What does one get for such a small human? One year olds are so cute, but often difficult to shop for! You could get clothes, blankets, or… or what? Honestly, what are the best toys for a one year old? According to the CDC’s developmental milestones, by 18 months a child should be doing some simple pretend play, using several single words, scribbling, eating somewhat independently, and pulling toys while walking.
(I purposely looked up 18 month old skills, because we want the one year old in your life to be working on all kinds of new skills. So the toys I’ve picked focus on skills that your one year old should have down by the time they are one and a half.) Hope this list is helpful for you!
What Makes a Good Toy for a One Year Old?
- Fun! Toys should be fun. The toys we get our children should not just be for the purpose of teaching them a new skill or to get them to be quiet. (Although let’s be honest, we sometimes need one or both of those things to happen.)
- Engaging An engaging toy means your child desires to interact with it, and the toy can hold their attention for some time. It should be something they actively do, not just something that is completely passive.
- Developmentally appropriate As one-year-olds, there are plenty of toys that these little ones aren’t ready for yet! Make sure toys that you buy aren’t meant for a ten-year-old, because chances are your kid won’t appreciate a Rubik’s cube just yet (unless it’s a flavored one because they will definitely try to eat it).
- Something that isn’t easily broken Fact: one-year-olds are not great at handling things carefully. At this age, they love banging stuff together, sucking on things until they are soggy, and generally trying to tear up most things that come their way. So just be mindful that at this age kids need durable toys.
- Something that is safe As I’ve mentioned above, one year olds just love putting things in their mouths. (In fact “baby mouthing” is one of the ways babies learn best about the world around them. Check out this article to learn more.) That being said, it is vital that you keep small children away from toys with small pieces that could be a choking hazard.
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What are the best toys for a one year old?
Blocks: Blocks are wonderful toys for many reasons. Using blocks, your child is working on their fine motor skills (stacking, picking up, etc.) and laying the foundation for mathematical skills. I know it’s crazy to start thinking about mathematical skills for a 1 year old, but you have to start somewhere! You can get these soft blocks which are great for little ones since they still might be interested in seeing how they taste!
Pretend food: Kids start learning about pretend play so much earlier than you think! This play food is hand-painted and wooden. My littles love it so much. The best part is that it has little bins for all four food groups represented. These toys are good for developing imagination, talking about eating well, and sorting (by color, shape, and food group).
Play kitchen and accessories: This is the toy kitchen we have at our house and our family likes it a lot. There are great accessories that come with it that help your child practice fine motor skills (putting spoons on hooks, putting a lid on a pot, etc.). There are also great opportunities for imagination and language growth.
Little people and accessories: At our house, we like the fire engine and the firefighters. My nieces have the cute airplane one. Both of them have a few buttons that light up and talk or sing. These toys are fun for developing imagination, language building, cognition, and fine motor skills.
Fun cups/utensils: By 18 months, your child should be working on eating independently. The CDC states that children should be able to eat with a spoon and drink from a cup by themselves. I like these sweet plates that can be car-shaped or unicorn-shaped. They just might be the ticket to getting your one year old excited about eating a variety of foods. I also really like these bright-colored, sippy cups that are made from recycled materials. I’m also a fan of these “trainer” cups that help children to make an easier transition to a regular cup.
Pull toy: Another skill that babies should have down by 18 months is pulling a toy while they walk. These pull toys are super cute and they are available in a few different animal types. You can work on your child’s colors, counting, and shapes with the cute little rings and balls that move when the toy is pulled.
Stacking Cups: I never knew how great stacking cups were until I got a few sets for my girls. As babies, they love to knock down the tower I build and as they get older they start to build their own towers. Both knocking down and building up towers work on cognition and fine motor skills. If you get these cups you can also help your child learn colors, shapes, and numbers as they stack the cups. Such a simple toy with so many possibilities!
Big Crayons: Another skill children should have down by 18 months is the ability to scribble independently. Since one year olds are still working on their fine motor movements, bigger crayons can help them with coloring. Crayons can also be a way to target imagination, color naming, and cognitive skills. I like these crayons because they aren’t easily broken, or these crayons because they are extra big.
Musical Instruments: We love our set of musical instruments at our house! There are several different instruments included that let kids explore making music on their own. This helps with musical skills, fine motor skills, cognition, and language. All of these skills can be targeted if you use the instruments with your child while singing.
Stuffed Animals: In our house, stuffed animals are a BIG hit! My kids come by it honestly, because I myself had a ton of stuffed animals growing up. Stuffed animals are great for pretend play, developing imagination, and language, and can be good for learning about compassion. Sometimes my oldest daughter likes to “mother” her stuffed animals by rocking them to sleep, carrying them around, and feeding them. This stuffed animal is great because it is washable, and if your one year old likes stuffed animals as much as my kids, being able to throw it in the washing machine is a big perk!
Books: If you’ve spent any time poking around this website, you know that I LOVE books! As a speech-language pathologist, I know that books have a lot of power! They help your child develop language and cognition by hearing the words and trying to understand the story. Turning pages in a book is a fine motor skill, and children can also learn empathy by reading. I could go on for a long time, but trust me when I say that books are the best!
I have two types of books I love for one-year-olds: board books and these amazing new(ish) inventions called “indestructible books”. Sandra Boynton is one of my very favorite children’s authors, and you can get a few of her best titles in a collection right here. The other great option: this pack of indestructible books. Children can chew on these, lick them, try to tear them, and whatever else your little one can come with, but they DO NOT break! It’s amazing!
If you want more info about how to choose books for a little one, check out my post here.
Inny Bin: I got this toy for my niece because I think it’s so great and it comes from one of my favorite stores: Fat Brain Toys. This fun toy is kind of a precursor to the classic shape sorter. It is a little box but instead of holes cut out like specific shapes, it has little elastic ropes all around it so your little one can practice getting shapes in and out with greater ease. You can work on colors, shapes, fine motor skills, and problem-solving all with this simple but awesome toy!
Activity Table: Activity tables are a big hit with little ones. They are fun and engaging and they can grow with your child (at least for a little while). This activity table has 6 sides of activities for your favorite one year old to enjoy! You can work on colors, numbers, shapes, problem-solving, fine motor skills (moving the beads around), and gross motor (holding onto the table and walking around it). This is a big win!
Baby Doll: Have you seen how cool dolls are these days? One of my favorite companies that make dolls is Manhattan Toy because they offer dolls of all different colors, they are soft and have fun accessories. I make it a point to get dolls of all different colors for my kids because I want them to see that all colors are beautiful. (For more info on that, check out this post by Maisonette.)
Water Table: For those dog days of summer, check out this fun water table. It’s a great toy to help your child with fine motor skills (picking up objects, manipulating the spinner, and pouring water), gross motor skills (walking around the water table), problem-solving, and language. It will also promote some independence because your child can happily play with it on their own.
Tunnel and Balls: My nieces have an awesome ball pit and tunnel combo that they just love! It’s such a fun apparatus. Your child can work on motor skills like crawling, throwing, and catching while also practicing their colors. This one is great because it is affordable, colorful, and has a few different spaces to crawl around in. Oh and here is a good set of balls to fill the ball pit.
Frequently Asked Questions
What toys are best for a 1 year old?
What to get a 1 year old that has everything?
What are the best educational toys for a 1 year old?
The best educational toys for a 1 year old are intriguing and easy to interact with. My favorite educational toys are books. (Check out this pack of books by my favorite author, Sandra Boynton). I also love stacking cups because you can work on colors, shapes, stacking, and problem-solving. Activity tables are also great for both fine and gross motor, working on colors, shapes, numbers, and other age-appropriate words.
What to get a one year old that isn’t a toy?
So what are the best toys for a one year old? I hope you found something that fits your liking and your price range as you read the article. I’d love to hear from you in the comments about your favorite toys for your little one.