Best (developmentally appropriate!) toys for 1 year olds

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Looking for the best toys for 1 year olds that support development and learning? You’re in the right place.

Table of Contents

Developmental Milestones of 1-Year-Olds

Skills that may emerge around 1 years old

What this age group needs & loves

The first year is such an achievement- for both children and their parents. Babies go from being completely immobile and completely reliant on caregivers for all of their needs, to being movers and shakers.

So, what does that mean for toys? Simply put, they crave toys that allow them to utilize their quickly growing brains and bodies. They want to MOVE, wiggle, bang, and test things out.

Around this age, children may begin to seem engaged with electronic toys. These toys are increasingly popular, but do not support the physical or cognitive development of young children. 

Best toys for 1 year olds that support fine and gross motor development

Wooden ball ramp & car track. My son received a ball run when when he was around 1 as a gift and two years later he still uses it! This toy allows children to practice their fine motor skills and learn about cause and effect.

Ball pit balls.No need to buy a separate ball pit; grab a bag or two of these and throw them in your pack-n-play! This makes for a super fun sensory activity that cracks 1-year olds up, and gets you some more use out of that pack-n-play.

Oball cars. These cars are easy for little fingers to operate, and don’t have any mechanical parts. My son did not like the cars that made loud noises (including that wind-up sound when you pull back some wheels that propel the car forward, so this was one of his favorites. This is another one that you can get a few years of use out of.

Manhattan Toy Tree Top Adventure Activity Center. This center is a big one, but something that has been used so often I don’t mind the space it takes up. It’s very engaging for young children and doesn’t use any batteries–every piece is moved by hand. My son plays with this all the time, even at almost 3 years old. He even brings his other small toys over to it and includes them into the play too.

Wooden Pull Along Elephant ToyThis one allows kids to practice walking and get automatic feedback.

The Original Toy Company School Bus. This fun little toy allows kids to get immediate feedback from pushing and pulling.

Number and letter wooden blocks. These can be stacked and knocked over in countless different ways. They will also naturally spur conversations about letters and numbers as time goes on, an important step in literacy development. They can be used by children who are or aren’t mobile. Plus, they come with a storage bag– always a plus in my book.

Toddler climbing toysToddlers are hardwired to move their bodies, climb, jump, and wiggle. Adding a climbing toy to your home or yard can provide hours of entertainment, while promoting gross motor development and physical exercise. Find the top toddler climbing toys here.

Best toys for 1 year olds that support music and movement

creative musical play with xylophone

Around 1, kids are starting to enjoy hitting things and getting feedback. They’re learning more about cause and effect, and they want to move their bodies! These instruments below don’t have any electronics, so children can experiment making different sounds on their own accord.

Educational pounding Set. Ever notice that one year olds love to pound on stuff? It’s actually developmental.  It promotes fine and gross motor skills, spatial awareness, and hand-eye coordination. This set here includes a ball and hammer set, shape sorting blocks, and an xylophone.

Rain maker. Something about these is captivating for young children. And, they are a great experiment about cause and effect!

Best toys for 1 year olds that encourage sensory exploration

Sensory table. These are often called “water tables,” but that really sells them short. These are perfect for sensory exploration of all sorts. Fill them with water, sand, shaving cream, dirt, corn starch and water, bubbles, or anything else you can think of! It’s a great way to spice up outdoor play!  

I like this one because it has two sides to it, so you can have two different mediums going on simultaneously, if you want to. Plus, this one comes with accessories that a one-year old can use right away. This one is sure to get years of use.

Bath toys. Bath time is a special time for kids– even though they don’t know it yet, they’re learning what it’s like to take care of their bodies. Plus, interacting with the water is sensory learning– kids are learning more about the world around them, how to interact with it, and how to affect it (think- splashing!). At one year old, babies can participate in bath time more than they could before– which can mean a lot of laughing and squealing during bath time. Some of our favorite bath toys to keep bath time fun are:

  • Stacking cups. These have holes in the bottom and it’s great fun for kids to see the water trickle out of them. Plus, they’re easy to clean.
  • Squirt toys.

  • Rubber ducky. This one is large enough that it’s not a choking hazard!

  • B. Toys boat set. This set can be used in the bath, or even at the pool or beach! The toys fit inside for easy storage.For a comprehensive review of the best bath products for babies, click here.
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