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When we think about educational toys for 1-year-old toddlers, it’s critical that we also consider the whopping number of milestones and skills children achieve in this one short year.
Between 12 months to 24 months, a child’s brain is expanding with connections that help them piece together their world. It is a time of curiosity, exploration, and new experiences.
When you are busy learning to walk and talk, there’s little room for ABCs and 123’s. That’s why the best educational toys for 1-year-olds are those that help children succeed in the basics – how to move, think, and speak like a big kid.
What’s Age-Appropriate When Buying Educational Toys For 1 Year Olds?
In this fast-moving period of development, one-year-olds are learning the names of people and objects in their environment and can respond to simple requests.
They are the perfect task rabbits if you need something from across the room, and they love to imitate everyday activities like sweeping or folding laundry.
If they are not walking, they will be soon enough. Constant exploration is expected, and their need for movement is insatiable.
Educational toys for this age range are designed to help them work on mastering basic physical and intellectual milestones.
While educational toys may have letters or numbers on them, it’s far too early to expect our children to recognize and name them.
At this age, exposure is enough. They will have plenty of time for academics as they get older.
Look for toys that are simple with depictions of everyday things – vehicles, flowers, animals, etc. Shoot for a mix of both open-ended toys (blocks, dolls) and closed-ended toys (puzzles, shape sorter).
How To Select Educational Toys For 1 Year Old Toddlers That Will Grow With Your Child
One-year-olds are in a period of significant transition. This is the year they develop the physical, mental, and emotional skills that take them from helpless infant to confident toddler.
If you’ve read our popular post on Montessori Toys for 1 Year Old Toddlers, you already know that toddlers at this age are highly active and lack the ability for long periods of focus.
They may not be able to sit and enjoy classic educational toys like puzzles, activity books, or games just yet. That’s fine! We want to meet children where they are without rushing them.
This is why it’s great to offer a range of educational toys. Some may be unique to this particular stage while others are more complex and advanced. (Avoid small pieces due to choking!)
If your child isn’t interested in a particular toy, that does not mean they hate it.
Put it away and try again in 3 months. This is a temporary and rapidly progressing stage of development for kids. Buckle up and enjoy the ride!
Educational Toys for 1 Year Old Toddlers: Physical Play
Physical milestones at this age include crawling upstairs, pulling to stand, and walking. These are skills that require strength in the legs, arms, and abdomen.
We can help our children build these muscles by offering new challenges and new ways to move their bodies during play. The following toys are specifically geared to do just that!
Create a mini obstacle course with this colorful toddler-sized stepping stones set. The durable non-slip rubber bottoms are safe for indoor and outdoor use on firm surfaces.
With a weight capacity of well over 700 lbs, don’t hesitate to invite the entire neighborhood to come to play!
This little push wagon is ideal for both pre-walkers and new walkers who need a little support to get going. My son loved to fill the basket with all manner of items from around the house.
Toddlers this age want to tote things around, but they are still learning how to walk while holding objects. With the walker wagon, they can carry their hoard of found objects and stay on the move.
Bee still my heart! This adorable scooter is the perfect introduction to bike riding and will help children build the muscles necessary for riding a balance bike in a year or two.
What makes this toy so special is the natural wood frame paired with a plush seat for comfy cruising. The 360-degree wheels make it easy for even the youngest riders.
Large foam blocks that are sturdy and wipeable? It’s a miracle! Now you can let your sticky, icky little one tumble away without worrying too much about clean-up.
They are also great for supporting children who are crawling, pulling to stand, and climbing.
Educational Toys for 1 Year Old Toddlers: Closed-Ended
Close-ended toys are toys that have a definitive conclusion. You solved the puzzle. You won the board game.
There is so much focus online on open-ended play that close-ended toys seem boring or not worth the investment. It’s simply not true!
The science around cognitive development tells us that playtime with specific rules and parameters promotes better executive function. This in turn allows us to control and manage our thoughts and emotions into our adult life.
(Check out our article on Emotional Development in Toddlers for more on executive function!)
While many early learning puzzles have knobs or pegs to grip, this puzzle requires children to feel the shape as well as observe it. Tactile learning or touching to learn is a big deal at this age!
This puzzle exposes children to both primary colors and the most common geometric shapes. It’s about as educational as you can get for this age group.
Stacking and unstacking are favorite past-times for one-year-olds, and this triple stacking puzzle adds an extra layer of excitement.
The rings are removable for open-ended play or repurposed for color matching games. We give it bonus points for looking gorgeous when stored on the shelf!
Object to picture matching games help toddlers make the connection between real-life things and the two-dimensional images that represent them. It’s a gateway into abstract thinking activities like reading, art, and imaginative play.
This set is extremely unique in that it includes some larger objects that don’t pose a choking hazard. You can always add in the small pieces during supervised play.
A wonderful activity for practicing fine motor skills. The thick wooden beads are easy to grasp, and the thick metal tracks are just complex enough to keep your toddler’s brain busy while still offering some success.
Kid Kraft manufactures durable wooden toys and furniture for school classrooms. They bring that quality and craftsmanship to this beautiful bead maze.
Educational Toys for 1 Year Old Toddlers: Open-Ended
Open-ended toys ignite curious minds and spark imaginative play.
They can be used in traditional ways but are also easily commandeered for a tea party, pretend cooking class, dance recital, or any other type of play your child dreams up!
Keep in mind that while children 12-18 months enjoy open-ended toys, you probably won’t see a lot of pretend play until closer to 24 months.
Wooden blocks are timeless and beloved by all ages, but there are a lot of poorly constructed options out there. This set is chemical-free and made from dense hardwood, giving them a satisfying and balanced weight.
They are also produced from renewable forests and manufactured in the U.S.!
When my son was one, it felt like 86% of my day was spent reminding him not to throw stuff – pens, bananas, ornate brass candles, you name it! Toddlers need a good bouncy ball to satisfy that urge to throw without hurting themselves (or the cat).
Crocodile Creek makes the best bouncy balls for outdoor/indoor play. With a thick rubber tread in funky, colorful patterns, your one-year-old will never put it down.
Bean bags are rarely found outside the classroom, but those in the know use them at home. Their construction makes them perfect for tossing but also balancing, squeezing, and stacking.
Bean bags have the gentle calming effect of a weighted blanket and make perfect little doll pillows too. The possibilities are endless!
When it comes to open-ended play, simple is better. You’ve got to leave lots of room for the imagination! Are these dolls happy? Sad? Work for NASA? Your child gets to choose.
These peg dolls are large enough to prevent choking and include a rich diversity of skin tones to represent people from all backgrounds.
Educational Toys for 1 Year Old Toddlers That Will Grow With Your Child
Emerging research in child development suggests that your child can actually benefit from having fewer toys. When the number of toys in a child’s environment goes down, creativity and engagement go up.
Slowing down on toy purchases can give you the time to buy new toys with thought and intention. We recommend focusing on toys that will grow with your child.
These toys were carefully selected to appeal to a wide range of ages from one year and beyond!
Your young toddler will love chopping fruit with a “real” knife while conveniently absorbing basic math concepts.
Tender Leaf Toys (my current favorite toy company) includes examples of fractions all the way up to ⅕ as well as the whole value 1. This is an educational toy that can easily last to age six or seven!
Our family loves Tegu products for their durability and portability. This set is simple enough for toddlers, but since it’s designed like other Tegu blocks, it’s easy to combine it with increasingly complex block sets.
While enjoying these high-quality blocks, children will also get a hands-on lesson in the scientific concepts of attracting and opposing magnetic forces.
As soon as children are able to stand, they can use an art easel. This height-adjustable wooden easel includes built-in paint or crayon storage as well as hooks for aprons and washed clothes.
When they’re not painting, the easel offers a chalkboard and a magnetic dry erase surface for hours of artsy fun.
Magna tiles are one of the few toys we have never rotated into storage, and while it took my child many months to learn how to use them to construct things, he never tired of trying.
While I appreciate the durability and vibrant colors of the Magna-Tiles brand, there are plenty of more affordable options like this 33-piece set. I’ve even seen them on sale at Aldi!
Nothing stands the test of time like a treasured stuffed animal, but why stop at animals? Why not a beloved head of cauliflower? Or a snuggly salted pretzel? Perhaps this cuddle-worthy pineapple with big, fluffy leaves!
Jellycat makes the softest, most whimsical stuffed toys available so you can find a stuffie that is as unique as your child.
Mix And Match Your Educational Toys For 1 Year Old Toddlers
Offering a range of toys and activities for your busy one-year-old helps them tackle milestones with confidence.
Whether it’s hours of big physical play or a few minutes of quiet focused work on a puzzle, we hope your newly minted toddler enjoys these educational toys for 1-year-olds!
Often playtime can feel like a hassle, but some toys are fun for kids and adults. Which educational toys for 1-year-olds get you on the floor and playing with your child?
Brittany Cantrell is an Epidemiologist at her local health department who oversees a team of beautiful, talented women. Though she specializes in infectious disease prevention, she is a strong advocate for all public health professionals. She is the owner and author of the mindful travel blog, The World Enough, where readers are empowered to live with presence and without fear. She was born and raised in the rolling foothills of the north Georgia mountains. In her spare time, you can find her helplessly pinned to the couch by one of her two cats, heading to a yoga class, or planning her next adventure.