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

These great gifts are targeted for the skills 1-year-olds are currently developing.
Open-ended toys are best at this age.
Open-ended toys are best at this age.
/ Source: TODAY
By Lisa Tolin

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It can be tough to find the best gifts for children, but 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 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.

When we release our 2019 gift guides, we make sure all prices are current. But prices change frequently, so there’s a chance the prices are now different than they were the day of publication.

Best gifts for 1-year-old boys and girls

1. Infantino Press and Stay Sensory Blocks

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

2. PlanToys Fountain Bowl Set

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

3. Eco-Kids Finger Paint

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

4. Melissa & Doug Peek-a-Boo Touch and Feel puzzle

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

5. Lego My First Puzzle Pets

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

6. Manhattan Toy Tree Top Adventure Activity Center

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

7. HABA Nature Shape Sorting Box

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

8. Petit Collage Wooden Toy Blocks

Classic blocks will entertain toddlers for years to come.

Best books for 1-year-olds

1."The Perfect Seat," by Minh Lê and Gus Gordon

A parent and child are ready for story time — as soon as they can find the perfect seat in this heartwarming book of opposites.

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2. "The Wee Beasties" Collection, by Ame Dyckman and Alex G. Griffiths

These whimsical board books feature a python who loves too much, an octopus who touches everything and a lion who can't abide quiet time.

3. "You Are My Happy," by Hoda Kotb

Hoda's second book is as charming as her first.

4. "Why?" by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

This curious bunny has a lot of questions about the world, just like your little one will soon.

5. "Three Cheers for Kid McGear," by Sherri Duskey Rinker and AG Ford

This rhyming book from the creators of "Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site" stars a female truck who is small but mighty.

6. "Silly Lullaby," by Sandra Boynton

"Your pajamas are on. There's a duck on your head. I think that this means you are ready for bed," begins this bedtime book from the queen of silly, Sandra Boynton.

7. "A Big Bed for Little Snow," by Grace Lin

Little Snow jumps on his fluffy bed and magic comes out in this sweet new fable introducing snow.

8 "Chomp Goes the Alligator," by Matthew Van Fleet

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

9. "One Is a Piñata," by Roseanne Greenfield Thong and John Parra

Learn to count in Spanish and English with this rhyming, bilingual board book.

10. "BuildaBlock" Board Book, by Christopher Franceschelli

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

Best push toys for 1-year-olds

1. PlanToys Dancing Alligator

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

2. Wishbone Flip

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

3. Hape Elephant Wooden Push and Pull Toy

Anything with wheels is fun to push as it moves.

4. Green Toys Wagon

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

5. Kid O Go Car

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

6. Melissa & Doug Chomp and Clack Push Toy

A walker that makes a gratifying click-clack sound as they push makes a fun gift for this age.

Best toys for 1-year-olds

1. Hape Pound & Tap Bench with Slide Out Xylophone

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. O Ball Tubmarine Bath Toy

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

3. Melissa & Doug Mine to Love Doll

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

3. Jellycat Cordy Roy Fox

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

4. Dolce Afghan Hound Interactive Stuffed Animal

Interesting textures, bright colors and fun sounds make this a stuffed animal developmental experts love.

5. BlaBla Doll Bunny

This huggable bunny features interesting textures for little fingers.

6. Playmobil Petting Zoo

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

Finding the perfect present can be a challenge, but Shop TODAY's up to the task. Try our interactive gift finder to sort gifts by price, person and interest. And no matter who you're looking for, we've got gift guides for everyone on your list, including:

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