17 gifts for a curious 1-year-old

1 year old reaches for weed
17 gifts for a curious 1-year-old | Honeycomb Moms | My son, Donovan, noticed this little guy on a family trip to the County Line Orchard in Hobart, Ind. | LAUREN FLOYD / INFO@HONEYCOMBMOMS.COM

My beloved (in my Iyanla Vanzant voice) turns 1 year old next month, and I couldn’t be more excited about planning his party.

His theme is Storybooks, Paintbrushes and Wonder. And although I can easily rattle off storybook and artistic needs, I was a bit overwhelmed thinking of educational toys that inspire a sense of wonder and curiosity.

Luckily for me, I live in the digital age.

A couple Google searches, and I was on my way.

“You’re looking for toys that’ll help this particular child develop,” Dr. Sarah Roseberry Lytle, director of outreach and education at the Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences told The Strategist. “They’re starting to explore complex concepts like gravity through trial and error and trying new things, oftentimes repetitively, just to figure out how the world works.”

Sound is a big motivator for my son, Donovan. He bangs anything he can get his hands on, loves opening and closing doors and figuring out how to piece together devices like remote controls.

I suspect that no toy will ever rival the refrigerator door, half-empty water bottles or car keys, but here’s my list of educational toys to inspire wonder in a curious 1-year-old:

Large wooden bead maze

Donovan loves playing with the bead maze at a libraries we visit, and this colorful wooden version seems like the perfect in-home addition. Its traffic signs and emergency response vehicles also double as teaching tools about road safety for preschool-aged children.

80-piece Mega Bloks set

This is a great precursor to those complicated LEGO sets with hundreds of pieces. Mega Bloks’ pieces are about twice the size of the standard LEGO for little ones still experiencing the world through their mouths, and the wide blocks also come in a variety of colors. They make for great early introductions to colors and promote hand-eye coordination and open-ended play.

Curious George Jack In The Box

This one is a classic that I can see any curious child devouring as he tries to figure out the mechanics of what makes Curious George pop out of the box.

Neutral teepee tent

A teepee is ground zero for any imagination wonderland. I remember having a “Beauty and the Beast” tent as a child, and I practically lived in that thing.

Tegu magnetic block set

Tegu brags that this set will support pattern recognition, a sense of scale, imaginative play, problem solving and storytelling. At least one expert agrees.

“Think about the language you’re using when you’re building blocks: bigger, smaller, shorter, taller,” Lytle told The Strategist. “If you have kids and parents building bridges with blocks together, you’ll start talking about concepts like stability.”

That’s a building block for an aspiring engineer.

Baby’s first workbench from Fat Brain Toys

Donovan loves to bang toys, so I can’t think of a more fitting toy than a workbench designed for banging. It features pegs to pound with a wooden hammer and is a great tool to help develop hand-eye coordination.

LEGO DUPLO’s creative play set

I love LEGO sets because although they have intended designs, there’s really no required building formula. They allow children to build according to their imaginations. This particular building and construction set was designed for children as young as 1.5 years old and as old as 5-years-old. It comes with boy and dog figurines and 63 other pieces.

Three-sided art easel

A 1-year-old probably wouldn’t be able to use this one unassisted, but it’s a great tool for modeling artistic expression and introducing children to the tools they can use to do so. It’s also a great group gift that grows with the child and features a magnetic dry erase board, a chalk board, felt board and paper feeder.

Washable paint kit

Although this set is intended for an older child and comes with 30 paintbrushes and six jars of paint, it would allow the family to paint together and again serve as a set to introduce children to the tools they can use to express themselves.

Lewo wooden puzzle in fruit shapes

I don’t think any child can have too many puzzles. This one is unique in that it’s stackable and builds early shape, color, fruit and number recognition skills, according to the company Lewo.

Friction powered cars and trucks

This set features a friction-powered dump-truck, cement mixer, bulldozer and tractor. Playing with this kind of set can promote hand-eye coordination and sensory perception, according to Wideland toy company.

Lewo wooden shapes puzzle

This is a three-puzzle set featuring triangular, star, square and circular puzzle pieces. Puzzles can be fun educational toys that help children develop eye and hand coordination, fine motor skills, creativity and imagination skills, according to Lewo.


Yookidoo Baby Bath toy

Donovan loves splashing in the tub and playing with his rubber duckie. This set of colorful cups, spinning gears and other gadgets would allow him to add spraying and straining to the mix. It also promises to aid development of fine motor skills, accuracy and hand-eye coordination.

Boon JELLIES suction cups

I think about introducing new colors and shapes to Donovan, but I sometimes forget about textures. These colorful jellies stick to each other and the walls of the bathtub.

23-piece instrument set

A sound-lover’s dream, this set has wooden percussion instruments, tambourines, a xylophone, maracas, castanets and kazoo. My house will know silence no more, but the creative juices must flow.

Magnetic letter and number set

This is the perfect gift for any refrigerator aficionado, and they do exist. Sure, a child who just turned 1 year old would probably just slide the magnets onto the floor, but soon enough, he would be using the set to spell out his first words and count to 10.


Drawing table

Honeycomb mom Sydnea Rutland introduced me to this playroom staple. Every aspiring artist and engineer needs a work area, and this is a pretty darn affordable one.

 17 gifts for a curious 1-year-old | Honeycomb Moms | Start checking off items on your Christmas list early for your little one with this list of educational toys and props to promote open-ended, imaginative play, cognitive development and hand-eye coordination. | Credit: LAUREN FLOYD / INFO@HONEYCOMBMOMS.COM

17 gifts for a curious 1-year-old | Honeycomb Moms | Start checking off items on your Christmas list early for your little one with this list of educational toys and props to promote open-ended, imaginative play, cognitive development and hand-eye coordination. | Credit: LAUREN FLOYD / INFO@HONEYCOMBMOMS.COM

6 thoughts on “17 gifts for a curious 1-year-old”

  1. All of these are great for a toddler. I think my kids have had most of these that you mentioned. Great post. Your son is so handsome!

  2. My beloved….lol!! These gifts are super creative. I feel like my husband and I will be doing online shopping this year (Amazon, target….) . There are better selections online. You gave me some really good ideas!

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