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

These great gifts for 1-year-olds could make your toddler smarter.
by Lisa Tolin /  / Updated  / Source: TODAY

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Finding the right 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,” says Tovah Klein, director of the Barnard College Center for Toddler Development and author of “How Toddlers Thrive.”

One-year-olds are also practicing saying words 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, like a doll or blanket that incorporates velvet, corduroy and silk, to give little ones things they can explore with their hands, says Marie Conti, the head of the The Wetherill School in Gladwyne, Pennsylvania, and a board member of the American Montessori Society.

“Their fine motor skills have come to fruition with the ability to put lids on containers, use a cup, turn pages of books, and at around 18 months start to explore the foundations of drawing,”

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:

TODAY editors, writers and experts take care to recommend items we really like and hope you’ll enjoy! Just so you know, TODAY does have affiliate relationships. So, while every product is independently selected, if you buy something through our links, we may get a small share of the revenue.

Hape Pound & Tap Bench with Slide Out Xylophone, $29, Amazon

Hape Pound & Tap Bench

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

Fisher-Price Little People Mini Farm, $55, Amazon

Fisher-Price Little People Mini Farm

Animals are of great interest to young toddlers, and this play set lets them explore.

Corolle Mon Premier Bebe Doll, $40, Amazon

Corolle doll

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

HABA Pure Nature Organic Pudgie Puppy Plus Toy, $25, Amazon

HABA pudgie puppy doll

Conti prefers cuddly dolls made of natural materials, and anything that’s not too gendered. The toy above makes noise, if you want something that's a little quieter there's this $14 Pudgie Puppy from HABA.

“Good Day, Good Night,” $12, Amazon

Good Day, Good Night
Good Day, Good Night

This never-before-published 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.

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

Push and go toys

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

Kid O Go Car, $14, Amazon

Kid O Go Car
Kid O

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

Melissa & Doug Safari Jumbo Knob Puzzle, $10, Amazon

Melissa and Doug puzzle toy

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

“Here We Are” by Oliver Jeffers, $14, Amazon

"Here We Are" by Oliver Jeffers

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

Playmobil Petting Zoo, $25, Amazon

Playmobil Petting Zoo

Little hands can construct their own zoo and interact with the animals.

Skip Hop Dunck Stacking Bath Ducky Toys, $7, Amazon

Skip Hop Dunck Stacking Bath Ducky Toys
Skip Hop

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

O Ball Grasp and Splash Gift Set, $20, Amazon

O Ball Grasp and Splash Gift Set
O Ball

These bath toys are easy to hold and let toddlers set things in motion.

Eco-Kids Finger Paint, $20, Uncommon Goods

Eco-Kids Finger Paint

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

"Build a Block" board book, $12, Amazon

Build a Block

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

Infantino Press and Stay Sensory Blocks, $13, Amazon

Infantino Press and Stay Sensory Blocks

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

HABA Zookeeper Shape Sorting Box, $35, Amazon

HABA Zookeeper 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.

Hape Galloping Zebra Push Toy, $70, Nordstrom

Hape Galloping Zebra Push Toy

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

Manhattan Toy Tree Top Adventure Activity CEnter, $66 (normally $100), Amazon

Manhattan Toy Tree Top
Manhattan Toy

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

PlanToys Dancing Alligator, $23, Amazon

PlanToys Dancing Alligator

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

Green Toys Wagon, $24, Amazon

Green Toys Wagon
Green Toys

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

Looking for more suggestions? Check out the gift guide for babies, 2-year olds, 3-year-olds, 4-year-olds and 5-year-olds. Or try Good Housekeeping’s 2017 ‘Best Toy Award’ winners, the 10 toys that will be on every kid’s wish list this holiday season or Amazon's top 2017 toy list.

This article was originally published on November 9, 2017 on

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