Please help us spend money for our one-year-old's birthday somewhat wisely.
August 29, 2011 12:27 PM   Subscribe

Recommendations for toys and other practical items for our daughter's first birthday?

Our daughter's birthday is coming up, and money will be spent. There were obvious things to get her earlier on - the requisite block-sorting toy, xylophone, stacking rings...but now I'm stumped. She's just about walking - she doesn't crawl at all - and her favorite thing to do is travel around the house with mommy's help, touching everything and pulling stuff off shelves, so I don't really know what she'll enjoy next. She also loves books, the telephone and the remote control. As for non-toy items, I've offered her the tupperware and pot cupboards to destroy, but she's not into that yet. She doesn't do the pot lids and wooden spoon thing. Whisks and spatulas do not delight her. Cardboard things are no good either - she still tries to eat them. She doesn't want to sit and do one thing for now.

I hate the idea of wandering around the toy store randomly grabbing things, wasting money on crappy plastic toys she won't like. Any suggestions for good toys at this age? What about other practical items might we need for her in the next little while?

she already has:

- an education fund we contribute to regularly
- larger high chair after she outgrows small one
- forward facing car seat
- sippy cups (just transitioning)
- small playpen
- toy cell phone
- drum
- balls
- toy car
- doll
- this alphabet train, which I really recommend
- tons of clothes
- tons of books
- stuffed animals

We are thrilled to buy used stuff, too. Thanks.
posted by kitcat to Shopping (21 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
a good old fashioned jack in the box was fun. Also, the bumbo seat is a totally great thing for kids that age.
posted by H. Roark at 12:34 PM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

We have video of my first birthday party. The best gift (objectively speaking and based on my reaction) was a simple bike/scooter thing that my dad had customized with a full-size bike horn. I can't believe it was so easy to google, but this is the exact thing. Just mod it with one of these, and you're all set. (Warning, horns are noisy. But totally awesome.)
posted by phunniemee at 12:36 PM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

my daughter (now 19mos) love love loves any toys she can pull/push. she has a wooden alligator pull-toy that makes the loudest noise ever & she drags that thing EVERYWHERE. so also has a lawnmower that she plays with, as well as a small stroller (for her bunny). she loves having parades.

when she was approaching one/just over one, she got a couple riding toys, but they were a total waste. she wanted to be walking, not scooting around on a tiger or whatever.
posted by oh really at 12:37 PM on August 29, 2011

Yay one! My second just turned one two weeks ago and it's the most fun age ever.

Walking wagon! We have this one and both our kids have loved it. It's super sturdy and clicks when you push it. Also the big one loves to push around the little one.

I will anti-recommend a bumbo seat - kids at this age hate the containment and can sit on the floor just fine. And they are big enough to flip it but stay trapped in it.

ps. Please don't put her into a forward facing car seat until she is much, much older. Current recommendation is a minimum of two years old, and ideally as long as possible. My 3.5 year old still rear faces comfortably in one of our cars. Five times less likely to die or be seriously injured in an accident!
posted by pekala at 12:41 PM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: thanks pekala - I would have checked before using but hadn't yet, and yes, looks like we'll have to upgrade to a rear-facing with a higher weight limit first, so there's an idea....
posted by kitcat at 12:55 PM on August 29, 2011

This walker thing was the greatest hit from the one year old party. But this house

One of my go-tos is a set of anamalz.

And, duplos.

It's also okay to aim a little bit older than she is - she won't know the difference. Our daughter liked to pull up on the play kitchen at her daycare at that age, and we got her one for her second birthday, but would totally have done it earlier if we had the space. She got her first baby doll and stroller for christmas when she was 18 months and that was perfect. looks like she already has one, but for future reference - I highly recommend this corolle doll as the perfect size for a first doll. There is a coordinating stroller that is the perfect size, and also helped her learn to walk.

Things that stick on the fridge are great - we had a plain set of alphabet letters, and eventually graduated to the kind that make noise, like this..

If you have room to store it, now is a great time to get things for outside, like a cozy coupe (new ones start out as something you can push them in - no feet required!) or a play structure or a small sandbox. Depending on your climate, you might get some use of it now. I would especially recommend a sensory table/water table. You can use it inside and fill it with interesting things, depending on your tolerance for mess (cotton balls, feed corn, dried beans, whipped cream, water, bubbles, etc).

Generally, here's an awesome list to help with this kind of stuff. It's aimed at things that get played with the longest, so good bang for your buck!
posted by dpx.mfx at 12:58 PM on August 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

If I could go back in time, I'd say - the gift of nothing. We've kept next to nothing from that age, because she moved on from it all so quickly, and all we ended up with was a lot of stuff to pass along within a year or so... And she had so much and unless she looks at a picture and "remembers" it, she has no actual memory of anything from then six years later.

But I'd say:

A membership to a zoo or museum with a great kids section - or any place that's fun to escape to in order to let her walk around and burn off energy in bad weather?

A water table/sand box for indoor or outdoor use? It's fun and interesting to fill it with different things from time to time - beans, rice (you can dye it in fun colours with food colouring), packing peanuts, shredded paper - and hide stuff in it. They're popular at drop-ins, daycares and kindergartens. That will last for years.
posted by peagood at 1:01 PM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh, yeah, duplos. We didn't have any with our first until he was older - like 18-24 months, old enough to actually fit them together. But with our younger kid, she loves them more than just about anything. Especially the zoo sets with the animals. Now they sit for hours playing with them together. Baby takes them apart after big brother builds something. Or she just sits there happily banging them together and chewing on them. They definitely will get used for years to come.
posted by pekala at 1:05 PM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Cause and effect and toys that focus on gross motor activity are particularly fun at that age. Some ideas

Bigger blocks you can stack and knock over
This guy has continued to be a hit with our now over 2 year old.
Nesting cups (can be stacked or put together)
Fun stuff for the bathtub or sink, especially if you can pour water from one thing into another.
Beginning pretend stuff-little tools (e.g., a bench to hammer pegs or balls), or small pots and pans, pretend food that you can "cut".
Puzzles with big pieces and big knobs to hold.
Things with ramps (or maybe this)
Activity boards or books you can touch (or this).
posted by goggie at 1:10 PM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

I highly recommend avoiding all toys with batteries. Batteries die quickly and those toys make lots of noise.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 1:11 PM on August 29, 2011

When my aunt turned one, she got a red rocking chair that my grandfather hand-made for her. Grandma and Grandpa made a big fuss over her getting her own chair. She loved that chair so much. One day someone left it out (I never could get them to agree on who), and Grandpa backed over it with his truck.

For her second birthday, she got a blue rocking chair. Again, they made a big fuss over her new big-girl rocking chair. She loved that new chair so much. It was the red chair re-assembled and painted blue.

If you want to get her something practical for you, go for it, but make it fun for her. Alternatively, get her an iPad or a $99 TouchPad. Kids love those things, even very young ones.
posted by infinitewindow at 1:17 PM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

My son just turned one and his favorite present was a little toy kitchen with lots of cupboards to open and toy food to play with. He was already walking pretty steady, so the only thing I would worry about is the tipping over factor if your baby is still pulling up on stuff. But yeah, the kitchen captivated him for a long time!
posted by katypickle at 1:39 PM on August 29, 2011

How about a Zoobie? It's a stuffed animal that also becomes a pillow and blankie, so it's great to take out with you.
posted by essexjan at 1:42 PM on August 29, 2011

Thinking for the future, my 2 yo *loves* her play kitchen, her cozy coupe, her outdoor little tikes playhouse.
posted by gnutron at 1:47 PM on August 29, 2011

My parents got our daughter a YBike Piwi for her first birthday. Sort of a toddle-bike thing, but very stable, easy to pull up on. She uses it for pulling up and walking behind, for now, but later on presumably she'll scoot on it.

I've been surprised by how much she and I both like it.
posted by gurple at 2:25 PM on August 29, 2011

For my niece's first birthday, I sent her one of these. It would send her into fits of giggles every time she walked on it.
posted by tully_monster at 2:26 PM on August 29, 2011

Response by poster: Wow. I can't even believe how neat and creative some of these toys are. These are all excellent suggestions - thank you! Between now and Christmas, we're set. I was thinking about one of those kitchens. The stuff with wheels are all good, and they're not the run-of-the-mill things you'd think of. I hope I can find the noise mat here, though, because she absolutely loves stomping on things.
posted by kitcat at 3:54 PM on August 29, 2011

The bilibo was a big hit at out son's first birthday, as were riding toys. He also loves his big sister's pillow pet.
posted by purenitrous at 4:34 PM on August 29, 2011

We liked the bilibo and the cozy coupe, as well as duplos (though those required being about 18 months).

But definitely a membership to a local zoo/park/something. When my toddler was a beginning walker all he wanted to do was walk. I got a membership to the local urban zoo, just 7 minutes from the house, and we went ALL THE TIME all winter long. I'd bundle him up and bundle me up and let him loose. The paths were always shoveled so it was a safe place for a beginning walker, and since there was nobody there in the dead of winter he could run forever without having to hold hands, and I could mosey along behind and look at the animals.

Now that he's two he's finally sort-of interested in the animals, but still a lot interested in running. :)

Any kind of zoo, nature center, etc., with paved paths that get shoveled in the winter would be awesome. That membership has paid for itself many times over, and "Go zoo?" is a popular weekend question.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:53 PM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Step-stool (you can get plain varnished wood ones, or fancy ones with her name painted on or cut out into puzzle pieces on the top step, or ones with a compartment with the top step as its lid).

Seconding a kid-size chair being something that totally thrills and delights toddlers.
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:18 PM on August 29, 2011

I got my son a set of three tents and two tunnels for his first birthday. Now at age seven, he's crawled through, used them for forts, time-traveled to the Jurassic, and plain giggled a lot. The only downside is they take up a lot of room when in use.

This seems to be today's version.

The other suggestions are all great too!
posted by Measured Out my Life in Coffeespoons at 5:51 PM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

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