First birthday gift ideas


Hard as it is for me to believe, I am about to have a one year-old. My kid's first birthday is only a couple of weeks away. And so, of course, I'm thinking about presents, and not just presents for my specific kid, but what make good gifts for this age group. I clearly remember all the times, pre-kid, when I would go shopping for a gift for a friend's child or a family member and look at all the possibilities and feel distinctly overwhelmed. So, I decided a blog post about first birthday gift ideas was in order.

And, lucky for me, I have an expert on hand to consult! My friend E., who gave me all that great advice about what I needed to have on hand for a new baby? She's back and better than ever, this time with advice about the best and most useful toys for those between one and two (her boys just turned two last month). And, as before, she's comprehensive, insightful, and all-around brilliant.

1. Musical instruments, especially percussion
I know a lot of people are shaking their heads already, and I won't pretend I'm not one of them. Just what my already loud kid needs, a drum! But the truth is that toddlers bang on things, and they might as well be getting early exposure to instruments in the process right? There are a million and one options in this category, but here are a few I like (click the picture to go to Polyvore for information on each item):

First Birthday #1: Instruments

2. Music to listen to
I'm not at all well-versed in this category, but I have gathered a few recommendations:

First Birthday #2: Music

3 Art stuff
I'm super excited about this category. There are lots of art supplies for which 1-2 is just too young, but some are safe for the younger set, as long as you don't mind a mess! Some ideas:

First Birthday #3: Art Supplies

4. Vehicles or stuff with wheels
Another category I am excited about. I don't know if it's my internal gender stereotyping coming out or what, but I am super drawn to vehicle-type toys for E. And there are so many great options!

First Birthday #4: AThings with Wheels

5. A big dishtub or something, for "washing" toys/dishes, and practicing pouring
This is one I never would have thought of, and I don't think it necessarily requires suggestions. My plan is a dish pan or two from the dollar store, or something re-purposed from around the house.

6. Tub toys, like boats
We're very into this category lately at my house, since the bath is E.'s favorite thing. We actually have a couple of these toys:

First Birthday #5: Bath Toys

7. A couple of really cool alphabet, colors, seasons/weather, vehicle, family, and parts-of-the-body books - toward the end of year one, books about feelings are good, too.
This is category in which I can see certain of E.'s grandparents going a bit nuts! And honestly, I'm tempted myself. There are amazing books available for small children these days. These are just a few:

First Birthday #7: Books

8. A couple of good stuffed animals/dolls.
A doll is something I never really thought about getting for E.--in truth, I'm a little bit creeped out by them--but he loves the ones in day care, so it's definitely on my list. None of the options I've seen thrill me overly much, but here are a few ideas:

First Birthday #8: Dolls

9. A small stepstool, for looking out of windows or reaching things
We actually have one of these that was Mark's when he was a kid, which I love. It has his name on it and everything. That said, if you were on the lookout for one, these are some I'd consider:

First Birthday #9: Stools

10. Cards with pictures on them (not necessarily flash cards) - photos or drawings of people or animals. (These get destroyed, so don't get too attached to them or spend too much money on them.)
Isn't this a crazy good idea? This is the kind of thing I never would have thought of, but I can totally see the appeal. And the possibilities are so endless. Another smart thing my friend does is puts flashcards in those pocket photo albums, creating sort of flip-books for her kids, who love them.

Here are a few ideas:

First Birthday #10: Cards

11. Jars and bottles
Here's one I wouldn't have believed had I not seen it with my own eyes--babies/toddlers LOVE jars, bottles, tubs, and tubes! And you can just give them a cleaned out version from whatever you've got--water, jam, peanut butter, shaving cream...the sky's the limit! You can also fill a bottle with glitter, water, food coloring, small toys, or a world of other things for sensory play--there are a couple of these in E's day care and he loves them. Just make sure the cap it on tightly!

12. Scarves and hats
Dress up clothes! I swear, the joy of dress up clothes was one of my Top 10 reasons for having a baby. I am so very, very excited about them. But again, there's no need to spend a ton of cash here, or even buy anything--the kid will be just as thrilled with old stuff you've got around, or thrift store stuff. I cannot wait for E. to get interested in this type of thing.

13. Kitchen stuff (doesn't have to be toy-kitchen stuff - Tupperware containers, silicone spatulas, old pots and pans, empty spice containers)
Once again, your cast-offs are probably going to be the best of these toys. That said, who can resist play food and dishes? Some of my favorites:

First Birthday #13: Play Food/Dishes

14. Big balls and little balls/bean bags for throwing
Over the past few weeks, balls have become HUGE at my house. E. can even say "ball" now. And there are so many varieties of balls to choose from!

First Birthday #14: Balls

15. Walker or push toy
This is another category that is growing in popularity at my house, and again, so many great options available! We have the one I show here with the blocks in it, and it is much loved.

First Birthday #15: Walkers/Push Toys

16. Blocks
Once again, a popular choice at my house, and something of which there are endless variations. Also, fun for adults! Some I like (several of which we have):

First Birthday #16: Blocks

Wow! Tell me that wasn't helpful!? I'm so excited to have this list to refer to, both for my kid and for future gift-giving. Thank you so much, E!


So much cute fun stuff! My Dh's favourite game for that age was to build a tower of blocks across the room before our eldest could crawl over and knock them over. lol

Under music, you have They Might Be Giants's Here Comes Science. That is an excellent CD but I think it is for older kids. For toddlers, I'd do their ABCs and 123s. Then be sure to buy Here Comes Science in a couple of years. :) A couple more recs: Gather Round: Songs for Kids and Other Folks, and the Fisher Price Sing Along Favorites.

Oh and the Haba blocks that you have pictured in the last picture, lower right - my kids both love them.

My go to gift for babies and toddlers before I had kids was always books. Now that I have kids (though mine are teens now), I have more ideas and can ask/gauge a kids interest a bit more. If in doubt though, I go back to the books because you can't have too many books.
Good wooden blocks are always a hit too, though I'd probably give those to an older kid. I'm keeping the blocks my kids have - my 14 yo still pulls them out and builds with them occasionally.
For kitchen toys, my kids had a set of plastic vegetables that came in 2 pieces, attached by Velcro. They could "cut" them in two with the plastic knife. It even came with a little cutting board. Those veggies even came in handy in preschool/kindergarten when they would have to bring in some number of items starting with the letter of the week.

Great suggestions. To add on: music. Ralph's World is great and we don't like Veggie Tales generally (too religious) but Silly Songs with Larry is a must have. Books: Dear Zoo is the best book ever for this age group. Also, Duplos! Fun for years!

Best one-year-old birthday gift, hands down? A harmonica. ALL toddlers (and big kids too) love them! I can't believe Emil is already 1. Excited to see how much he's grown since last summer. If you have time during your visit for Mitch's wedding, let's plan a cousin play date!

Another music recommendation: Laura Veirs - Tumble Bee. She went to my small college. I didn't know her then, but have heard her at reunions since and LOVE this kids album.

Totally ditto the harmonica suggestion! Pure joy.

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