When it comes to presents, many 1-year-olds aren’t picky. In fact, they may be as excited by the packaging as they are by what’s inside. (Be sure to save those boxes.) Others have already begun to develop their own unique preferences, personalities, and abilities. By investing in the right toys and gifts, you can set your child up for years of fun.
Look for toys that are open-ended, like blocks and stacking cups that can be played with in more than one way, says Sarah Cleveland, director of a child-care center near Austin, Texas. Play at this age is largely focused on sensory exploration and motor development, Cleveland points out, so toys with different textures that invite small hands (and, of course, mouths) to grab and investigate are good choices, as are starter ride-on toys that offer the opportunity to roam. This age is also a good time to invest in keepsake items that will remain special as a child grows up.
We talked with Cleveland and other child development experts—and mined the collective knowledge of parents and other caregivers on our staff—to identify fun and engaging gifts for the youngest recipients. Some of the toys on this list are officially recommended for children ages 2 and up and 3 and up. Our testers have played with these toys outside of their age-range recommendations and found them to be appropriate for this guide. Children with medical complications and developmental delays may engage most with toys recommended for infants; when shopping for them, it’s best to ask their parent or caregiver about the child’s developmental (versus biological) age.
If you’re looking for more kids gift ideas, check out our guides to the best gifts for 2-year-olds, 3-year-olds, 4-year-olds, 5-year-olds, 6-year-olds, 7-year-olds, 8-year-olds, 9-year-olds, and 10-year-olds, as well as great stocking stuffers for kids. We also have guides to gifts for tweens and teens. (Since kids develop at different rates, all age recommendations should be taken with a grain of salt.) And please share your own best ideas in the comments below.