All of the toys selected in this Top 10 list of educational toys for 1-year-old toddlers have been tested by my own toddlers and they are gender neutral, meaning they are a great choice for both boys and girls. We either have these toys or my kids used to play with them when we visited their little friends.
I know because I have been there too, that it’s hard to pick age appropriate toy for tiny toddlers. Either it’s too advanced for them or they find it boring. Plus, many people make a wrong decision purchasing learning electronic toys with too much going on: sounds, flashy lights, etc. In my experience, all of these only overstimulate toddlers in this age but hardly teach them anything.
All of the toys on this list are well-built, durable toys that can be used for several generations of kids. Nothing gets wasted or thrown away!
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Before we go on the actual list of toys we recommend, I have listed some of the milestones little girls and boys reach in between first and second year, in an effort to explain their learning needs and capabilities:
- Learn to use a spoon and fork,
- Throws ball underhand,
- Will pretend a doll to be a baby and feed it,
- Can take off own clothes with help,
- Can walk up stairs,
- Loves to help with household chores,
- Can follow simple goals such as keeping a toy in its place
- Follows two-step requests (get your doll and bring it here),
- Imitates others’ behavior,
- Stack up to 4 blocks to make a tower,
- Names simple pictures in a book,
- Uses two or three-word sentences,
- Can do simple puzzles,
- Sings simple tunes,
- Can arrange and categorize things, etc.
#1 – alex jr. my busy town
This learning cube is the blast! Such a colorful object and it holds great number of activities helping tiny toddlers to develop their fine motor skills. My Busy Town Activity Cube has curvy wire mazes, peek-a-boo doors, spin and match animals, turn and learn ABC, 123 and first word tiles and racing vehicle rollers. It is one of those wooden toys that will survive 3 – 4 kids without any problems! Another great thing about this toy: you can use different features as child gets bigger. We used this toy for letter recognition and beginning sound recognition. This toy is a bit more expensive than any other on this page, but it’s well worth the money you will spend on purchase. (UK readers)
#2 – Fisher-Price Baby’s First Blocks and Stack Bundle
These toys are one of the classic toys almost everyone has at home. The reason is pretty simple: toddlers love to play with them! These are great birthday or Christmas present if you’re looking for a good quality toy for a friend’s or family member’s toddler. My daughter still plays with these and she is 2,5 years old! If you have these at home, you can expand the play: one activity you can do with blocks is trace them on paper and let your toddler match object to an outline, after that you can give them pencils to color them in coordinating colors. Another way to play is to use shapes to create some artwork – simply give them some paint and let them stamp on paper using shapes! After the play if over, wash and dry and they are ready for play again! These toys can be purchased individually, but it’s better value for the money when purchased as Block and Stack Rings Bundle. (UK readers)
#3 – Bright Starts Get Cookin’ Kitchen Toy
This is the only “sound making toy” on our top 10 list but this toy is so cute and it makes such cool sound, almost like they are using a real thing! My girls enjoyed pretend playing to cook like a mommy plus balls that can be dropped on a blender or through the fridge are very entertaining! On the back side, it holds a little book with food helping little ones learn names, letters and numbers. It can be folded when it’s not in use. Overall, toddlers enjoy cooking and learning with Get Cooking Kitchen Toy. (UK readers)
#4 – Fisher-Price Brilliant Basics Boppin’ Activity Bugs
My daughter discovered this activity toy during her stay at the hospital when she had an ear infection and she had to stay in the hospital for almost a week. She played with it constantly – pushing the bugs down, then sliding, turning, pushing, bumping on the buttons to make them pop up again. After she went home, we decided to purchase this toy for her and it is in use ever since (6 years!). Even today, when my daughters have company, their friends (both boys and girls), love to play with Boppin’ Activity Bugs! (UK readers)
#5 – Melissa & Doug Noah’s Ark Shape Sorter
The great thing about Noah’s Ark Shape Sorter is that toddler can put all the puzzle pieces inside and pretend play they are waiting for a rain to stop! Believe me, tell them the story early and you’ll be glad you did! It will be so much easier for them to remember to put away pieces so you don’t step on them when you enter the room. We love that this toy can be combined with Noah’s Ark story. And we love that there are so many different animals. Toddlers love animals and getting them to learn their names using this toy be easy, especially if you make up all the funny animal noises! (UK readers)
#6 – FOAM WONDER BLOCKS
What we love about Foam Wonder Blocks is that they are light, can be used in a bathtub (they float on water!) and they are really, really quiet! Even when they say blocks in general are a quiet toy, this is really true for these blocks unlike wooden and especially plastic blocks. Plus, how likely you would let your toddler bring wooden or plastic block in a bathtub? This toy is the main reason why my toddler stopped crying during bathtub. Before them, it was a constant struggle. (UK readers)
#7 – Skip Hop Alphabet Zoo Match and Play Puzzle
Toddlers love puzzles! And this colorful puzzle with chunky pieces is one of our favorite! From matching pieces to the images on the base to telling little stories about different characters, this puzzle engage toddlers and help them with their fine motors skills. All puzzles are awesome learning tools, but we recommend to put Skip Hop Alphabet Zoo Match and Play Puzzle on top of the list! (UK readers)
#8 – Melissa & Doug Deluxe Latches Board
Melissa & Doug Deluxe Latches Board is a great learning tool for little hands. At start maybe toddlers will not be able to open all of the little doors by themselves but before you know it, they will learn! This is awesome because you can SEE by your own eyes how their fine motor skills improve over time. And they will be so proud when they unlock the doors they couldn’t just a few days ago! Plus, you get to say to a toddler who opens ALL kitchen elements and other doors around the house: “Here, this is yours to open whenever you want!” (UK readers)
#9 – Melissa & Doug K’s Kids Match and Build Blocks
Match and Build Soft Blocks are well loved by toddlers – they are light weight and easy to manipulate. They can be used to build structures like houses or towers but also for matching. They can match 2 part puzzle pieces to find the full image or match numbers and quantities (when they are older). Toddlers can also use these blocks to play before and after with several peek-a-boo flaps, or put together 9 piece puzzle of Ferris wheel. As you can see, lots of learning with only the few pieces! (UK readers)
#10 – Zoo Farm Animal Finger Puppets
Not sure what it’s like with your toddlers but both of my girls loved listening when we read them different stories. It was (and still is!) one of their favorite activity with mom and dad – reading books! And reading books can become even more entertaining with these cute animal finger puppets! This is one of the best investments when it comes to toys because this set is really cheap and presents great value for money! (UK readers)
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Mihaela runs Best Toys 4 Toddlers blog and loves to come up with new ideas how to use old toys her 2 daughters keep leaving on the floor to slip over. She loves them despite the fact that they call her mommy few hundred times a day, and it makes her nuts.