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40 gifts for the 1-year-old who's growing up way too fast

These toys and books are targeted for the skills 1-year-olds are currently developing.
TODAY Illustration / Amazon / Bookshop
/ Source: TODAY

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It can be tough to find the best toys for toddlers, but 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,” 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, 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 Gift Guide to find the perfect present for everyone on your list!

Best blocks for 1-year-olds

Lovevery Wooden Stacking Stones

These beautiful stacking stones let little ones explore balance with irregular shapes. Plus, they're fun to bang together.

Lewo Wooden Rainbow Stacker

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

Mini Tuduo Baby Blocks

Great for kids as young as 6 months who are teething, 1-year-olds can also learn animals, shapes, fruit, patterns and more with these soft, durable, chewable, stackable blocks.

Petit Collage Wooden Toy Blocks

These classic wooden blocks will entertain toddlers for years to come.

Melissa & 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.

Infantino Press and Stay Sensory Blocks

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

Best push, pull and ride-on toys for 1-year-olds

Hape Elephant Wooden Push and Pull Toy

Anything with wheels is fun to push as it moves. Your toddler can pull around this wee elephant by its leash or grasp their little fingers around its hollow center to push it along like a car.

PlanToys Dancing Alligator

The alligator “dances” and makes click-clacking noises as a child pulls. It also comes in unpainted, natural wood.

Wishbone Flip Rock and Roll Ride

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

Kid O Go Car Early Learning Push and Pull Toy

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

Melissa & Doug Chomp and Clack Alligator Push Toy

This walker toy features chomping alligators, fish on the wheels, and spinning butterfly and ladybug beads. It also makes a gratifying click-clack sound as toddlers push it along.

Fisher Price Corn Popper

This classic Fisher Price 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!

Green Toys Wagon

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

Doona Liki Stroller & Trike

It’s a stroller; it’s a tricycle; it’s a bike. This little ride-on is designed to grow with your toddler. Best of all, it comes out of the box fully assembled and folds up for easy storage so it's easy to take on the go.

Eric Carle The Very Hungry Caterpillar Train Set

This classic train comes in a baby-friendly size for pushing, pulling apart and putting back together.

Retrospec Cricket Baby Walker

Your little one can learn to walk and balance on a bike at the same time with this balance bike walker.

Best stuffed animals for 1-year-olds

Plush Creations Safari Animals Set

These cuddly friends are perfect bedtime companions, and better yet, it comes with a carrying case for storage.

Warmies Microwavable Plush Animal

Available in a variety of animals, these stuffed toys are scented with French lavender and are microwavable to bring warmth, comfort and stress relief for bedtime, daytime or on-the-go.

Jellycat Cordy Roy Fox

Cuddly and plush, this sophisticated fox comes in two sizes and is made of natural materials.

Best toys for 1-year-olds

Lovevery The Babbler Play Kit

Lovevery toys are designed by development experts to be just right for kids as they grow. Sign up for a subscription and get a new kit every three months.

Hape Country Critters Wooden Activity Play Cube

This play box is a shape sorter, maze and more all in one, with plenty of colorful, playful activities on each side.

Baby Einstein Magic Touch Ukelele

Kids can get an early start developing a love for music and rocking out.

Manhattan Toy Tree Top Adventure Activity Center

At 1 years old, babies love to pull themselves up to stand, which they can do with this interactive wooden tree-themed toy, jam-packed with motor-skill activities.

Melissa & Doug Safari Zig-Zag Tower

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

Melissa & Doug Mine to Love Doll

These 12-inch cuddly baby dolls are appealing to boys and girls alike. (It comes in a blue version, too.)

Melissa & Doug Jumbo Knob Puzzle

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

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.

Rainbow Peg Dolls

Wooden peg dolls are a favorite of Waldorf educators, who prefer dolls and figures without pre-drawn faces so children can use their imagination.

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.

Hape Baby Drum

Drums are great for pounding out rhythm and developing fine motor skills. When the drum rolls around, it emits melodies and flashing lights.

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

"Bear Is a Bear," by Jonathan Stutzman and Dan Santat

This beautiful book tells of a little girl's stuffed(ish) best friend who is always there to love and support her as she grows — no matter the wear and neglect that comes its way.

“Good Night, Good Night,” by Sandra Boynton

Boynton has expanded on her classic “Going to Bed Book” with a song and revised illustrations to celebrate the board book’s 36th anniversary.

"The Smell of a Rainbow," by Dawn Goldworm and Andres Landazabal

Fragrance designer Dawn Goldworm created scents for each color of the rainbow for a multi-sensory board book that teaches colors.

Artifact Uprising Personalized Baby Board Book

Make your own book of baby's favorite people with this custom board book that lets toddlers match faces and names — a great choice when relatives are far away.

"I'll Meet You In Your Dreams," by Jessica Young and Rafael Lopez

Written in lyrical rhyme, this story takes children through a sentimental journey through their childhood, enforcing the view that a parents' love is unconditional.

"Not Now, Cow," by Tammi Sauer and Troy Cummings

In this playful introduction to the seasons, all the animals are ready and dressed for the seasons, except for Cow, who seems to have great difficulty deciding what to wear.

"The Old Boat," by Jerome Pumphrey and Jarrett Pumphrey

A young boy rides an old boat through shifting tides, discovering ties to generations and the environment as he goes in this follow-up to "The Old Truck."

"Bigger Than a Bumblebee," by Joseph Kuefler

A sweet reminder that no matter how big, a child is smaller than your love.

"Bathe the Cat," by Alice B. McGinty and David Roberts

This family has to get the house in order — and bathe the cat — before grandma arrives. But the clever cat finds a way to scramble the chore list into ever more ridiculous chores, like sweeping the dishes, scrubbing the fish and mowing the floor.

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

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