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.
Hape Pound & Tap Bench with Slide Out Xylophone, $25, Amazon
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, $30, Amazon
Animals are of great interest to young toddlers, and this play set lets them explore.
Corolle Mon Premier Bebe Doll, $40, Amazon
Cuddle + Kind Maximus the Cat, $48-68, Nordstrom
Conti prefers cuddly dolls made of natural materials, and anything that’s not too gendered.
“Good Day, Good Night,” $15, Amazon
Rubbabu Dump Truck, $34, Amazon
Anything with wheels is fun to push as it moves (for boys and girls).
Kid O Go Car, $14, Amazon
This push car comes in many colors and is easy for toddlers to grasp.
Melissa & Doug Safari Jumbo Knob Puzzle, $13, Target
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, $11, Amazon
Playmobil Petting Zoo, $25, Target
Little hands can construct their own zoo and interact with the animals.
Skip Hop Dunck Stacking Bath Ducky Toys, $7, Target
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, $19, Amazon
These bath toys are easy to hold and let toddlers set things in motion.
Eco-Kids Finger Paint, $20, Uncommon Goods
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, $14, Amazon
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, $12, Amazon
These building blocks are frustration-free for the littlest builders, says educational toys expert Lauren Leisk.
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.
Hape Galloping Zebra Push Toy, $70, Nordstrom
A walker that makes a gratifying click-clack sound as they push.
Hape Wild Safari Adventure Center, $90, Amazon
At 1, babies love to pull themselves to stand, and they can explore all sides of this interactive box.
PlanToys Dancing Alligator, $18, Amazon
The alligator “dances” and makes click-clacking noises as a child pulls.
Green Toys Wagon, $20, Amazon
The classic wagon is a perfect pull toy that will last for years to come.
Eeboo Alphabet Tower, $20, Nordstrom
And for when you really can’t beat the box: This stacking alphabet tower is great to build high or nest within itself.
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.
If you need to check other people off your list, test out our interactive gift guide! You simply choose who you are shopping for, what they are like and how much you want to spend, then we generate the gifts for you!