First Birthday Gift Ideas
Don't know what to buy for a 1-year-old child? We've got you covered with these first birthday gift ideas for girls and boys.
Although your baby won't understand his one year birthday, there's still a whole lot to celebrate. His first year of life was marked by countless developmental milestones, and most babies have figured out how to sit up, crawl, pull up to stand, and even walk by the time they're toddlers. Their grasp of language is exploding, and they can hold a fork, pick up a Cheerio, and give hugs and kisses. It’s crazy to think he was in your womb only a year ago!
If you’re in need of first birthday gift ideas, consider selecting items that aid the development of large and fine motor skills, vocabulary, and language. Read on for some suggestions from Sheri Gurock, owner of Magic Beans children's toy store in the Boston area.
How to Invest in the Best Gifts
The best toys are multifunctional, long-lasting, and engaging. Items made of high-quality materials like wood or heavy-duty plastic are more likely to withstand inevitable abuse from a toddler.
A toy with a recommendation for age 2 and up can still make a first-rate gift for a 1-year-old. Safety standards dictate that any toy with a choking hazard has to be labeled for ages 3 and up, so if a toy is suitable for a 2-year-old, it's usually safe for a 1-year-old. Your toddler may not use the toy exactly in the way it was meant to be used, but that's a good thing: It reinforces the idea that flexibility and creativity are welcome.
Pulling and Pushing Toys
Of all the physical milestones a child might reach during the first year, walking requires the most effort. Pushing toys will help build the strength and coordination babies need. Many have extra play features—like built-in shape sorters, bead mazes, music, or moving pieces— that add to the toy's longevity.
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If your baby is just starting to pull up to standing, find a push toy with a broad handle and a low center of gravity for maximum stability. Some models offer control over how fast the wheels spin.
Once babies are walking without support, you can graduate to pulling toys—especially those with bright colors and kinetic parts that will come to life with motion. These engaging toys teach toddlers to look backwards while moving forward, which helps to improve balance and build confidence.
If a toy falls on the floor, an infant won't search for it—but 1-year-olds might start seeking objects that vanish. Fill-and-spill toys are the perfect first birthday gift ideas, since they introduce toddlers to the concept of losing and finding things.
"When babies reach 1 year, they're getting to be in control of so many of their movements," explains Lisa J. Lewis, OTD, a licensed occupational therapist and founder of Kids Therapy Made Simple in Los Angeles, CA. "They're starting to understand cause and effect, and they're mastering the concept of object permanence. They suddenly have the ability to think, 'Hmm, I put this in and then when I spill it out, it's not there anymore. I wonder where it went.'"
Sorting and Stacking Toys
Shape sorters and stacking toys allow toddlers to practice recognizing shapes, matching colors, and manipulating small objects. Blocks are one of the most open-ended and long-lasting toys, and child development experts highly recommend them.
"We want to see toddlers use one hand to stabilize and the other hand to manipulate.These toys can help with coordination and bilateral motion," Dr. Lewis says. "Anything a 1-year-old can do in a sitting position is especially good because this builds core strength, which will ultimately enable him to work more effectively on fine motor skills development."
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In the beginning, keep it simple with blocks that are relatively small and uniform, like iconic wooden alphabet blocks or colorful plastic blocks. A 1-year-old can stack a few blocks at a time and then learn spatial relationship skills and fundamental concepts of physics and math.
Rocking and Rolling Toys
Rocking toys help build core strength and balance, and the back-and-forth motion provides soothing sensory input for 1-year-olds. When choosing designs, the best option is a rocker that is low to the ground—it will reduce the chance of injury if a child loses balance or trips while getting on and off.
Most 1-year-olds love to zoom around on their very own set of wheels, but they're not coordinated enough to pedal a tricycle yet. Instead, your first birthday gift idea should be a ride-on toy that allows him to roll and push with his feet to gain momentum. This builds muscle tone, coordination, and body awareness. Look for one that is low to the ground and has a stable handle for extra support.
You can also get a tricycle with a push-bar for the parent. Your child won't get too much of a workout initially, but sitting on the trike should inspire him to figure out how to make it go. Plus, a tricycle will grow with your child for several years!
Jamming and Grooving Toys
Musical toys hold great appeal for toddlers, who gravitate toward anything that helps them make noise. Although 1-year-olds may not be ready for instrument lessons, they can still benefit from musical experiences. Exposing children to music stimulates areas of the brain that deal with language development, social skills, and gross-motor development.
"Making music provides endless opportunities to practice imitation, conversational turn taking, and social cooperation," says Julia Priest, director of Music and Movement of Newton in Newton, MA.
Toys that create music are better than those that make noises on their own. Toddlers love repetition, so if you want an electronic musical toy, choose one with volume control. Once they are confident on two feet, there will be a whole new musical experience waiting for them: dancing!
Toys for Creating and Pretending
During the next year, your tot will gain the language skills for following instructions. Until then, choose art materials that are easy to clean. Some creative-focused baby's first birthday gift ideas include finger crayons, finger-paints, Play-Doh, and washable markers. It's also fine to buy art supplies that are more appropriate for slightly older children, so siblings can have fun together.
But creativity isn't just about drawing, of course: Make-believe is another way for expression and play. Your 1-year-old is just learning how to pretend, so collect toys that are age-appropriate and that will enhance imaginative play. Consider baby dolls, toy trucks, and play food (although these are usually best for older toddlers, given their small size).
Toys for Soothing and Snuggling
Most parents have a nighttime routine involving a bath and books, so why not buy first birthday gifts related to the ritual? You can find plenty of shape sorters and stackers made for the bathtub; toy boats and rubber ducks are also a hit.
What’s more, books are a fail-safe gift for children of any age. "They're important for social and language development," Dr. Lewis says. Reading books aloud repeatedly helps toddlers understand anticipation and practice prediction, and allows for a chance to develop vocabulary and language skills. For a toddler-size attention span, choose board books that are fairly simple with bold, vibrant pictures and interactive elements (like cutouts to poke little fingers through, touch-and-feel pages, or finger puppets).