Best baby and one year old toys (and books!)

Toys and books your baby or one year old will love! These toys are PERFECT to help foster independent play right from the start!

one year old and baby best toys

I am passionate about independent play! It’s healthy and good for both kids and caregivers, and it’s SUCH an awesome skill to foster independence in all areas!

A great way to encourage independent play right from the start, is invest (or MAKE) good, age-appropriate toys that also encourage interaction from those playing.

Toys with lights and noise typically don’t require as much from the kids (and also, noises get on my nerves), so that’s why my toy lists don’t typically include those types of toys. (Although, mama, I’m not judging you if you use them; this is my personal preference!)

Keep reading for my favorite toys for babies and one year olds!

Here’s a list of toys my kids enjoyed through age 1, and really beyond. All of these toys are being used by my 1 year old and 3 year old currently; that’s the beauty of open-ended toys! They grow with the kids!

What else did your littlest ones play with?

If you need toy ideas for 2 and 3 year olds, I have a list for that as well!

*There are affiliate links in this post.  Read my disclosure policy to learn more.*

Check out my Ultimate Baby Registry Checklist for gift ideas for younger babies (including activity gyms, tummy time toys, sensory balls, starting solids, etc…)

outside toy for baby

Older babies (6-12 months)

Play pots and pans

These are on my list for 2 and 3 year olds, but they have to be mentioned here because my son LOVED them starting from about 7 months old.

Tunnel

These are so great for babies who are learning to crawl (or who you want to encourage to crawl)! Both of my kiddos have loved them from “scooting” and beyond!

Radio Flyer Push Wagon

This is one of my favorite bargain purchases! I got it for $20 at a consignment store! It’s perfect for babies who are pulling up and starting to walk with assistance! Add some blocks or books for extra resistance!

Ring Stacker

We have a plastic ring stacker, but I would much prefer the weight of this one. Introduce this toy with one or two rings!

Outdoor Swing

This swing has been such a hit with both of my kiddos! It is best for babies through age 3!

Soft blocks

These soft blocks are perfect for babies who are starting to stack!

Egg shakers

These are the perfect size for baby hands; and super cute to boot! We love our egg shakers!

gross motor climbing toy for one year old
My son with his slide right after his first birthday

1 year olds

Play scarves

These can be used in so many ways! We throw them in the air and watch them fall, stuff them in Oballs and wipes boxes to be pulled out. We stuff them into a wipes box for a DIY pull-through toy. With older toddlers, you can use them to talk about colors; there are just so many options!

Realistic farm animals

I love when toys look realistic! These are great for teaching animal names, sounds, and have a lot of ridges and edges to make mouthing interesting for babies!

Little Table and Chairs

Your new toddler will love a little table and chairs! They’ll feel so big (cry your eyes out, I know!). You can use this table for years for crafting, snacking, and just hanging out! (A similar one is also sold at Ikea)

Toddler Chair

I wanted my son to have a little chair for his first Christmas, but OH MY GOODNESS… the Pottery Barn chairs everyone has are SO expensive. Also, I care nothing for monogrammed anything so I didn’t want his name on it. (I KNOW! AM I EVEN SOUTHERN!? DON’T HOLD IT AGAINST ME, LILY PULITZER PEOPLE)

p.s. my son LOVED this and still does, and my daughter (1) loves it even more! Child-sized things make them feel more at “home” and independent, I think!

Little Bookcase

I would LOVE an open-faced bookcase like the one above. They’re incredibly expensive, but they have cheaper “sling” versions. Open-faced bookcases are so nice because kids can see what books are available, and therefore choose what books they want to read!

We have this tiny bookshelf from Ikea. It’s okay for a few seasonal books, but it’s so small you can’t really see all of them.

Musical Instruments Set

I know I said I don’t like toys that make noise, but musical instruments are an obvious exception to that “rule”! Musical instruments are so good because they respond to the movement of the child (the sound matches how fast they shake, how hard they hit, etc…). They’re great for sensory input, fine motor skills, and so much more!

Xylophone

You definitely don’t need all of these instruments; just pick a few at first! These grow with your kiddos, so they’ll be well-loved for years and years!

Drum

Making music is so fun! Turn on a fun song, pass out instruments, and have a family band party!

Handbells

Can you tell I like musical instruments yet?

Mom Tip: You don’t have to have all of these instruments (or even all of these bells) out at one time! Rotate them in and out for optimal engagement (and optimal enjoyment on the part of the adults… haha!)

Tea set

This has been such a fun set for us! Right now my daughter (1) just likes to hear the noise the pieces make when they clang together, and take the pieces in and out. These are both age-appropriate actions- she’s learning while doing those things! She also sometimes pretends to drink from the cups, because my 3 year old is teaching her how to pretend play! It’s so fun to watch them learn!

Tools

This was my son’s first tool set. It is marketed for 3 and above, but he’s really loved the instruments for much longer! The pieces (keep them screwed together for young ones) have really cool texture to them, so they’re really interesting to feel and mouth! He even still loves it at 3!

Wooden Fruit-Cutting Set

This one is on my daughter’s Christmas list this year! I’ve heard and read so many good things! We do start cutting actual food with nylon knives in the kitchen at around 1.5, but this looks like great practice!

Fat Brainz Spinning Stacker

My best friend got this for her little girl when she was 1, and it’s been a hit with my son when we’ve been over there! It is SUCH a cool toy! It’s on my one year old’s Christmas list this year!

Outdoor Slide

My son got this slide for his first birthday and he’s loved it every since! My little girl loves it now, too! We even had it in the middle of our living room for a while!

Simple Shape Sorter

Start your kiddo off with a simple shape sorter like this one!

Pop-Up toy

This toy is so cool and fun! The little pegs rest on a spring and you can push them and the bounce out!

Ride-on Toy

This is on my daughter’s list this year. She loves to ride on my son’s dump truck and excavator, but they’re both hard to maneuver. The reviews look good on this one, and it’s a great price, so we are going to try it out!

Chunky Puzzles

For first puzzles, look for ones with knobs or pegs for great fine motor practice! These are great to look for at consignment sales!

Note: All kids are on different timelines. The action of grabbing the knobs and pegs is GREAT practice on its own, without completing the puzzle! Follow (don’t pressure or stress about) your child!

grandpa reading great books for one year olds
We love to read!

Books

It’s so important to read to your child! It’s good in so many ways! Get in some reading time with your kiddo by making it a part of your daily routine! We read before naptime and bedtime (and other times as well, of course, but these times are our “planned” reading times).

Note: Reading the same books over and over again may be (super) boring to us, but it’s so good for your child’s brain! Let them lead; read their favorite books over and over again!

These are some of our favorite books through age 1! What are your favorites?

Simple rhyming board books

Sandra Boynton’s Books

These books are silly, fun, and my kiddos both have loved them!

Brown Bear, Brown Bear

We love Eric Carle! This one is good for animals, animal noises, and has some awesome repetition!

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Such a classic!

Goodnight Moon

I’ll have to admit: I didn’t like this book at first. But now I love it! It’s such a good book for vocabulary when kiddos start talking!

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt

You can sing this and there are fun motions to go with it as well!

Row, Row, Row your Boat and Other Nursery Rhymes

My kids both love this book! It’s “touch and feel” nursery rhymes!

Lift-the-Flap board books

Lift-the-Flap books are so much fun and so good for older babies and one year olds!

Pro-Tip: Re-enforce flaps with tape before giving the book to your child because while they love to “lift” the flaps they also love to yank/tear them!

Where is Baby’s Belly Button?

This is our favorite lift-the-flap book!

Dear Zoo

We LOVE this book! SUCH a classic!

Where’s Spot?

Another classic!

Peek-A-Who?

This has been a HUGE hit with my youngest! There’s a mirror at the end that she loves to kiss!

Peek-A-Flap: Moo (or any/all from this series!)

These books are so, so fun! There’s Peek-a-flap Zoo/Who/Boo/Dig/Ho Ho Ho and even more! So many fun options!

Textured or Interactive books

“You Must Never Touch” series

These books are so interesting for little hands to explore! There’s a lot of options for this one as well!

Pat the Bunny

This book, y’all! it’s interactive and SO, SO fun! Your child can “pat a bunny”, “touch Daddy’s scratchy face”, “shake Mommy’s button box” and more!

“Baby Touch and Feel” series

There are so many of these! They’re great for vocab and so fun to touch!

“Poke-A-Dot” books

We LOVE these books! They have a fun plastic “poppers” to poke on each page! Such good pre-counting practice; these books will last for a while!

“First words” books

My Big Words Book

Usually between 18 months and two years, your kiddo will start to learn words like crazy and want to know the words for everything. these books are great for vocabulary teaching/learning!

First 100 Words

We love this book!

First 100: Numbers Colors and Shapes

This is another first word book that is well-loved at our house!

Final thoughts on baby and one year old toys (and books!)

There you have it! I hope this list was helpful for you! It’s not an all-inclusive list, but these have been our favorites for babies and one year olds!

Do you have any I missed!?

Thanks so much for reading!

Lots of love,

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Toys and books your baby or one year old will love! These toys are PERFECT to help foster independent play right from the start!

Hey, it's Anna! I'm a teacher-turned-SAHM of two young kids. I love to research all things parenting and kid-related and share them on here.

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