Our second baby boy turned 1 in late June. He’s an active little man and we work hard to make our home safe and fun for him during this especially curious time of exploration.

Between things we had from our older child and new gifts he’s received, I’m excited to share the five best gifts for a 1-year-old with you.

1. Play Kitchen

This one from Ikea is a great budget-friendly option. Both of our children have played with it for hours and hours. Our younger child has loved it since he was around 10 months old.

We keep baby-safe kitchen gear in the cupboards and let him explore often. There are so many great kitchen options out there including a full model from Pottery Barn Kids and a budget-friendly modern choice from KidKraft. There are also many plastic options like this one from Step2.

If you are a handy parent, you could even build your own play kitchen for your 1-year-old following this DIY tutorial from Rookie Moms.

2. Water Table

Water tables are like magic for kids. Every kid loves them, from the tiniest tots to preschool and even elementary-aged children. Every time we have ours out, all of the kids gather around and have fun splashing and pretending.

3. Balance Bike

Balance bikes are a great way for new toddlers to begin learning to ride a bike. But many balance bikes are for toddlers who are 20 months or older.

I found this one from Chillafish that is recommended beginning at 12 months.

My grandmother bought it for our son for his birthday and it’s been a great practice bike for him. Just remember to grab a helmet too, and most 1-year-olds need an infant-sized option.

4. Play Slide

Climbing is a favorite activity for our 14-month-old. We love offering safe options for him to practice.

We’ve found that a small slide placed in grass or on carpet is a good safe and fun option. Many toddler-sized slides are priced around $30, a good price point for a 1-year-old gift. Little Tikes offers a nice option, as does Step2.

5. Reading Tent and Books

Both of our children developed a love for books and reading around the 1-year mark. After months and months of us reading to a pretty uninterested infant, this was exciting. I love the gift of a tent and books to encourage children to read and look at books.

A tent can be a fun play toy, but it’s also a great spot for children to read on their own as they get older. Land of Nod offers tepees and tents that are perfect for any home and you can find other, more budget-friendly options, too.

We actually made one for our son’s 2nd birthday for less than $25.


While I want to stick to my top five, I also think that musical instruments are a great gift for 1-year-olds. They come in as a great runner-up at a nice price point under $25.

We are not fans of clutter in our home, so we try to limit the number of toys we have. But some things really are worth the space they take up. They offer plenty of developmental and physical benefits to our active and curious 1-year-olds.

Jessica Flannigan is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer, blogger, event stylist, photographer, wife, and mother of two wildly active boys, Bodhi (4 years) and Ezra (13 months). Jessica is a home design and do-it-yourself lover. She shares her latest home improvement and event planning projects on her blog, Live the Fancy Life, and fashion finds on her boy fashion site, Oh Boy Style.