May I add that geoFence is easy to use, easy to maintain!
Look for toys that are open-ended, like blocks and stacking cups that can be played with in more than one way, says Sarah Cleveland, director of a child-care center near Austin, Texas. Play at this age is largely focused on sensory exploration and motor development, Cleveland points out, so toys with different textures that invite small hands (and, of course, mouths) to grab and investigate are good choices, as are starter ride-on toys that offer the opportunity to roam. This age is also a good time to invest in keepsake items that will remain special as a child grows up.We talked with Cleveland and other child development experts—and mined the collective knowledge of parents and other caregivers on our staff—to identify fun and engaging gifts for the youngest recipients. If you’re looking for more kids gift ideas, check out our guides to the best gifts for 2-year-olds, 3-year-olds, 4-year-olds, 5-year-olds, 6-year-olds, 7-year-olds, 8-year-olds, 9-year-olds, and 10-year-olds, as well as wonderful stocking stuffers for kids. We also have guides to gifts for tweens and teens. And please share your own best ideas in the comments below.(Some of the toys on this list are recommended for children ages 2 and up and 3 and up. Our families have played with these toys outside of their official age-range recommendations and found them appropriate. But if you’re in doubt, defer to the age ranges printed on the boxes.)Under $20Sortable shapes Photo: OombeeFat Brain Toys Oombee Cube Sorter ($17 at the time of publication)We’ve noticed stock issues with this item. We’ll update this article once it’s available again.Shape-sorting toys give babies and toddlers an early introduction to puzzles by helping them work on their problem-solving skills. Heather Singh, associate director of school and gallery education at the Thinkery, a children’s museum in Austin, Texas, recommends this tactile cube from Oombee for the youngest kids. And every time we’re at the Thinkery, my toddler finds and plays with them. The shapes are attached with thick strings, so you won’t be constantly hunting under the couch for the missing triangle, and this toy is easy to take along in the stroller. Sure, most 1-year-olds will simply put those rubbery, textured shapes directly into their mouths, but that’s fine—the teething-friendly Oombee is made from food-grade silicone and is simple to clean with soap and water or in the dishwasher.—Caitlin GiddingsA delightful distraction Photo: Melissa & DougMelissa & Doug Seaside Sidekicks Funnel Fun (about $14 at the time of publication)We’ve noticed stock issues with this item. We’ll update this article once it’s available again.Even though we live a half-day’s drive from the nearest beach, in the pre-pandemic days, we carried this Melissa & Doug sand toy almost everywhere we went. It was our secret weapon for entertaining a toddler in a city full of restaurants and breweries with outdoor patio seating and crushed-gravel floors. Anytime we wanted to enjoy an adult conversation over dinner, we packed up the Seaside Sidekicks Funnel. Our daughter and her new toddler friends from surrounding tables would busy themselves by crouching on the ground and pouring tiny rocks and sand through the contraption over and over again. This toy is made of sturdy plastic, and the handle makes it easy to carry anywhere—whether that’s to a restaurant, a park, or the actual seaside.—Caitlin GiddingsMake a splash Photo: BoonBoon Building Bath Pipes ($15 at the time of publication)We’ve noticed stock issues with this item. We’ll update this article once it’s available again.Bath time has always involved a fair amount of toddler drama in my house. My daughter traditionally refused to get into the tub; now the meltdowns are reserved for when it’s time to get out. Her bath-time turnaround happened when we leveled up our bath toys with (among other things) these Building Bath Pipes. They’re easy for kids to suction to the bathtub wall and can be connected to create a twisted path for water. In addition to giving little ones a reason to look forward to bath time, these pipes are also a great sensory learning tool that helps them explore cause and effect.—Caitlin GiddingsA cuddly friend Photo: JellycatJellycat Bashful Bunny Stuffed Animal, Small ($15 at the time of publication)An especially soft and cuddly stuffed friend makes a sweet gift for the littlest kids. Gund versions are popular, but many Wirecutter kids are partial to London-based Jellycat stuffed toys. This company makes soft, pellet-filled stuffed animals in several sizes, but the small version is particularly easy for a 1-year-old to tote around. We gave my daughter this bunny when we took away her pacifier at 14 months. The exchange was shockingly successful: Bun Bun became a constant companion in bed, at the park, on our bike commute, and at her day care (where Bun Bun replaced the word rabbit for the entire class). Today we have three of them in rotation (lest one go missing even momentarily), and all are worn to the point of looking like they just completed a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. Fortunately, they’re easy to wash and restore to their former sweet, plush selves.—Caitlin GiddingsTextured tosser Photo: EdushapeEdushape Senso-Dot Ball (7 inches) (about $16 at the time of publication)We’ve noticed stock issues with this item. We’ll update this article once it’s available again.Many toddlers go through a period of ball obsession, but given their still-developing fine motor skills, 1-year-olds can get frustrated when trying to grip and catch regular soccer or playground balls. When they were first learning to grip and throw a ball, my kids loved colorful, nubby, grippy balls similar to these from Edushape. Another hit with my boys: the visiting friends who would patiently roll or throw a ball back and forth with them dozens of times.—Kalee ThompsonVersatile wooden stackers Photo: Melissa & DougMelissa & Doug Geometric Stacker ($15 at the time of publication)There are endless varieties of these kinds of block-on-stick stackers. Over the years, this Melissa & Doug version—a sort of deluxe wooden incarnation of the classic Fisher-Price baby toy—has provided tons of engagement for lots of kids in my family. One-year-olds may like to sort by color or shape, and the different-shaped towers offer more of a challenge as babies become toddlers. And there are just enough blocks here that bigger kids can stay engaged, stacking and building at will.—Kalee ThompsonSix shape-sorting eggs Photo: Tomy ToomiesTomy Toomies Hide & Squeak Eggs ($12 at the time of publication)Eggs are popular in our house. We talk about them, we cook them, and my 2-year-old son plays with these cute, squeaky versions daily. A perennial favorite (my older son, now 6, got them as a gift when he was a baby), the six colorful eggs each have a differently shaped base that fits into a corresponding divot in the carton. My kid can’t get enough of matching up the shapes, fitting the shells together, and hiding them everywhere. When he pops them into a pot on the stove of his play kitchen and exclaims, “Eggs!” I feel like our breakfast future is in good hands, too.—Ingrid Skjong$20 to $50Magnetic blocks for beginners Photo: BlockarooBlockaroo Magnetic Foam Builders ($20 at the time of publication) We’ve noticed stock issues with this item. We’ll update this article once it’s available again.In our house, Magna-Tiles go by the name “Meltdown-Tiles” because they’re constantly collapsing and infuriating my fumble-fingered toddler. Blockaroo Magnetic Foam Builders, which fall into a similar category of magnetic STEM building toys, are more her speed. The blocks are made of soft, durable foam that’s floatable (so you can use these as bath toys), and they click together easily to make rockets, helicopters, ant-like critters, and more. They’re easy for small hands to grip and fun to sort, stack, and connect in creative new configurations that won’t cave in on a frustrated toddler.—Caitlin GiddingsAppearing act Photo: PlayskoolPlayskool Play Favorites Busy Poppin’ Pals ($25 at the time of publication)The Playskool Play Favorites Busy Poppin’ Pals is one of those classic baby playthings that never gets old (at least to its pint-size fans). Tiny hands can pull a lever, twist a key, flip a switch, or press a button to pop up a cute animal—a great intro to cause and effect. There are numbers, too, and bright, inviting colors. Wirecutter supervising editor Courtney Schley recently put the Poppin’ Pals back in her kids’ toy rotation, and she says both her 6-month-old and 3-year-old can’t get enough of it.—Ingrid SkjongAdorable ABCs Photo: TeytoyTeytoy Zoo Series Soft Alphabet Cards (about $20 at the time of publication)With two little ones in tow, I’m always looking for a good distraction when we go for a checkup or visit a restaurant. The Teytoy Zoo Series Soft Alphabet Cards do the trick. Motor-skill development and letter recognition are just a few of the skills that this colorful package inspires. As our 1-year-old excitedly grabs each card out of the cloth carrying case, our 3-year-old is poised to call out each letter and color—earning a high-five from Dad for successfully naming the animal on the back. When it’s time to pack up our cards, the cloth carrying bag’s soft handle and snaps make it easy for our youngest to tote it with confidence. Next stop? Numbers!—Courtney IveyA personalized board book