There's a lot to consider when shopping for 1-year-olds. Skills-wise, they're starting to grow out of their baby toys, though some (like those favorite stuffies and loveys) might still have appeal. And they're aging into toddler toys, but many of those might still be too complex. Plus, 1-year-olds still have to be steered away from unsafe toys — play sets that have small parts that can be choking hazards or toys that can pinch little fingers — which can make it difficult to buy gifts for kids this age for their birthdays or the holidays.
"One-year-olds are at a period in their development when they are becoming increasingly powerful and competent — evidenced by the fact that they are starting to walk and talk," says Rebecca Parlakian, M.A., E.D., a parenting expert from Zero to Three, an organization that focuses on kid development during the early years. "They are also really interested in big questions like, 'How does this work?' 'What does it do?' And, 'What happens if I do this?'”
The best toys and gifts for 1-year-olds help them explore these questions and practice these new physical skills. "This includes simple items, like a ball to kick and chase, as well as things like push toys or toys that can be pulled on a string while walking," Parlakian says. "Toys can also pose fun challenges for 1-year-olds to figure out — think about a stacking ring, nesting cups, shape-sorters, a busy-box or simple wooden knob puzzles. And it’s never too early for set of cube blocks, plus a basket or bucket to drop them in and dump them out of. And toys that make noise — like a xylophone, drum, or toy piano — are also a hit at this age.
We tapped veteran parents and toy testing experts to weigh in with their favorite toys for 12-month-olds. The toys were evaluated for safety, durability and easy of use, then sent to toddler testers to make sure they're fun. (Some are even current and former Good Housekeeping Best Toy Award winners.) When all was said and done, these emerged as the best toys and gifts for 1-year-olds in 2022.
1Best Overall Toy for 1-Year-OldsBusy Buggy Radio Flyer Read More
22022 Good Housekeeping Kids' Book Award WinnerI'm Still Up! Clarion Books Read More
3Best Active Toy for 1-Year-OldsChase n Go Ball Popper Playskool Read More
4Good Housekeeping Best Toy Award WinnerBaby Builders Explore Together Blocks Little Tikes Read More
5Best Sensory Plush for ToddlersTinkle Crinkle Jumbo Caterpillar Plush GUND Read More
Our testers loved toys that served multiple functions, such as walkers and push toys that doubled as educational toys that practiced numbers or letters. They were also drawn to toys that make music (or, better yet, that helped kids make music) and toys that had a sense of humor to them, even if only parents were in on the joke. Parents or kids, these were the toys for 1-year-olds that had everyone smiling.
Before including our favorite picks in an article, the Good Housekeeping Institute does rigorous toy testing to ensure we're recommending only the best. Many of our choices come from our yearly Toy Awards, where we test each item based on the following criteria:
✔️Safety: Our engineers and analysts make sure that each toy reaches all safety standards. They also assess things like pinch points and make sure toys won’t shatter into small pieces to pose a potential choking hazard.
✔️Ease of Use: We look at each toy to evaluate how simple it is to assemble, how well it’s constructed and how durable it is during play.
✔️Kid Approval: Aside from testing each toy for skill-building attributes, like how well it develops social-emotional skills, all our final decisions come from more than 100 children, ages 1 to 15, who assess the fun factor!
Much of the toy testing for this article was overseen by Rachel Rothman, the Good Housekeeping Institute's chief technologist and director of engineering, with the help of Marisa LaScala, Good Housekeeping's senior parenting and relationships editor. For more than 15 years, Rachel has put her training in mechanical engineering and applied mathematics to work by researching, testing and writing about parenting products. Plus, as a mom to three kids under 5, she has plenty of first-hand experience.
Marisa has covered all aspects of the world of parenting, from the postpartum years through the empty nests, since 2015, and she's pitched in with Good Housekeeping's toy coverage since 2018. She lives in New York City with her husband and daughter, who are both avid toy collectors.
Looking for more great gifts for kids? Let the experts do all the hard work for you!
- Top-tested items: See what toys, gifts and books ranked the very highest in our Lab tests with our 2022 Good Housekeeping Best Toy Awards and our 2022 Good Housekeeping Best Kids’ Book Awards.
- Tech for kids: Our lab experts are often asked for recommendations for digital devices for kids, and we've tested kids' phones, game consoles and kids' tablets to see which ones held up the best for families.
- Great learning toys: While all toys can be helpful vehicles for supporting developmental growth, we love to spotlight notably exceptional educational Toys and STEM toys as well as ones that can support social-emotional growth, like those included in our lists of the best sensory toys, pop fidget toys and autism toys. Some of our favorite also landed in our lists of Hot Toys for 2022 and The 50+ Best Toys for Kids of Every Age.
- Gifts for babies: Please the newest members on your gift list (and their parents) with these useful baby registry items, as well as gifts for babies, gifts for baby girls and gifts for baby boys. Of course, you might want to get something for new parents to help them through the hectic newborn stage.
- Gifts for toddlers: The coolest new toys in this space pull double-duty, whether it's social-emotional learning combined with motor skills, or creative play combined with language, as you can see in our gift guides for 2-year-olds and all toddlers, as well as our stocking stuffers for toddlers.
- Gifts for preschoolers: As they begin to explore the world around them on a deeper level, help them explore with STEM sets, art kits, creative toys and toys that inspire their imaginations. Find our favorites in our gifts for 3-year-old boys, gifts for 3-year-old girls, gifts for 4-year-old boys, gifts for 4-year-old girls, gifts for 5-year-old boys and gifts for 5-year-old girls.
- Gifts for big kids: By these ages, they've developed their own interests. Help them dive deeper into the subjects that most interest them, from coding to art to cartooning to history and geography, with these gifts for 6-year-old boys, gifts for 6-year-old girls, gifts for 7-year-old boys, gifts for 7-year-old girls, gifts for 8-year-old boys, gifts for 8-year-old girls, gifts for 9-year-old boys, and gifts for 9-year-old girls.
- Gifts for tweens: Sure, once they get old enough for an iPad or gaming console you might be at a loss of what to get them. We have you covered with engaging picks for gifts for 10-year-old boys, gifts for 10-year-old girls, gifts for 11-year-old boys, 11-year-old girls and gifts for 12-year-olds, or see what's trending with boys or tween girls as a whole.
- Gifts for teens: We decode what's on the lists for this picky age group, from the hottest accessories to the most-wanted tech gifts, with gifts for 13-year-old boys, gifts for 13-year-old girls, gifts for 14-year-olds, gifts for teen girls, gifts for teen boys and even fun stocking stuffers for teens.