If you’ve been around 1 year old children, you know they are fascinated by the simplest things. They are enamored with just about any new sensation and that includes toys. Toys work as a great gateway into many of those new sensations. They can also assist with developmental skills by merging fun with education. Finding toys that achieve both isn’t hard, but it’s important to first understand a few of these developmental skills. We will explain some of these essential skills then list some toys that can develop them. For more strictly educational products, check our STEM or infant learning guide.
Key Developmental Skills at 1 Year
Motor skills are all about young children learning to move their muscles to perform basic and necessary day to day functions. It could be the way a baby has to learn to contort their fingers to grab cheerios out of a bowl or the reaching and grasping needed to hold themselves up on the couch. All things we take for granted, which are completely new to a 1 year old.
The will to do many of these things is natural. The actual execution is not and toys that improve motor skills will aide development. That means toys that require pinching, grasping and reaching.. Toys that encourage any kind hand play, finger play or shaking are also great. For these reasons, small block, containers, and balls can work well. Any toys with buttons or odd shapes/textures work great too.
These skills are about about how kids learn, acquire basic knowledge, and interact with their surroundings, understand, reason, etc. Ideal toys for 1 year old kids should include activities that trigger these skills. Early on, babies will simply observe things in their environment like actions, color or words. At 1, they’ll be much more likely to actually engage. Instead of gazing at you as you talk on the phone, they’ll grab an object and attempt to mimic you. Rather than sit idle when an item is removed from their vision, they’ll attempt to find it.
This is because they have now begun to attach meaning to items, words and actions. For this reason, toys that incorporate animal sounds, words, phrases, songs, numbers or colors are ideal. The same repetitive toy sounds that irk some parents are beneficial for infants. That same repetition is key for reinforcing cause and effect, which is a simple but important cognitive concept. Shapes, blocks and containers also have great cognitive benefits too. Varying sizes are even better since infants at this age can begin to match, stack or insert them all accordingly.
Language & Social
We’ve grouped these two together, but note that some of the language development overlaps with the cognitive skills. Around 12 months old, infants may be saying a few specific words like mumma or dada and still babbling of course. The nature of the babbling has often changed by then. At this age, infants will begin using tone to interact more directly and with intent. This is part of a growth toward a more developed form of communication.
To assist in this growth, toys that promote speech and incorporate multiple people are great. They allow you and others to play along and have extended dialog. Toys or games with call and response features, sing-a-longs or phrases fit the mold for this type of activity. Stay away from more passive toys. This is an opportunity to engage with them using words, conversational dialogue and gestures (pointing, waving, clapping, etc) . 1 year olds are often responding to their names at this point too. Use it while playing and talk through each activity.
Best Gifts & Toys for 1 Year Old – Our Picks
- Colorful & engaging design
- Improved audio recognition & motor skills
Exploration and curiosity is a huge part of early development. At this age, kids are still getting accustomed to their senses and love experiencing different sensations. This makes music a great Trojan horse for this key development area. This Xylophone allows them to make their own music, while also improving key motor skills like dexterity. The tones from this Xylophone will definitely get a rise out of your little one and it’s nice looking design is just a bonus. The Xylophone slides out for easier access and the entire package is durable and child safe. The Hape Pound & Tap Xylophone’s award winning credentials shine through and it’s worth the price.
- Ton of developmental benefits
- Simple, yet effective activities
It’s never too early! This educational activity cube is one of the best toys for 1 year old development and it has STEM bonafides. It provides 7 activities and an engaging experience that can aide improvement in the below key areas:
- Hand-eye coordination
- Fine motor skills
- Communication skills
- Natural observation
- Logical mathematics
Top Bright’s activity center is equipped with shapes, animals, colors and math to help young children learn. All of this comes in the form of 7 simple, interactive activities young ones will love.
What We Like:
- Encourages physical activity/movement
- Great for family and group play
It’s important for infants to stay active. Their movement should be seen as a willingness to learn. Toys for 1 year old children should channel that and foster their development. The Playz Playhouse Ball Pit makes a great option for this. Its not as large as it looks, but you may need to make a little more room in the living room. This connection of colorful tunnels and tents will provide a ton of fun for groups of infants and individual kids. While balls are not included, they can be found very cheap. Parts of the tent are also detachable if space is really at a premium.
What We Like:
- Simple building/creation
- Cognitive and Motor Skill benefits
In the same vein as exploration, creativity is extremely important for infants. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come as naturally at this age. This Mega Bloks building/activity table is a great toy to bridge the gap and encourage creativity. It includes over 20 blocks, two rolling wheelbases, a tabletop track, and it folds for easy portability. This a great exploratory toy for a 1 year old. Not only can they begin to used their creativity. This building table will allow them to develop key cognitive skills in addition to the motor skill benefits of hands on activity. Lastly, it’s a toy they can grow with at a recommended age of 1-5. This interactive and developmental experience also comes in a bag version with only blocks.
- Ton of developmental benefits
- Activity easily shared with adults
We love the VTech Smart Shots Center. It does more than provide an engaging experience that improves motor skills and hand eye coordination. This hoops and soccer combo toy also incorporates shapes, number, phrases and music. It checks a ton of boxes. It’s LED scoreboard counts up to 10 and has exciting animations. The result is an interactive, fun and educational activity that packs a ton of developmental benefits. This makes it on of our favorite toys in this category.
What We Like:
- Encourages conversational speech
- Variety of sounds adds longevity
1 year olds can be at different places in language development. Whether they’re still babbling or have started using a few words, it is key to keep the ball rolling. Language and social skills can be improved by simply speaking to and with your child. In addition, toys that foster speech are a big boost also. Enter the Babble and Rattle Microphone. Shake the microphone and it will play sounds and phrases. When your child speaks into the microphone, it amplifies their encouraging speech. Turn the ring on the rattle and hear animal sounds or press the instrument buttons for classic or rock n roll music. With other 60 melodies, songs and phrases, it adds a ton of value above its price point.
Toys for 1 Year Old – Budget Options
There are a ton of toys out there, yet kids at this age aren’t hard to please. You can find value at every price point. Below we have three products under $10, which still check essential boxes that are key in toys for 1 year old kids..
If you have a young kid, you know how obsessed they can become with the most mundane items. Why not give them their own version of that item in this educational remote? It includes 10+ lights, 65 sounds (songs, tunes and responses), shapes, numbers and words for an interactive and educational. This learning remote is less than $10 with benefits to cognitive and motor skills. You’d be hard pressed to find many similar options at this price point.
You already know about the importance of exploration at this age. This inexpensive toy includes ticks the sight and sound boxes, but covers an oft-forgotten one in touch. Each corner of this ball has bold, high contrast patterns and different textures for developing tactile skills (and it rattles). Don’t forget it’s oddball design that improves motor skills by requiring babies to grasp and reach between hands. This is a winner!
Simple, cheap and effective. Building helps children develop important cognitive skills. Unfortunately, some of the more popular building toys are too advanced enough for babies. Don’t worry. These colorful cups are ridiculously affordable and allow basic stacking, which is more appropriate for this age.