Below are our editor’s picks for one-year-old toys by subcategory:
- Best stackers and sorters
- Best first building toys
- Best first vehicles
- Best first puzzles
- Best push/pull toys
- Best ride-on toys
- Best activity centers and tents
- Best musical toys
- Best first arts & crafts
- Best bath toys
- Best water/sand toys
FYI: Our editors develop these lists by summarizing favorites from the TotScoop community, synthesizing expert reviews, and researching the latest industry news and releases. Our picks are 100% unbiased — we never accept compensation in exchange for coverage. This page may contain affiliate links, however, meaning that we may receive a small proportion of any purchases you make after clicking on them (at no cost to you); thanks for your support! See our full Editorial Policy & Affiliate Disclosure here.
When you’re done here, you may also be interested in the following related guides:
- Buying guide: Baby toys & books
- Editor’s picks: Newborn toys & books (0-6mo.)
- Editor’s picks: Infant toys (6-12mo.)
- Editor’s picks: Infant books (6-12mo.)
- Editor’s picks: Books for one year olds
- Editor’s picks: Toys for two year olds
- Editor’s picks: Books for two year olds
Best stackers and sorters
This classic, basic shape sorter (MSRP $11, Amazon $7) includes 10 colorful shapes, bucket container, and a shape-sorting lid that will delight baby for hours. It’s excellent value for the price. Note that Fisher-Price is not very forthcoming about its materials, and does not market its toys as BPA, phthalate, or PVC free, so we recommend something else if your baby is still mouthing everything.
Everyday pick: Plan Toys Stacking Ring
This classic wooden donut-shaped Stacking Ring set (MSRP $20, Amazon $16) is high quality and is made from sustainable rubberwood, non-toxic water-based dyes, and non-toxic (non-formaldehyde) glue. If your child has already mastered basic stacking, Plan Toys’ more complex Preschool Cone Sorting Toy (MSRP $23, Amazon $20) will offer additional challenge.
Everyday pick: Green Toys Shape Sorter
This space-age shape sorter (MSRP $20, Amazon $17) is two-sided and features eight objects (two each of four different shapes). It’s made from 100% recycled plastic milk jugs (#2 plastic); BPA, phthalate, and PVC free.
Splurge pick: Hape Shake and Match Shape Sorter
This hexagonal wooden shape sorter (MSRP $25, Amazon $16) includes six different unique shapes with built-in beads in the centers to create different sounds (click, chime, rattle). It’s made from birch hardwood and plywood and is finished with non-toxic paint.
Splurge pick: Hape Pyramid of Play
The versatile Pyramid of Play (MSRP $30, Amazon $27) can be used for stacking and nesting, as a shape sorter, and as an aid to learn letters, numbers, and animals. It can be used for many months across multiple developmental stages, and stores up compactly in a cube.
Best first building toys
Value pick: Mega Bloks First Builders
Mega Bloks First Builders (MSRP $20, Amazon $15) are a popular, great-value first building set — featuring interlocking blocks similar to LEGO DUPLO, but even larger in scale. They’re also incredibly cheap, with 80 blocks included for around $15. Made of polypropylene or polyethylene. Unfortunately, Mega Bloks are not marketed as PVC, BPA, or phthalate free (and we disapprove highly of their misleading marketing tactics, which highlight the storage bag as PVC-free), so we recommend something else if your baby is still mouthing everything.
Everyday pick: LEGO DUPLO Busy Farm
Select LEGO DUPLO sets, including this fantastic Busy Farm set (MSRP $13), are rated for toddlers from 18 months. Containing 15 blocks (comprising four animals) and an accompanying book (including a basic storyline and pictures to help your little one assemble the animals correctly), it’s the perfect introduction to the DUPLO world. For a more freewheeling alternative, also check out the LEGO DUPLO Toddler Starter Building Set (MSRP $20).
Splurge pick: HABA Sticky Bricks
If you prefer wood, Haba offers a wonderful set of interlocking wooden building blocks (MSRP $35). They’re a nice chunky size for little hands, and the interlocking blocks assist little ones with alignment and help to keep blocks together. Made of solid beech wood and non-toxic, water-based paint.
Splurge pick: HABA building blocks
Haba also makes a number of gorgeous wooden building block sets ($40-70 at Amazon), featuring unique shapes, bright colors, and interesting textures. They are made of solid beech wood and are painted with non-toxic, water-based paints. The large, to-die-for Sevilla set is our favorite, but here are all of the coordinating sets.
Best first vehicles
Everyday pick: Hape wooden vehicles
We’ve scoured the market for the best small wooden vehicles out there, and Hape makes our favorites ($8-11 each at Amazon). Their line includes a dump truck, mini van, bus, boat, plane, and (our favorite) helicopter. No flashing lights or sounds, just wonderful classic design and quality construction to fuel the imagination. Made of solid wood and finished with non-toxic, water-based paint.
Everyday pick: Green Toys Dump Truck
This large dump truck (MSRP $28, Amazon $19) is perfect for hauling goods around the sandbox, backyard, … or playroom. It’s made of recycled milk jugs (#2 plastic) and is BPA and phthalate free.
Best first puzzles
First, a quick primer. There are four types of puzzles that your baby may be ready to progress through in his second year:
1) Oversize knob puzzles have just a few big pieces with large, easy-to-grasp knobs that fit into distinct spots on a puzzle board, often featuring matching outlines or full-color pictures underneath to give baby a hint as to what belongs there.
2) Chunky puzzles feature extra-thick pieces grasped with the whole hand (no knob), still inserted into distinct spots on a puzzle board. Many chunky puzzle pieces also stand freely for standalone play.
3) Peg puzzle pieces are also inserted into distinct spots, but now feature small pegs to help develop fine motor skills.
4) Multi-piece jigsaw puzzles, smaller versions of adult-size jigsaw puzzles, are the next step once your child masters all of the above. Many kids are ready to graduate to small jigsaw puzzles (3-4 pieces) around their second birthday.
Different children will be at different stages of puzzle readiness, so we’ve just listed our favorite general puzzle brands below; select any puzzle appropriate for your child’s stage of development.
Everyday pick: Melissa & Doug puzzles
Far and away the market leader, Melissa & Doug offers a staggering array of children’s puzzles, many for $10 or less. However, M&D’s quality is definitely not what it used to be; the price is affordable, but the “solid wood” they advertise is often composite wood or plywood. Still, if you’re looking for something disposable or there’s a particular theme you want, M&D’s value often can’t be beat. Here are links to their jumbo knob puzzles, chunky puzzles, peg puzzles, and small jigsaw puzzles.
Splurge pick: Janod puzzles
For a few more dollars, Janod puzzles (most $15-ish) are very high quality and feature wonderful designs. They offer chunky and jigsaw puzzles. See all Janod puzzles here.
Splurge pick: Hape puzzles
Similar to Janod in quality, Hape also offers a select range of beautiful knob, chunky, peg, and cube puzzles (most $10-20). See all Hape puzzles here.
Best push/pull toys
Everyday pick: Plan Toys Dancing Alligator
This classic alligator pull toy (MSRP $20) dances and makes a satisfying click-clack sound as it’s pulled across the floor. It’s made from organic rubberwood and non-toxic paints.
Splurge pick: Janod Farm Barnyard Train Pull Toy
This versatile animal-train pull toy ($30 at Amazon) is an all-in-one train, pull toy, and wooden animal set. The wooden animals stand on their own for standalone play. It is made of solid wood and finished with non-toxic paints. The same line also includes other themes and trains compatible with wooden railway systems.
Splurge pick: Plan Toys Walk N Roll
This colorful push/pull toy (MSRP $30) makes a satisfying popping sound as the little wooden ball within rattles around. It can be taken for a simple walk around the playroom, or be used for pretend play activities such as vacuuming, mowing the lawn, etc.
Best ride-on toys
Everyday pick: Prince Lionheart Wheely Bug
The Wheely Bug (MSRP $60, Amazon $48-60) is a parent and child favorite. It rests on caster wheels that allow your child to travel forward, backward, sideways, in circles. It helps to promote gross motor skills and balance, and can be used on smooth floors either inside or outside. The small size is suitable up to 2.5 years. It is PVC free; the exterior layer is made of wipe-clean polyurethane.
Everyday pick: Radio Flyer Classic Tiny Trike
This :foot-powered tricycle (MSRP $60) from Radio Flyer is made of wood and features a clever reverse design with the wide wheel base in the front so as not to trip up little feet. This little trike is sized for tiny riders: it’s small enough for 18-month-olds (and even some12-month-olds) to ride, but should still fit most two-year-olds. You may also want to consider the metal version, which is rated for 1 to 3 year olds.
Splurge pick: Radio Flyer Classic Red Wagon
This ** classic steel wagon** (MSRP $100, Amazon $89) is perfect for toting your toddler around the neighborhood. Older kids will also delight in pulling around toys or siblings. All-terrain and wood versions are also available.
Best activity centers and tents
Value pick: Ikea Cirkustalt Play Tent
This wonderful play tent ($19.99 at IKEA, $29 at Amazon) from IKEA is cute and well designed, and offers fantastic play value. If you have a local IKEA and can pick one up in person, the value for money is unbeatable. It is made of polyester and polyester fiber fill, and uses safer (non-brominated) flame retardants.
Splurge pick: Haba play tents
HABA play tents ($60-300 at Amazon) — including this gorgeous Caro-Lini tent fit for a princess — are whimsical and high quality … though definitely pricey. They are the only play tents we are aware of that are completely free of chemical flame retardants. Made of cotton and polyester; PVC, BPA, and phthalate free. See the full range of Haba tents here.
Splurge pick: B. Toys Zany Zoo Wooden Activity Cube
This wonderful doctor’s office-style wooden activity cube ($59.99 at Target) from B. Toys offers four sides of activities, plus a bead maze on top. It offers fantastic quality and value. BPA, lead, and phthalate free.
Best musical toys
Value pick: Hohner Kids Maracitos
Your baby will go nuts shaking these little maracas (MSRP $10)! They are perfectly sized for tiny hands. Phthalate and BPA free.
Everyday pick: Hohner Kids Glockenspiel
This wonderful, baby-safe glockenspiel (MSRP $26, Amazon $14) is pitch-perfect and pleasing to the ear. Baby may not yet possess the fine motor skills necessary to strike the mallet against the keys successfully, but in the meantime he’ll raptly listen to you play (and of course he’ll also be able to bang the keys with blocks and other objects).
Splurge pick: Remo Kids Percussion, Floor Tom (Drum)
This is the best kids’ drum (MSRP $75, Amazon $33) on the market, made by a real musical instrument company. It can be played with hands, mallets (included), or drumsticks.
Best first arts & crafts
Everyday pick: Crayola Fingerpaints
Inspire your little creative genius with classic Crayola fingerpaints ($19 for 6-pack at Amazon). They non-toxic and wash easily out of clothes. :
Splurge pick: Stockmar Beeswax Block Crayons
Of course, you can pick up Crayola crayons anywhere. But for superior performance, try Stockmar crayons ($13 for 8-pack at Amazon). Popular with Waldorf schools, they are made from a unique wax mix (including 10% beeswax) which produces more vibrant colors and allows layering of color. They are available in block shape (easier for younger artistes to grip) as well as traditional stick form (larger and so slightly easier to grip than Crayola), and are non-toxic.
Splurge pick: BabyBjorn Eat & Play Smock
Don’t forget to get an art smock to contain those big messes. We’ve tried them all, and this is the best one on the market (MSRP $35, Amazon $21) — thanks to its generous coverage, long sleeves, and elastic at the wrists. It’s also easy to clean (wipes clean and is machine washable), and is made of Oeko-Tex certified fabric (50% polyester, 50% polyurethane).
Best bath toys
Everyday pick: Green Toys Submarine
This favorite submarine bath/pool toy (MSRP $15, Amazon $13) can float, be submerged, or be used as a rinser. It’s made from recycled milk jugs (#2 plastic), and is PVC, phthalate, and BPA free. Also check out the tug boat from Green Toys.
Everyday pick: Boon Water Bugs Floating Bath Toy with Net
Improve your little one’s hand-eye coordination with this fun bug-and-net toy (MSRP $10, Amazon $8) from Boon. The components are constructed from hard plastic with no holes, so they don’t contain PVC or phthalates or facilitate mold growth like so many other bath toys. PVC, phthalate, and BPA free.
Best water/sand toys
Everyday pick: Green Toys Sand Play Set
This classic sand set (MSRP $22, Amazon $16) includes all your little one needs for the beach or the sand box: a bucket, a mold, a rake, and a shovel. Unlike many other plastic sand toys, it’s made of totally safe plastic; it’s made from recycled milk jugs (#2 plastic) and is phthalate and BPA free.
Everyday pick: Step2 WaterWheel Activity Play Table
Water tables are a one-year-old favorite, and this bestselling water table (MSRP $40) from Step2 is a baby favorite. Younger babies will be perfectly happy to just splash in the water, while older toddlers will be entertained by the waterwheel and boats. It is made of low density polyethylene (plastic #4) and is PVC, phthalate, and BPA free.