While 1-year-olds are full of wonder about the world around them, it can sometimes be difficult for adults to know what they’re thinking — shopping for a 1-year-old can therefore get rather challenging. “1-year-olds are curious about the world,”Laura Jana MD, a pediatrician who wrote the highly-rated book, said, “The Toddler Brain.” “They are just starting to master fine motor skills that let them start to explore the world intentionally.”
SKIP Ahead Expert guidance on gifts for 1-year-olds
Toys like sorting boxes are key to keeping 1-year-olds entertained. stacking cupsJana said that bead mazes and other open-ended games are all suitable for toddlers. They don’t have to follow any rules or adhere to adult-made guidelines. To get a more specific idea of the best approach to gifting toddlers, we consulted child experts, pediatricians and authors — Jana among them — and found some of the best gift options that encourage exploration without frustration. Gifts or not, if you’re shopping right now, keep in mind that you should consider doing so sooner than later to avoid expected holiday shipping delays.
Best gifts for 1-year-olds
Big chunky blocks, like the kind featured in LEGO’s DUPLO sets, are great for small hands. Christia Spears Brown PhD, a professor of psychology at the University of Kentucky recommended DUPLO blocks for their versatility. “manipulative toys that help define motor skills.” This train, which lets kids learn numbers and colors when they’re ready, also has simple play features.
“It feels good to pull a train behind you just when you’ve learned to be mobile on your own,”Tovah K., director of Barnard College Center for Toddler Development (and author of “How Toddlers Thrive.”A toy train can be used for boys, girls and cats. If you’re also buying a gift for an older brother or sister, check out the Shopping guide on buying the best LEGO sets for every age.
Mushie brings modern flair to kids’ toys. Bring home some hygge — a feeling of coziness — with the Danish stacking cups. The plastic cups can be made into a tower or knocked down after they’ve been stacked. Each cup has a unique pattern at the bottom that helps reinforce the shapes. Some have holes and some don’t, making them perfect for pouring or storing water during bathtime, as well.
Six plastic eggs can easily be separated and sorted in this TOMY discovery toy. “There’s matching, sorting, colors, shapes and lots of learning in this unexpectedly wonderful little toy,” said Busy Toddler founder Susie Allison. “Plus it’s great for a kitchen play area or pretend picnics.”
Each egg is different in shape at the base. This aligns with a spot on the plastic egg carton. They also can be opened and, when a child presses down on the toy chick’s head inside, they make a “cheep” sound. The best part is that you don’t need batteries.
Fisher Price has been making toys for nearly 90 years and there’s a reason the Rock-A-Stack this become a daycare staple. The plastic tower allows toddlers and babies to stack five hollow plastic rings around the yellow column.
“The fun of putting them on and taking them off is exciting to the child,”Klein explained. The top ring is translucent and is filled with colored beads.
5. Button Size-Sorting Box
This soft vinyl box from Lakeshore Learning can be used to carry items in and outside. The removable top has four cutouts that allow you to drop 24 buttons in the shapes of squares, triangles, and circles.
Allison loves that this toy supports cognitive development. Allison might keep it around for a few more years as it can still be used. “by toddlers and preschoolers as they develop math skills.”
6. The Original Toy Company Pop Up School Bus
The bright yellow wooden bus is made by The Original Toy Company and has wooden wheels. “This incredibly basic toy has years of play potential despite its simple look,” Allison explained. “The little pegs bounce as it drives for a really sweet effect. It doesn’t look like a show-stopping toy, but it is.”
Hidden springs allow each of the four peg-people to pop up when they are pushed on their heads. This is a great way to entertain children and adults alike. Fine motor skills can also be developed by getting people in and from the bus.
7. Melissa & Doug First Bead Maze
A brand built around wooden toys Melissa & Doug’s First Bead Maze helps develop hand-eye-coordination and motor skills. “It is open-ended,”Klein pointed this out. “Children can play however they want and, at the same time, are introduced through play to colors, size and shapes.”
One-year-olds are able to spin, slide and maneuver three yellow plastic rings as well as 18 wooden beads around a pair twisting wires that are connected to a pair wooden blocks.
Mo Willems’ joyful book is designed for bath time. To meet the interactivity experts recommended above, kids can turn the pages or grab them. The book also comes with a rubber pigeon — ducks no longer have a monopoly on bath time.
The interaction box shows that this new playmat has eight activities for toddlers. It includes five sensory-centric toys, a fluffy cloud, and a baby-safe mirror. The brand boasts that the bright playmat can be set-up in less than two minutes.
Where to buy gifts 1 year olds
We consulted experts and sorted through options at major retailers to find the best gift options for 1-year-olds.
How to shop 1 year olds
“Exploring things at this age can mean putting things in your mouth,”Jana warned that it is important to balance safety and discovery when choosing the right gift for a 1-year old.
Safety first: Sorting and stacking toys
She suggested avoiding toys that could cause choking and instead focusing on toys such stacking blocks, which are made for small hands. “Take age recommendations on packaging seriously and make sure something doesn’t have small parts.”
Safety is a primary consideration. Allison, the author of the “Busy Toddler’s Guide to Actual Parenting,”It is important to find toys that are still entertaining as your child grows older.
“Remember, they won’t be this age for long,”She explained. “A bag of blocks or set of buckets is going to have a long lifespan and won’t be obsolete three months or even three years from now.”
Avoid stereotyping of female toy characters
If you don’t know where to start, it can be easy to get caught up in gender stereotypes, too, warned the University of Kentucky’s Brown.
“People rely on gender norms or stereotypes more because you can’t ask a 1-year-old what they want,”She explained. “People buy pink dolls for girls and big chunky trucks for boys.”Brown encouraged gift-givers to look beyond gender to consider the skills that toys might help to teach.
“Dolls are good for every kid because we want our kids to be empathetic and the early building blocks of empathy are dolls,”She spoke.
The players should take care of the playing
For the Barnard College’s Klein, the key is to encourage discovery with “hands-on toys.” “Toys and materials that are open-ended are best at this age,” Klein said, echoing Jana. “They allow the child to decide what they want to do and there is no right or wrong way.”She suggested that 1-year-olds look for toys that allow them to push and pull a vehicle, lift objects into a container, stack blocks, and take them down.
“The world is becoming more interactive for them,” Klein explained. “So hands-on toys with no set way to play encourages their curiosity and development.”
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