Buying a new toy for a one-year-old is a lot of fun. Toys for this age group are adorable and it’s easy to get caught up in the bright colors and cute features. But parents today are also looking for toys with educational benefits. For 1-year-olds, that usually means toys that will develop cognitive skills, fine motor skills, and hand-eye coordination. But first and foremost, toys need to be fun.
Toddlers are tough ‘customers' and if the toy doesn’t hold their interest, they’ll find something else to do!
Our pick for the best overall toy for kids aged one is the Melissa and Doug Bug Jug Fill and Spill. Not only will this delight little ones with its soft and sensory creepy crawlies, but it will also keep them challenged while they develop their motor skills.
- Best Educational Toys for 1 Year Olds
- 1. Best Overall – Melissa and Doug Bug Jug Fill and Spill
- 2. Best for Little Builders – Mega Bloks Deluxe Building Bag
- 3. Best for Experimental Play – Fat Brain Toys Tobbles Neo
- 4. Best for Nature Play – Constructive Playthings Baby Tree Blocks
- 5. Best for Pretend Play – HABA Snug Up Doll
- 6. Best Eco-Friendly Option – Green Toys Shape Sorter
- 7. Best for Bathtime – Boon Building Bath Pipes Set
- 8. Best for Dexterity – Hape Double Bubble Bead Maze
- 9. Best for Open-Ended Play – Fisher Price Stack and Roll Cups
- 10. Best for Fine Motor Skills – Learning Resources Spike the Fine Motor Hedgehog
- What to Consider When Buying an Educational Toy for a 1-year-old
- Frequently Asked Questions
Related post: Best Educational Toys for 15-Month-Old
Best Educational Toys for 1 Year Olds
1. Best Overall – Melissa and Doug Bug Jug Fill and Spill
This gorgeous jar of creepy crawlies just about covers everything you’d want in a learning toy for a one-year-old. The Melissa and Doug Bug Jug Fill and Spill will delight your little one as they put the bugs in the jar, then tip them all out again. Parents can rest assured they’re getting plenty of educational benefits while they play and develop their fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. There’s a bit of sensory play thrown in too, as each bug is multi-textured and features different sounds. These rattling, jingling, squeaking and crinkling mini beasts will keep them interested for ages.
The jug is actually made of transparent soft plastic with a mesh lid (great for storage when not in use). I love that little ones can see the bugs inside the jar and the neck of the jar is narrow enough to provide a bit of a challenge. One year olds will need to use their little hand muscles to push and pull the bugs in and out of the jar.
There are four bugs in the set – a spider, butterfly, ladybug, and grasshopper. A great overall choice that kids and parents will love!
2. Best for Little Builders – Mega Bloks Deluxe Building Bag
When it comes to developing toys for young children, you can’t go past building blocks. Whether it’s simple wooden blocks or connecting blocks like Duplo, they offer hours of play and huge academic benefits. I love the Mega Bloks Deluxe Building Bag for this age group. It’s perfect for little hands and it’s a toy they’ll use for years to come.
This set includes 150 blocks in lovely, bright colors. They’re a great size for very young children and easy to lock together and pull apart again. Parents will also love the storage bag for easy cleanup. You simply won’t regret spending money on this one!
From fine motor skills to color recognition, there’s a lot to gain from playing with building blocks. Even at the age of one, children will begin to practice their problem-solving skills and develop focus and attention. Hand-eye coordination and imagination are a big part of block building and you’ll be pleased to know you’re laying the foundations for future construction and engineering skills. Blocks are also a toy that lend themselves to either independent play or interactive activities. A great all-rounder!
3. Best for Experimental Play – Fat Brain Toys Tobbles Neo
The options are endless for this seemingly simple toy. It’s really just six colored spheres that sit in a little cradle, but the Fat Brain Toys Tobbles Neo is so much more than that. Perfect for this age group, the spheres can be stacked, knocked over, balanced, wobbled, tilted, and spun. Position them at different angles and see what happens. Get creative with how you combine them. The colors are lovely and the texture will feel nice for little hands. They’re sturdy and fun and little ones will love them.
It might seem like a simple idea, but the Tobbles Neo is actually an early introduction to physics and spatial reasoning. There’s plenty of educational benefits to be had here, like hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. Your little one will be experimenting with design, how things work, and cause and effect. A great toy with lots of opportunities!
4. Best for Nature Play – Constructive Playthings Baby Tree Blocks
In a world filled with plastic and artificial colors, it’s lovely to see a simple toy made from natural materials. The Constructive Playthings Baby Tree Blocks will bring a piece of nature into your play area and young ones will love them. Nature play is important for cognitive development and these are perfect for little hands. The pieces are quite large so they’re easy to handle and parents will love the smooth edges for safety!
These wooden blocks are not perfect in their shape and that’s part of their appeal. There are 12 pieces in a set and they really do have a hand-made feel about them. Just like nature intended, they are all one of a kind so no two sets will be the same. They’re great for stacking, lining up, knocking over – all those activities that build hand-eye coordination. They’d also be great for pretend play or construction if your little builder needs some trees or extra blocks for their creations. An excellent option if you want more natural materials in your home.
5. Best for Pretend Play – HABA Snug Up Doll
Whether it’s a baby doll, a teddy, or a stuffed animal, soft toys are a great way to develop pretend play skills. Very young children love them and often become attached to their favorite. There’s plenty of choice on the market but the HABA Snug Up Doll ticks all the boxes. It's soft and cuddly and the perfect size for a 1 year old. And importantly for parents, she’s machine washable!
The Haba Snug Up Doll is low maintenance which is just what this age group needs. She’s obviously been designed by someone with young children that’s why her shoes are sewn on. I also like that her hair is simple and tied up. Anyone who’s spent an evening trying to untangle doll hair will understand why that’s important. It’s also great that her dress is removable so that kids can start to practice their getting dressed skills.
Whether your child is starting to play imaginatively or still developing their coordination skills, a soft toy is a great educational choice.
6. Best Eco-Friendly Option – Green Toys Shape Sorter
Shape sorters are not new on the market. There’ve been plenty of versions over the years that’s why this toy is a classic. But I like the Green Toys Shape Sorter for its environmental credentials. It’s made from recycled plastic and it’s never too early to teach little ones about sustainability, right? This shape sorter is good quality and will stand up to whatever your child throws at it. And any toy that can go in the dishwasher is a winner with me!
Sorting and matching toys are excellent for cognitive development and a great way to introduce the concepts of shape and color. The shapes are just the right size for little hands and one year olds will be able to practice their fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. There’s also an element of early problem-solving! Once all the shapes have been put in their holes, it’s simple to twist the two halves to let them out again (although that’s probably a job for mum or dad at this age).
7. Best for Bathtime – Boon Building Bath Pipes Set
Bathtime is a great time for interactive play with a 1 year old. There are fewer distractions, it’s easy to get their attention, and they can’t go anywhere. But mostly because water play is great fun! The Boon Building Bath Pipes Set would be a fun addition to any bathroom. Parents will need to do the setup, but little ones will love pouring water in and watching it come out the end. The colors are fun and I loved that the suction cups didn’t come off the wall easily.
The set comes with five pipes and three tubes. You can use them individually or link them together to form a chain. A great way to introduce the concept of cause and effect (or just distract them while you wash their hair!). Also great for developing coordination and motor skills.
8. Best for Dexterity – Hape Double Bubble Bead Maze
There are plenty of bead mazes on the market and that’s a good thing. They’re great for fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination and have plenty of other educational benefits. The Hape Double Bubble Bead Maze goes above and beyond though, with its sturdy suction cups that keep the maze in place. I also like the nesting beads – a set of smaller beads fit inside larger beads for an extra challenge. It’s a sturdy little set up and just the right size for little fingers.
As is often the case, this simple children’s toy offers a lot more than it first seems. Moving the beads around is great for dexterity, but also offers opportunities for early counting and color recognition. It's also a great way to introduce concepts like large and small or inside and outside. It’s worth mentioning that some of the beads are plastic, but that doesn’t take away from the overall quality of the product. A great buy!
9. Best for Open-Ended Play – Fisher Price Stack and Roll Cups
The simple toys are often the ones that get the most use and this will probably be the case with this one! The Fisher-Price Stack and Roll Cups are a set of ten numbered cups that nest together in a tower. Your one year old can stack them up high, count them, sort them, nest them together upside down, or even hide things under them. There’s more to it though. The cup halves also snap together to make five balls and there’s a smiley face ball that sits on top and makes jingly sounds. It’s all pretty simple but you know your little one will love it!
The cups snap together nicely and easily enough that little hands can manage it on their own. They’ll practice their fine motor skills, enjoy the sensory feel of the cups, and notice the cause and effect of the jingly ball. The stacking cups are a great introduction to size, shape, color, and number and provide plenty of opportunities for interactive play. A simple and inexpensive toy with lots of potentials!
10. Best for Fine Motor Skills – Learning Resources Spike the Fine Motor Hedgehog
This very cute creature will keep kids busy for ages as they try to put his quills back in the holes in his back. The Learning Resources Spike the Fine Motor Hedgehog is just the right challenge level for one year olds and perfect for developing fine motor skills. I love that the quills are chunky and will be easy for little fingers to grab onto. There are 12 quills in bright shades which is great for color recognition, sorting, and patterning. You could also use them for counting practice when your child is a little older (there are numbers printed on the hedgehog’s back)!
I think this toy would also provide lots of opportunities for interactive play. You could try things like following simple instructions (put a purple quill in the hole), taking turns, and sharing. Parents will also appreciate that the hedgehog’s back comes off so you can store the quills inside him when he’s not being used.
What to Consider When Buying an Educational Toy for a 1-year-old
When buying the best educational toys for 12 month old, you need to be mindful of the quality of the product. It will need to stand up to some heavy-duty treatment and may get chewed on or thrown from a high chair. A quality product is essential so that you don’t have small pieces breaking off or paint flaking away. It might be worth spending a little extra or investing in a well-known brand to make sure your product is safe. Even so, keep an eye on the toy to make sure it’s standing up to whatever your little one dishes out and dispose of any toy that’s not up to the challenge!
Always check the intended age range when you’re buying a new toy for a 1 year old. Toys designed for older children may have smaller pieces that present a choking hazard for younger children. The intended age range is also a useful guide to which toys would be appropriate for your child’s age. If the toy is too challenging your one year old may lose interest quickly. Likewise, a toy that is designed for a younger child won’t hold their interest for very long.
Remember that your one year is developing quickly so they’re likely to grow out of their toys much faster than an older child. You don’t want to spend a lot of money on a toy that will only get used for a few months. There are some toys that a child will use for much longer though. For example, a child may play with building blocks in a simple way when they’re very young, but as they get older they could use those same blocks to create more complicated designs. A doll may be used as a cuddle toy by a younger child but may be part of more complex pretend play as your child ages. It might be worth spending more on the toys that will be a part of your child’s play for longer.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the best toys for a 1 year old?
The best toys will be different for each child. Just like older children, 1 year olds have individual interests. Their favorite toy may be a soft doll or it might be a little fire truck. When you’re choosing a toy, go for something that will help their development. Any toy with opportunities to work on their hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills is great. There are many toys aimed at cognitive development and recognition of colors and shapes is excellent for this age group. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s fun. If your child doesn’t enjoy playing with it, they’ll move onto something else fast!
Do I need to spend a lot of money?
Definitely not. There are lots of expensive toys for this age group on the market but think carefully before you open your wallet. One year olds are growing quickly and their physical and cognitive abilities are developing every day. They’ll probably grow out of their toys quickly at this age, so don’t invest too much! Save your money for the toys that will last them longer when they’re a bit older. Having said that, safety is important so make sure the toy you choose is of good quality with no loose parts or bits that might break off.
What type of toys should a 1 year old have?
This one is tricky to answer because all children are different with varied needs and interests. The important thing is to have a variety of toys on offer. But this doesn’t mean you need to take the whole toy shop home! Just make sure your one year old has opportunities to develop a range of skills appropriate to their age level. Soft toys are cute and great for pretend play, but you should also have toys that allow them to develop fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Their little brains are doing a lot of cognitive development so you might want to have toys that promote that. They’re also learning to be social beings so anything that involves sharing or taking turns is great!
How can I interact with my child during play?
Interacting with your little one during playtime is a great way to develop relationships, practice social skills, and have fun together. Try taking turns or getting your child to share their toy. Remember, they are only just starting to develop these skills so they might not have mastered them quite yet! Model pretend play and show them that you’re interested in what they’re doing. The most important thing though is to enjoy spending time together.
Last update on 2021-02-25 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API