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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.”
1-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.
To quickly jump to the category you're looking for, click on the links below or keep scrolling to see all 42.
- Best gifts for 1-year-old boys and girls
- Best blocks for 1-year-olds
- Best push and pull toys for 1-year-olds
- Best stuffed animals for 1-year-olds
- Best toys for 1-year-olds
- Best books for 1-year-olds
Best gifts for 1-year-old boys and girls
- Amazon Infantino Press and Stay Sensory Blocks, $14.84
- Amazon Melissa & Doug Peek-a-Boo Touch and Feel Puzzle, $11.99
- Amazon Melissa and Doug Shape-Sorting Cube, $11.81
- Amazon Melissa and Doug Safari Zig Zag Tower, $16.99
- Pottery Barn Kids Green Toys Wagon, $29
Best blocks for 1-year-olds
These rainbow blocks are a favorite for expanding creative thinking — they stack any which way to promote a baby's ability to problem solve.
Great for kids as young as 6 months who are teething. But 1-year-olds can also learn animals, shapes, fruit, patterns and more with these soft, durable, chewable, stackable blocks.
Classic blocks will entertain toddlers for years to come.
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.
This truck pulls double duty as a shape sorter and a pushable truck to help with motor skills.
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
The alligator “dances” and makes click-clacking noises as a child pulls.
The Wishbone Flip grows with a child from 1 to 5, converting from a rocker to a push toy to a ride-on.
Anything with wheels is fun to push as it moves.
This push car comes in many colors and is easy for toddlers to grasp.
A walker that makes a gratifying click-clack sound as a child pushes it makes for a fun gift for this age.
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!
The classic wagon is a perfect pull toy that will last for years to come.
Best stuffed animals for 1-year-olds
Embroidered paw prints and eyes and an extra soft microfiber material makes this puppy hard to let go of.
Available in a variety of animals, these stuffed animals are scented with French lavender and are microwavable to bring warmth, comfort and stress relief for bedtime, daytime or on the go.
Conti preferred cuddly dolls made of natural materials and anything that’s not too gendered, like this toy fox.
Interesting textures, bright colors and fun sounds make this a stuffed animal developmental experts love.
These cuddly friends are perfect bedtime companions, and better yet, each doll sold provides 10 meals to children in need.
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
These colorful cars will help stimulate their recognition and imagination while they're having tons of fun.
Perfect for any growing water guppy, this splash pad is the perfect refreshing reprieve for warmer summer months.
Learning concepts like colors, patterns and shapes has never been this fun! This activity cube incorporates several activities into one convenient package.
Kids can get an early start developing a love for music and rocking out.
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.
This entertaining zig-zag tower will help 1-year-olds develop fine motor skills.
Baby dolls are appealing to boys and girls alike. (Corolle makes versions in blue, too.)
This puzzle has jumbo knobs that are perfect for tiny hands.
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.
Wooden peg dolls are a favorite of Waldorf educators, who prefer dolls and figures without pre-drawn faces so children can use their imaginations.
Little ones pound the balls on top until they cascade down to the xylophone, which also pulls out for independent play.
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
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).
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.
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.
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.
In this book, mommy's little one is not sleepy (sound familiar?) and growls, hunts and hides like a wild beast.
"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.
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.
Matthew Van Fleet specializes in interactive, rhyming books for the littlest learners. "Moo" is also a Van Fleet favorite.
"The Thank You Book" isn't just about manners. This board book teaches gratitude as a practice of appreciating the world around us.
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.
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 Gift Guide to shop for everyone on your list, including:
- 40 gifts your bundle of joy will love
- The 35 best toys for 2-year-olds
- 44 best gifts and toys for 3-year-olds
- Shopping for a 4-year-old? Here are 42 gifts they'll love
- 39 best gifts for 5-year-olds
This gift guide was originally published on Nov. 16, 2017 and has been updated.