in ” P for Pig!” Made for children aged six to thirty-six months, it works on their motor skills by not only spinning the wheel, but also by dancing to the music. It teaches them the alphabet and works on cognitive and fine motor skills in a fun and relaxing manner.
19. Fisher-Price Linkimals Lights and Colors Llama
Chances are you had a similar stacking toy from Fisher-Price when you were a tyke. The modern version lights up when you touch the llama’s head. The llama has over 25 songs, tunes and sounds and will also chat when touched. The colorful donut-shaped discs can be stacked in a variety of ways. It’s a great way to introduce a small child to colors and shapes. As an interactive toy, it can strengthen a child’s fine motor skills and dexterity while it also encourages self-play, problem and thinking skills. This BPA-free toy comes with batteries, so it’s ready to go in minutes.
20. Learning Resources Peekaboo Farm
Lift the lid and meet the animal that lives in its own barn. Each of the five barns contains a duck, pig, cow, horse, or cat. The second surprise is that they’re finger puppets. The two-piece barns are easy for little ones to open and close. This is another toy for one-year-olds that grows with your child. In the beginning, they can play peek-a-boo with the roofs, and as they grow older, they can learn animal names, the colors of the houses and use the finger puppets either as a toy or as a finger puppet. It’s a fun way for little ones to work on fine motor skills, pretend play, improve problem-solving and even later, learn basic math as each barn is labeled with a number.