Editor's Picks: Toys for One Year Olds
Updated November 2016
One-year-olds are very busy little people — exploring the world around them, learning to walk and develop other core motor skills, and working on building both receptive and expressive language skills. Favorite toys to support motor skill development include push/pull toys and simple ride-on toys. When it's time to sit down and play, simple building blocks and toys, stacking/nesting and sorting toys, and music and sound toys are favorites. Over the course of the year your child will be able to start engaging with puzzles, starting with jumbo knob puzzles and chunky puzzles (where the pieces can be grasped in the palm), and perhaps even progressing to peg puzzles (where the pieces are lifted using pegs between thumb and forefinger, requiring development of fine motor skills) and simple (2-4 piece) multi-piece puzzles.
Below are our editor's picks for toys for one year olds by subcategory:
Note: Our editors developed this list by summarizing TotScoop parent favorites and adding a few hand-picked editor favorites and new releases. Our picks are 100% unbiased — we never accept compensation in exchange for coverage. That said, this page may contain affiliate links, meaning we may receive a small commission on any purchases that you make (at no cost to you); see our full disclosure.
When you're done here, you may also be interested in the following related guides:
Best stackers and sorters
This set of stacking cups (MSRP $12, Amazon $8) is unique because not only do the cups snap on top of each other, but two cups can snap together to form five different sized balls to roll around. This is a very versatile stacking toy that grows with baby into toddlerhood. The cups all stack and snap within themselves into one larger ball for efficient storage too.
This classic, high-quality wooden stacking ring set (MSRP $20, Amazon $16) is made from sustainable rubberwood, non-toxic water-based dyes, and non-toxic (non-formaldehyde) glue. Once your child masters basic stacking, Plan Toys' more complex Preschool Cone Sorting Toy ($25 at Amazon) provides additional challenge.
This classic, basic shape sorter (MSRP $11, Amazon $7) includes 10 colorful shapes, a bucket container, and a shape-sorting lid that will delight baby for hours. It provides excellent value for the price. Note that Fisher-Price is not very forthcoming about its materials, and does not market its toys as BPA, phthalate, or PVC free, so we recommend something else if your baby is still mouthing everything.
This space-age shape sorter (MSRP $20, Amazon $17) is two-sided and features eight objects (two each of four different shapes). It's made from 100% recycled plastic milk jugs (#2 plastic), and is BPA, phthalate, and PVC free.
This hexagonal wooden shape sorter (MSRP $25, Amazon $20) includes six different unique shapes with built-in beads in the centers to create different sounds (click, chime, rattle). It's made from birch hardwood and plywood and is finished with non-toxic paint.
Hape's versatile Pyramid of Play (MSRP $30, Amazon $25) can be used for stacking and nesting, as a shape sorter, and as an aid to learn letters, numbers, and animals. It can be used for many months across multiple developmental stages, and nests compactly in a cube for storage.
Best first building toys
Value interlocking bricks: Mega Bloks
Mega Bloks is a popular, great-value first building set — featuring interlocking blocks similar to LEGO DUPLO, but even larger in scale. They're also incredibly cheap, with 150 blocks included for around $30. Made of polypropylene or polyethylene. Unfortunately, Mega Bloks are not marketed as PVC, BPA, or phthalate free (and we disapprove highly of their misleading marketing tactics, which dare to highlight the storage bag as PVC-free!), so we recommend something else if your baby is still mouthing everything.
A select few LEGO DUPLO sets, including this fantastic Busy Farm set (MSRP $28), are rated for toddlers from 18 months. Containing 15 blocks (comprising four animals) and an accompanying book (including a basic storyline and pictures to help your little one assemble the animals correctly), it's the perfect introduction to the DUPLO world. For a more freewheeling alternative, also check out the LEGO DUPLO Creative Play 10570 All-in-One-Gift-Set (MSRP $15, Amazon $11).
If you prefer wooden toys, Haba offers a wonderful set of interlocking wooden building blocks (MSRP $45). They're a nice chunky size for little hands, and the interlocking blocks assist little ones with alignment and help to keep blocks together. They're made of solid beech wood and finished with non-toxic, water-based paint.
Haba also makes a number of gorgeous wooden building block sets, featuring unique shapes, bright colors, and cute animal designs. They are made of solid beech wood and are painted with non-toxic, water-based paints. Some of our favorites are the featured Eeny, Meeny, Miny Zoo! Mix & Match Animal Blocks ($50 at Amazon) set as well as the to-die-for Sevilla (MSRP $90) set. Here are all of the coordinating sets from HABA.
Best first vehicles
We've scoured the market for the best small wooden vehicles out there, and Hape makes our favorites ($8-11 each at Amazon)! Their line includes a dump truck, mini van, bus, boat, plane, and (our favorite) helicopter. No flashing lights or sounds, just wonderful classic design and quality construction to fuel the imagination. They are made of solid wood and finished with non-toxic, water-based paint.
This large dump truck (MSRP $28, Amazon $15) is perfect for hauling goods around the sandbox, backyard, ... or playroom. We love that it can easily be hosed off when you're done with it, too. It's made of recycled milk jugs (#2 plastic) and is BPA and phthalate free. If you like this one, there are also many other vehicles to choose from in the Green Toys line.
Best first puzzles
First, a quick primer. Generally speaking, there are four stages of puzzles that your child will likely progress through as a 1 or 2 year old:
Stage 1: Oversize knob puzzles
Giant knob puzzles have just a few (e.g. three) big pieces with large, easy-to-grasp knobs that fit into distinct spots on a puzzle board, often featuring matching outlines or full-color pictures underneath to give baby a hint as to what belongs there. These are a great place to start for baby's first puzzle, from 12-15+ months.
Stage 2: Chunky puzzles
Chunky puzzles feature extra-thick pieces grasped with the whole hand (no knob), still inserted into distinct spots on a puzzle board. They typically feature a few more pieces than oversize knob puzzles, yet each piece is still easy for little hands to grasp. Many chunky puzzle pieces also stand freely for standalone play, so they're a great choice if you want to buy a toy that will grow with your child and continue to be useful into the pretend play/preschool stage. Recommended for ages 18+ months.
Stage 3: Peg puzzles
Peg puzzle pieces are of a similar size to chunky puzzles and also fit in their own distinct spots, but they are thinner and have small pegs on top that require a pincer grip (between thumb and forefinger) to grasp. This type of puzzle is great for helping to reinforce the pincer grip and develop fine motor skills. Recommended for ages 24+ months.
Stage 4: Small jigsaw puzzles
Small jigsaw puzzles, similar to adult jigsaw puzzles but with fewer pieces that are larger in size, are the next step once your child masters all of the above. Some kids are ready to graduate to small jigsaw puzzles (3-4 pieces) around their second birthday, while others may be closer to three years old.
Different one year olds will be at various stages of puzzle readiness, but here are some of our top picks that will be age appropriate for most one year olds. If you have an advanced puzzler, also check out the puzzle suggestions in our two-year-old toy guide.
Melissa & Doug, far and away the market leader in puzzles overall, also offers our top pick for first puzzles for one year olds. Its jumbo knob puzzles are large scale than normal, have just a few pieces, and feature very large knobs for easy grasping. See all Melissa & Doug jumbo knob puzzles here.
Hape also has a nice line of larger wooden knob puzzles. The pieces and knobs aren't quite as big as those in the Melissa & Doug jumbo knob puzzles, so they aren't quite as easy for tiny little hands to grasp, but they're also easier to store. See all Hape knob puzzles here.
Melissa & Doug offers an insane variety of chunky puzzles, so you're sure to find something of interest for any child. They aren't the highest quality puzzles we've seen (the "solid wood" they advertise is often actually composite wood or plywood, and the tops of the puzzle pieces are often stickers rather than painted on), but are great value for the money and your child is sure to love them. See all Melissa & Doug chunky puzzles here.
For a few more dollars, Janod puzzles (most $15-ish) are very high quality and feature wonderful art. See all Janod chunky puzzles here.
Hape doesn't offer many chunky puzzles, but this exception is definitely a winner. The pieces are nice and big for easy grasping, and the pieces are symmetrical, meaning they can be inserted into the holes in any orientation (avoiding frustrating for your one year old). It also obviously provides an opportunity to start introducing the concept of shapes to your child.
Best push/pull toys
This classic alligator pull toy (MSRP $20) dances and makes a satisfying click-clack sound as it's pulled across the floor. It's made from organic rubberwood and non-toxic paint.
This cute push/pull duck toy (MSRP $25) has natural rubber feet that make a flopping sound as it's pushed or pulled. It can be taken for a simple walk around the playroom, or can even be used for pretend play activities such as vacuuming, mowing the lawn, etc. Another option we love is the Hape Lawn Mower Wooden Push and Pull Toy (MSRP $25, Amazon $19).
This versatile animal-train pull toy ($32 at Amazon) is an all-in-one train, pull toy, and wooden animal set. The wooden animals stand on their own for standalone play. It is made of solid wood and finished with non-toxic paint. The same line also includes other themes and trains compatible with wooden railway systems (this item, however, is not compatible with train sets).
This interactive car carrier pull toy (MSRP $26) from VTech contains a variety activities to stimulate your toddler. Children can press the different buttons to hear numbers, colors, animal sounds, short phrases, songs, and even a few fun driving phrases. In addition to the main car carrier, it comes with three vehicles and three characters for hours of fun.
Best first pretend play toys
One year olds are a bit young for true imaginative play, however they're sure to love any toy that allows them to mimic the people around them (such as a toy cell phone, vacuum, etc.). Another type of toy that is great to introduce at this age is any sort of animal or farm-themed toy, since babies tend to be really interested in animals and you can capitalize on that enthusiasm to encourage them to start verbalizing words and sounds.
The Fisher-Price Little People sets are the perfect introduction because they appeal to young toddlers and grow with your child as their imagination grows. Our favorite is the classic animal farm (MSRP $40, Amazon $22), which comes with a farmer and six adorable farm animals inthe perfect size for toddler hands. The barn features interactive sounds and everything packs up inside the barn. There is a broad offering of Little People sets and accessories so you're sure to find something to interest any child.
Making pretend phone calls is a great introduction to role play, so a play telephone is a must-have for any toddler. We love this VTech's faux smartphone (MSRP $15, Amazon $12) for its variety of interactive modes, songs, and phrases. The swipe bar at the bottom allows your child to easily switch between app and music modes. Its pretend "apps" will help your young toddler not only to learn her 123s and ABCs, but also to check her calendar and the weather just like Mom and Dad.
Best ride-on toys
The Wheely Bug (MSRP $60, Amazon $48-60) is a parent and child favorite. It rests on caster wheels that allow your child to travel forward, backward, sideways, in circles. It helps to promote gross motor skills and balance, and can be used on smooth floors either indoors or outdoors. The small size is suitable up to 2.5 years. It is PVC free; the exterior layer is made of wipe-clean polyurethane.
This foot-powered tricycle (MSRP $60) from Radio Flyer is made of wood and features a clever reverse design with the wide wheel base in the front so as not to trip up little feet. This little trike is sized for tiny riders: it's small enough for 18 month olds (and even some 12 month olds) to ride, but should still fit most two year olds. You may also want to consider the metal version, which is rated for one to three year olds.
This classic steel wagon (MSRP $100, Amazon $79) is perfect for toting your toddler around the neighborhood. Older kids will also delight in pulling around toys or siblings. All-terrain and wood versions are also available.
Best activity centers and tents
This wonderful play tent ($24.99 at IKEA, $45 at Amazon) from IKEA is cute and well designed, and offers fantastic play value. If you have a local IKEA and can pick one up in person, the value for money is unbeatable. It is made of polyester and polyester fiber fill, and uses safer (non-brominated) flame retardants. Another highly rated option that also includes a tunnel is the Pacific Play Tents Safari Tent and Tunnel Combo (MSRP $60, Amazon $40).
HABA play tents ($60-300 at Amazon) — including this gorgeous Caro-Lini tent fit for a princess — are whimsical and high quality ... though definitely pricey. They are the only play tents we are aware of that are completely free of chemical flame retardants. Made of cotton and polyester. PVC, BPA, and phthalate free. See the full range of Haba tents here.
This wonderful doctor's office-style wooden activity cube ($60 at Target) from B. Toys offers four sides of activities, plus a bead maze on top. It offers very good quality and value. It does take up a fair bit of floor space, though, so might not be the best choice for smaller spaces. BPA, lead, and phthalate free.
Best musical toys
Your baby will go nuts shaking these little maracas (MSRP $12)! They are the perfect sized for tiny hands, and have very good sound. Phthalate and BPA free.
This wonderful, baby-safe glockenspiel (MSRP $26, Amazon $20) is pitch-perfect and pleasing to the ear. Some one year olds will be able to grasp the mallet and strike it against the keys successfully; others won't yet, but in the meantime will be happy to raptly listen to you play (and of course they'll still be able to bang the keys with blocks and other objects). This is a great toy that will continue to get play through toddlerhood, preschool, and even beyond.
This is the best kids' drum (MSRP $75, Amazon $33) on the market, made by a real musical instrument company. Forget the little toy drums you've seen and, trust us, just get this one instead. It can be played with hands, mallets (included), or drumsticks.
Best first arts & crafts
Inspire your little creative genius with classic Crayola fingerpaints ($19 for 6-pack at Amazon). They non-toxic and wash easily out of clothes.
Of course, you can pick up Crayola crayons anywhere. But for superior performance, try Stockmar crayons ($13 for 8-pack at Amazon). Popular with Waldorf schools, they are made from a unique wax mix (including 10% beeswax) which produces more vibrant colors and allows layering of color. They are available in block shape (easier for younger artists to grip) as well as traditional stick form (larger and so slightly easier to grip than Crayola), and are non-toxic.
Don't forget to get an art smock to contain those big messes. We've tried them all, and this is the best one on the market (MSRP $35, Amazon $21) — thanks to its generous coverage, long sleeves, and elastic at the wrists. It's also easy to clean (wipes clean and is machine washable), and is made of Oeko-Tex certified fabric (50% polyester, 50% polyurethane).
Best bath toys
This favorite submarine bath/pool toy (MSRP $15, Amazon $11) can float, be submerged, or be used as a rinser. It's made from recycled milk jugs (#2 plastic), and is PVC, phthalate, and BPA free. Also check out the tug boat from Green Toys.
Improve your little one's hand-eye coordination with this fun bug-and-net toy (MSRP $10, Amazon $8) from Boon. The components are constructed from hard plastic with no holes, so they don't contain PVC or phthalates or facilitate mold growth like so many other bath toys. PVC, phthalate, and BPA free.
Best water/sand toys
This classic sand set (MSRP $22, Amazon $14) includes all your little one needs for the beach or the sand box: a bucket, a mold, a rake, and a shovel. Unlike many other plastic sand toys, it's made of totally safe plastic; it's made from recycled milk jugs (#2 plastic) and is phthalate and BPA free.
Water tables are a one-year-old favorite, and this bestselling water table (MSRP $40) from Step2 is a baby favorite. Younger babies will be perfectly happy to just splash in the water, while older toddlers will be entertained by the waterwheel and boats. It is made of low density polyethylene (plastic #4) and is PVC, phthalate, and BPA free.