The Best Gifts for a One-Year Old

Peter’s birthday was so long ago now and I don’t think that any celebration should be about the gifts. In fact, I don’t think children need toys to have a beautiful childhood. Everyday objects and items found in natural quickly become rich sensory experiences, and as they grow, rich imaginations can quickly turn any object into a component of small world play. However, I think for most of us toys and gifts are inevitable.

We’re trying to be conscious to buy Peter open-ended toys made from natural materials, ones that will grow with him and hopefully be enjoyed for years to come. I know that I’ve found it helpful to read what have been favourites for other families; the ones that get played with over and over again and that can develop new uses as time goes on. So with Christmas coming up (sorry!), I thought I’d write a little post about my favourite gifts for a one-year old. These are ones Peter was already enjoying, that he was given as a gift for his birthday, or that I’ve put on his wishlist for the holidays.

Wooden blocks. These chunky wooden ones are great for little hands and I love that they’re coloured with plant dyes and sealed with bees wax.

Animal figures. Peter got some wooden Holztiger farm animals and a set of Schleich jungle animals, both of which have been played with so much already. We use them as storytelling props when reading books and singing songs. They’re great for playing matching games (either with photographs of each toy or with similar illustrations). And already he’s enjoying trotting them around for the earliest beginnings of imaginary play.

A push-along toy. Even before he could walk Peter loved pushing the wooden lion along the floor and pretending to sweep with him. Now it’s great for encouraging him to develop better balance.

Musical instruments. Peter’s big drum, sensory blocks, and wooden maracas have been amongst his most played with items.

A sorting tray. This might seem like an odd gift but toddlers love nothing more than putting things in and taking them out. You could buy some Grapat loose parts to accompany it. Or even better, take your little adventurer on a nature walk to collect pinecones, conkers, coloured leaves, sticks, feathers, and stones to keep inside.

The Galt Pop-Up toy. Peter still loves to make the little people pop up and takes great joy from putting them back in their slots. Soon they’ll help with learning colours.

A shape sorter (I bought ours secondhand but this one is similar). Again, taking things out and putting them in – there’s nothing greater, right?

A hammering bench (full disclosure: we were gifted ours by Hape). Peter loves watching anyone do a bit of DIY and so this let’s him take part in his own way. It’s great for developing coordination and he’s also found lots of other ways to play with it – seeing what else he can fit into the little holes and pushing things through.

Vehicles. Peter’s vehicle obsession is well and truly kicking in. He has the Green Toys dump truck and these cloth cars from Melissa & Dough – both are much-loved. For more of an investment piece, these Plan Toys vehicles are beautiful and would definitely be an heirloom piece.

A doll for taking care of and involving in imaginary play. Charlie is basically a member of our family, I even have to breastfeed him.

A wobbel board. For balancing, sliding, a mini tunnel, small world play… the possibilities are endless.

The Seasons box set by Gerda Muller is much beloved and we always have one of the board books on our seasonal bookshelf. The wordless pages are adorned with incredibly detailed illustrations depicting the passing seasons. Peter will often examine the pages for quite a long time.

A cleaning set, for getting involved with practical life. I’m not sure where the toddler fascination with cleaning comes from but I hope it continues for a long time!

A mini gardening set for learning to take care of plants.


Online selling sites and charity shops are often full of nearly new children’s toys so it’s worth looking to see what you can find secondhand in order to further reduce the impact of your gifts – and a wonderful way to show what a more circular economy can look like.

What gifts have been your child’s favourites? I’d love to hear!

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