The best gifts for 1-year-olds from our 2020 gift guide

These great gifts are targeted for the skills 1-year-olds are currently developing.
The 1-year-old in your life will love to get any of these gifts for the holidays.
The 1-year-old in your life will love to get any of these gifts for the holidays.TODAY Illustration / Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

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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 moving on from baby toys 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.

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Don’t forget to check out Shop TODAY’s 2020 Gift Guide to find the perfect present for everyone on your list!

Bestselling gifts from this article:

Best blocks for 1-year-olds

1. Grimm Rainbow Stacking Toy

These rainbow blocks are a favorite for expanding creative thinking — they stack any which way to promote a baby's ability to problem solve.

2. Petit Collage Wooden Toy Blocks

Classic blocks will entertain toddlers for years to come.

3. Melissa and Doug Shape-Sorting Cube

This classic, wooden shape-sorter lets 1-year-olds put things inside a box and take them back out — similar to the joy of opening a gift box.

4. Green Toys Shape Sorter Truck

This truck pulls double duty as a shape sorter and a pushable truck to help with motor skills.

5. Infantino Press and Stay Sensory Blocks

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

Best push and pull toys for 1-year-olds

1. PlanToys Dancing Alligator

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

2. Wishbone Flip Rock and Roll Ride

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. Kid O Go Car Early Learning Push and Pull Toy

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

5. Melissa & Doug Chomp and Clack Alligator Push Toy

A walker that makes a gratifying click-clack sound as a child pushes it makes for a fun gift for this age.

6. Fisher Price Corn Popper

This classic toy is always a favorite among babies thanks to its fun sounds and ease of use. It's perfect for new walkers who need extra practice!

7. Green Toys Wagon

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

Best stuffed animals for 1-year-olds

1. Jellycat Cordy Roy Fox

Conti preferred cuddly dolls made of natural materials and anything that’s not too gendered, like this toy fox.

2. Dolce Afghan Hound Interactive Stuffed Animal Plush Toy

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

3. Cuddle + Kind Mia the Dog

These cuddly friends are perfect bedtime companions, and better yet, each doll sold provides 10 meals to children in need.

4. Sigikid Organic Bunny Snuggly

Made of 100% organic cotton, this snuggly stuffed animal is a sweet addition to a little one's bedtime routine.

5. Baby Gund Flappy The Elephant Musical Stuffed Animal

Babies will love to play with this cuddly elephant that flaps his ears to songs when his right foot is pushed.

Best toys for 1-year-olds

1. Lego My First Puzzle Pets

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

2. Manhattan Toy Tree Top Adventure Activity Center

At 1, babies love to pull themselves up to stand, which they can do on this interactive box as they explore all sides of the toy.

3. Melissa and Doug Safari Zig Zag Tower

This entertaining zig-zag tower will help 1-year-olds develop fine motor skills.

4. PlanToys Fountain Bowl Set

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

5. Melissa & Doug Mine to Love Doll

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

6. Melissa and Doug Jumbo Knob Puzzle

This puzzle has jumbo knobs that are perfect for tiny hands.

7. Fat Brain Toys Dimpl Duo

Pushing the little silicone buttons is oddly satisfying (even for grown-ups) and is a sensory way to get familiar with shapes and colors.

8. Learning Resources Learn-a-Lot Avocados

Spin the "pit" to see different faces and emotions on these pull-apart avocados that let your 1-year-old work on fine motor skills, colors and feelings.

9. Rainbow Peg Dolls

Wooden peg dolls are a favorite of Waldorf educators, who prefer dolls and figures without predrawn faces so children can use their imaginations.

10. Hape Pound & Tap Bench with Slide Out Xylophone

Little ones pound the balls on top until they cascade down to the xylophone, which also pulls out for independent play.

11. 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.

Best books for 1-year-olds

1. "If You Come to Earth," by Sophie Blackall

Two-time Caldecott winner, Sophie Blackall, takes in the full scope of our planet in this lyrical introduction to Earth for an alien (or your learning little one).

2. "A Polar Bear in the Snow," by Mac Barnett and Shawn Harris

A polar bear sets out on a journey, but where is he going? This beautifully illustrated walk asks playful questions and leaves plenty of white space for a child's imagination.

3. "Grinny Granny Donkey," by Craig Smith and Katz Cowley

Remember that viral video of a grandma who couldn't stop cracking up over a book? This is the sequel, and it's even more grandparent-friendly.

4. "Love Can Come in Many Ways," by Terry Pierce and Suzy Ultman

Nina Lindsay, president of the Association for Library Service to Children, loves lift-the-flap books for kids this age. This sweet ode to all the ways love shows itself has felt flaps for your baby to peek beneath.

5. "Bedtime for Sweet Creatures," by Nikki Grimes and Elizabeth Zunon

In this book, mommy's little one is not sleepy (sound familiar?) and growls, hunts and hides like a wild beast.

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. "Tiny T. Rex and the Very Dark Dark," by Jonathan Stutzman and Jay Fleck

Tiny T. Rex is having his first campout, but can't sleep without a nighty light. He'll have to muster all his bravery to see past the dark.

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. "The Thank You Book," by Mary Lyn Ray and Stephanie Graegin

"The Thank You Book" isn't just about manners. This board book teaches gratitude as a practice of appreciating the world around us.

10. "The Little Engine That Could," by Watty Piper and Dan Santat

This little engine is celebrating a 90th anniversary with a new edition and an introduction by Dolly Parton. It's been teaching kids they can since before "growth mindset" was invented.

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

Our own Hoda Kotb's second book is as charming as her first.

Still looking for the perfect gift? Be sure to check out Shop TODAY’s 2020 Gift Guide to shop for everyone on your list, including:

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This gift guide was originally published on Nov. 16, 2017 and has been updated.