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Developmentally Appropriate Gift Guide for 1 year olds

BY Alicia mason – for growing kind

Have you been wondering what to get your 1 year old?

We have compiled a list of 1 year old gift ideas that are super fun to play with, and they are developmentally appropriate. As you read through our 1 year old gift guide you will notice we have given you the WHY for each item, and constantly referred to play schemas. Please refer back to our “What are Play Schemas?” to learn more.

A Ball

Why? Balls are good for trajectory and transporting schemas, good for gross and fine motor skills and social development. They teach early turn taking, verbs and ptovide past, present and future tense language exposure e.g. “You threw the ball”, “I’m going to throw the ball” “the ball is rolling”. For 1 year olds who are just starting to walk or are still crawling, it can give them something to chase to encourage development of gross motor skills. Between 1 and 2 toddlers may start to run or rather walk briskly and kick and throw balls.

Stacking Cups

Why? Stacking bowls are great for fine motor skills, encouraging toddlers to take things out and put them into the bowls, and to try to fit the bowls into each other. They can be enriching for a child going through the enveloping and transporting schema. And are great for exposure to colours, sizes, and prepositions vocabulary, eg “You put the small purple cup inside the big green cup” or “You put the small blue bowl on top of the big red bowl”. Between 1 and 2 years children will enjoy stacking and knocking over objects. They may also use these in positioning schema play.


Why? Prams are great for transporting schema for all sorts of toys and good for imitating household tasks like taking their baby for a walk. This is also great for gross motor skills of lifting, lowering, pushing and pulling. It’s also good value as it will be an attractive toy for years to come. A good solid, stable pram, like a hardwood pram, can be used for stability by 1 year olds who may still be falling frequently.

A Doll

Why? Dolls are great for 1-2 year olds who will enjoy pointing to and identifying body parts such as eyes, nose, mouth, ears, belly button, feet, and hands. 1-2 year olds tend to enjoy imitating household tasks. A doll can be used to imitate parenting tasks, such as bathing baby, settling baby for a nap or sleep, and feeding baby. Great for transporting and enveloping schemas as toddlers will enjoy wrapping the doll, playing peekaboo, pushing their doll in a pram, and carrying their doll from container to container. Dolls also help with early empathy development and language development so are great for all children.


Why? Sylks are ideal for a toddler exploring the transporting schema e.g. for use as a “baby carrier”  for dolls or toy animals or “bag” for carrying toys, and enveloping schema for wrapping toys of various kinds like blocks, dolls, balls, and animals. Sylks can be used by 1-2 year olds who are interested in imitating household tasks, like hanging up and putting away washing, making the bed, and setting down a picnic rug or baby blanket. They are also a great sensory toy, as the material is soft and lightweight.

Things with Wheels

Why? Toy vehicles are great for toddlers in the rotation schema. Toddlers can find tipping a small toy vehicle or ride on vehicle upside down and spinning the wheels fascinating when they are in this schema. Toys with wheels are good for exploring concepts such as gravity and friction. They can also be used for lining up (positioning schema), wrapping up (enveloping schema), or be surrounded by a barrier, such as a toy fence or wall of blocks (enclosure schema).

Climbing Equipment

Why? At 1 children are starting to explore climbing. They may be climbing up onto chairs and coffee tables. Giving them something safe that they are allowed to climb on gives them freedom to explore this skill, without having to tell them “no” or “stop”. Early climbing can help strengthen shoulder and wrist muscles, assisting with pencil grip and other fine motor skills in the future.

Art Supplies

Why? Between 1 and 2 toddlers will start to make marks on paper with the crayon in their fist. They will still need to be supervised, but this is a great fine motor activity, and a way they can observe cause and effect and make an impact on the world around them.

Board Books

Why? Reading to your child has benefits for social and language development, and their relationship with caregivers. Making Faces is a great choice. Books about faces and body parts are interesting at this age, as toddlers are starting to point at and be able to identify body parts. The book also has a mirror inside which becomes interesting as toddler start to develop self awareness, on average at around 18 months of age. If you would like to take the guess work out of growing your little one’s library,  a book subscription can be a great Christmas gift. In the Growing Kind Book Club (0-2 years), you receive 2 board books or small hard cover books per month, chosen by a qualified early educator. You can start or cancel whenever you like. Orders close on the 20th of each month, and are shipped on the 1st of the next month.

This gift guide has been written by Alicia Mason specifically for Growing Kind. You can contact Alicia over at @filltheirbucket


  1. This is THE list I needed. I just discovered play schemas and have been making a list similar to this so I could get ready for Christmas and upcoming birthday. This is super helpful because I didn’t want to inundate my LO with a million toys, but rather a few curated ones that they will get a lot of use out of (quality over quantity). Many thanks from Texas!

    1. You are so very welcome! I hope it helped

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