By Kathryn Peck
Ok, so it’s pretty clear you don’t want to gift a set of Sharpies for a child’s first birthday. But what does a one year old actually play with? Unless you have a one year old, it’s tough to know what will interest them, stimulate their senses, and not drive their parents crazy. When I owned my baby boutique in Boston, questions about first birthday gifts were regularly asked. Here are some great first birthday gift ideas that are child (and parent!) approved.
- Wee Gallery specializes in visually high contrast books and toys, which are perfect for really young babies, but “Moo, Cluck, Baa! The Farm Animals are Hungry” ($12.95) is perfect for one year olds. It’s a simple book with buttons to press that make animal sounds.
- Babies start walking around the one-year mark so Tender Leaf Toys’ Pull Along Ducks ($24.99) is a great option. Little ones love pull-along toys. Plus, it has other interactive features like removable ducks and eggs.
- You can’t go wrong with a set of wooden blocks for a first birthday gift. Children at this age start matching colors and manipulating and stacking small objects. Check out Uncle Goose Wooden Blocks ($20) for some amazing variations on simple wooden letter blocks, like their Planet Blocks, which feature the planet’s symbol, name, and number of moons.
- Stacking cups, like Mushie’s Retro Cups ($14.99), are fun for so many ages. But at age 1, children are stacking, pouring water, sorting, building, putting things in them, etc. They help in many developmental ways, but they’re also just plain fun.
- Consider a shape sorter, like Green Toys’ Shape Sorter ($19.99) that is made from 100% recycled plastic and helps children practice recognizing shapes and colors and develop space recognition. Plus, it’s practically indestructible.
- Bath toys always make for a cute theme, and Hape Toys’ Pop Up Teddy Shower Buddy ($14.99) is a favorite come bathtime. Fill up the cloud with water and the bear pops up; but let it rain in the bath and down he goes.
- Rod Campbell’s classic lift-the-flap book, “Dear Zoo,” ($6.99) first published in 1982, is a sweet story prompts the child to lift the flap and reveal bright, bold pictures of different zoo animals sent as potential pets, perfect for a one year old, and with so many animals, it makes adding on a soft stuffed animal or animal toy easy.
- Tender Leaf Toys’ Wooden Touch and Feel Puzzle ($19.99) is a wonderful first puzzle. The large pieces are easy to hold, and each piece has a sensory element to it; lift the pieces and feel the different textures under each animal.
- Fat Brain Toys’ Dimpl ($12.95) is a small gift that’s worth its weight in gold. It’s as simple as it gets; the child merely pops the soft rubber discs back and forth, but it’s enthralling nonetheless. We’ve heard it referred to as “bubble wrap for babies.” It helps develop fine motor skills, helps teach shapes and colors, and it fits into a parent’s bag for car trips or doctor’s appointments.
- For those looking for a larger gift, the red Radio Flyer Classic Wagon Walker ($79.99) is classic, stable, and fun for young toddlers. Plus, it looks cute, and there’s plenty of room in the wagon for storage.
- Hape Toys’ Shape Sorter Xylophone ($29.99) is a musical instrument and shape sorting game in one. Both are perfect for 1 year olds.
- MudPuppy’s Forest Friends My First Touch & Feel Puzzle ($12.99) is a wonderful first puzzle for little ones. Four three-piece puzzles make up this set, and one piece of each has a unique texture.
- Everyone knows of Fisher Price’s classic stacking ring toy, it’s stood the test of time, but there are lots of other adorable versions of the same toy out there. Check out Wee Gallery’s simple Bear Wood Stacker ($24.95), made of sustainable rubberwood with a child-safe finish.
- We love gifting PJs for kids; they are sure to be parent pleasers, and you can’t go wrong with that. Albetta’s super cozy loungewear sets (clothes or pajamas) feature adorable plush appliques on the front which make them unique and giftable.
- Kid O House Boat Light Up Bath Toy ($39.99) is a simple, study boat for bathtime fun. Place the color-coded people into the boat to hear sea sounds and see the boat light up.
- Wooden puzzles are always a wonderful gift for young children. The pieces are easy to hold, they’re fun, educational, and help with important developmental milestones. Wee Gallery’s Wooden Animal Tray ($24.95) is a beautiful, contemporary-looking puzzle made from sustainably sourced rubberwood that children will love.
- We’ve been seeing the Bajo Baby Walker ($175) pop up a lot recently and for good reason. Little ones are starting to walk more around age 1, and this sturdy walker, which later transitions into a wagon, is perfect for them. It features a removable tray, adjustable handles, and rubber tires that won’t slip.
- Perhaps one the top-selling first-birthday gifts at my boutique was the Hape Toys’ Pound and Tap Bench ($29.99). We couldn’t keep it in stock! On top is a hammering game with balls that drop and play the musical xylophone underneath. The xylophone can also be removed and played separately.
- Plan Toys’ Ramp Racer ($60) is a cute little racetrack for soon-to-be toddlers. Made from sustainably harvested rubberwood trees, this track comes with three cars.
- Tried and true, Green Toys’ Dump Truck ($29.99) can handle dirt, mud, sand, and rain. Made from 100% recycled plastic milk containers, it’s easy to clean and fun to play with.
- Tender Leaf Toys’ ($24.99) wood Animal Taxi is fun to push, but the added bonus of its happy passengers, which squeak when pushed down, make this toy one of our go-to-gifts for little ones.
- There’s a lot going on with Manhattan Toy’s Musical Lili Llama ($50). The llama houses several musical instruments, including a five-bar xylophone, two clacking saddle blankets that double as drums and two detachable wooden mallets on the head. There are spinning gears and the tail of this wooden llama can be removed and used as a maraca.
- MudPuppy’s Little Traveler Board Book Set ($14.99) include four chunky board books that feature landmarks, food, animals, and vehicles from around the world. From the Eiffel Tower in Paris to the Taj Mahal in India; puffins in Iceland to tortoises Galapagos Islands. They’re perfect sized books for little hands. Gift it with:
- Fat Brain Toys’ Personalized Name Puzzle ($26.95) is a cute gift that a child will likely have and cherish for years. Large, bright wooden puzzle pieces are perfect for little hands, and the puzzle itself is sweet enough to be used as décor as well.
- Speaking of personalized gifts, Maple Landmark’s wooden NameTrains ($5.85 per letter) are also a wonderful personalized gift option. These wooden trains fit on just about every wooden toy track, and there are a variety of add-on accessory cars and animals, too.
About the author: Kathryn is the owner of Bicycle Pie and mom of 4 little ones. Also a writer, editor, and former owner of one of Boston's premiere baby boutiques, she continues to write about motherhood, children's products, family life, and all other things that test our skills and patience as parents.
Photo Credit: iStock.com/Ceneri