The best gifts for 1-year-olds, according to child development experts

Finding the best gift for a 1-year-old might be easier than you think: It’s that age when the box really can be more exciting than the toy inside.

That’s because favorite activities at age 1 include pushing and pulling, putting things together and taking them apart, and — yes — moving things in and out of boxes.

“It’s a very active time,” said Tovah Klein, director of the Barnard College Center for Toddler Development and author of “How Toddlers Thrive.”

One-year-olds are also practicing speaking and recognizing rhymes, so they’re primed for books that teach words or engage them with lifting flaps. In toys, look for a variety of textures they can explore with their hands, said Marie Conti, the head of the The Wetherill School in Gladwyne, Pennsylvania, and a board member of the American Montessori Society.

Development experts agree open-ended toys are best. Look for something that lets toddlers do what they want instead of following specific instructions.

These are the best gifts for 1-year-old boys and girls in 2018:

1. Hape Pound & Tap Bench with Slide Out Xylophone, $26 (originally 29), Amazon

Little ones pound the balls on top and hear the music as they cascade down the xylophone, which also pulls out for independent play.

2. Infantino Press and Stay Sensory Blocks, $15, Amazon

These building blocks are frustration-free for the littlest builders, said educational toys expert Lauren Leisk.

3. Melissa & Doug Peek-a-Boo Touch and Feel puzzle, $10, Amazon

Melissa & Doug makes great puzzles for all ages. This is a good starter puzzle as tiny hands learn to fit pieces together.

4. LEGO My First Puzzle Pets, $8 (originally $10), Amazon

LEGO makes this starter set that combines a puzzle with early building skills.

5. "Chomp Goes the Alligator," $14 (originally $20), Amazon

Matthew Van Fleet specializes in interactive, rhyming books for the littlest learners. "Moo" is also a Van Fleet favorite.

6. O Ball Tubmarine Bath Toy, $8, Amazon

This bath toy is easy to hold and lets toddlers set things in motion.

7. Green Toys Wagon, $19 (originally $25), Amazon

The classic wagon is a perfect pull toy that will last for years to come.

8. Manhattan Toy Tree Top Adventure Activity Center, $81 (originally $100), Amazon

At 1, babies love to pull themselves to stand, and they can explore all sides of this interactive box.

9. PlanToys Dancing Alligator, $23, Amazon

The alligator “dances” and makes click-clacking noises as a child pulls.

10. Wishbone Flip, $160, Amazon

The Wishbone Flip might be pricey, but it grows with a child from 1 to 5, converting from a rocker to a push toy to a ride-on.

11. Melissa & Doug Mine to Love doll, $20, Amazon

Babies are appealing to boys and girls alike. (Corolle makes versions in blue, too.)

12. HABA Zookeeper Shape Sorting Box, $35, Amazon

This wooden shape sorter lets toddlers explore shape and color as they engage in a favorite activity of putting things in boxes.

13. Jellycat Cordy Roy Fox, $25, Amazon

Conti prefers cuddly dolls made of natural materials and anything that’s not too gendered.

14. Hape Elephant Wooden Push and Pull Toy, $10, Amazon

Anything with wheels is fun to push as it moves (for boys and girls).

15. “Good Day, Good Night,” $13, Amazon

This book by “Goodnight Moon” author Margaret Wise Brown has illustrations by Loren Long of the popular “Otis” series.

We also love this gift idea from Uncommon Goods that allows you to customize a bedtime story for your baby for $35.

16. “Here We Are" by Oliver Jeffers, $16 (originally $20), Amazon

The latest from Oliver Jeffers, the author of “Stuck” and “Lost and Found,” gives his “notes for living on planet Earth.”

17. PlanToys Fountain Bowl Set, $20, Target

Water is fascinating to 1-year-olds. These toys are good for bath or anytime at the sink.

18. BlaBla Doll Bunny, $49, Amazon

This huggable bunny features interesting textures for little fingers.

19. Kid O Go Car, $14, Amazon

This push car comes in many colors and is easy for toddlers to grasp.

20. Playmobil Petting Zoo, $20 (originally $25), Amazon

Animals are a big interest for toddlers. Little hands can construct their own zoos and interact with the animals.

21. "A Parade of Elephants," $13 (originally $19), Amazon

Kevin Henkes's colorful elephants explore numbers and relationships like over and under, up and down.

22. Eco-Kids Finger Paint, $16, Uncommon Goods

Toddlers can start to unleash their artistic sides with these organic, plant-based finger paint. (They will eat it. They eat everything.)

23. "Build a Block" board book, $15 (originally $17), Amazon

Nina Lindsay, president of the Association for Library Service to Children, loves lift-the-flap books for this age.

24. Melissa & Doug Chomp and Clack Push Toy, $38, Amazon

A walker that makes a gratifying click-clack sound as they push.

25. "Dream Big, Little One" by Vashti Harrison, $7, Amazon

Vashti Harrison brings her "Little Leaders" series to board book age, with inspiration from bold women in black history. The lift-the-flap book "Baby Feminists" also shows leaders like Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Gloria Steinem as babies.

26. "Our Great Big Backyard" by Laura Bush and Jenna Bush Hager, $8, NBC Store

Even your little one can enjoy the story of Jane and her brother and the beautiful illustrations by Jacqueline Rogers that come with it!

Finding the perfect present can be a challenge, but Shop TODAY's up to the task. No matter who you're looking for, we've got gift guides for everyone on your list, including:

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This article has been updated since it was originally published on November 9, 2017 on TODAY.com.