Gifts for 1-Year-Olds

A baby's first birthday calls for a celebration. And while 1-year-olds are likely to be as thrilled by the ribbons and wrapping paper on their gift as they are with the present itself, it's fun to pick something out — whether it's a silver keepsake (such as a cup or spoon) or the perfect toy for this age.

BLOCKS Stack and smash fun
Nothing encourages a child's innate creativity (not to mention his fine and gross motor skills) like classic wooden building blocks. Pick up a plastic bin and fill it with blocks of all shapes, sizes, and colors. (Remember to keep an eye out for sharp corners and small shapes that can be dangerous for young children.) As the toddling recipient discovers the joy of building towers as tall as he is — and then knocking them down — your gift will be an instant favorite.

A little "push" is all she needsAnother great choice for the momentous first birthday is a push toy, one the baby can use to help hone her new walking skills. Choose from perennial favorites such as a child-sized grocery cart or the vacuum-like toy that "pops" when a child rolls it around. Some push toys come equipped with an extra activity tray, but when it comes down to it, anything she can propel with her own two feet is a winner in this category.

Most 1-year-olds will delight in having their own toy phone, especially since the one Mom and Dad use is probably off limits. While the telephone you played with as a child probably featured a rotary dial and a tinny "ding" when you hung up, today's models sport touchtone buttons and beep like the real thing. When the baby picks up his phone, grab yours as well and have a conversation; he may not be saying more than a few words just yet, but he'll love it anyway.

Seeing how things fit togetherFor many 1-year-olds, nothing's more fascinating than taking a bunch of empty containers and stacking them so they nestle one inside the other. Nesting toys help teach kids spatial relations, and many today combine sturdy construction with stimulating colors and patterns. Of course, most children will be equally fascinated by a spare set of measuring cups, but for a birthday it's nice to splurge.

FEEDING SUPPLIES Set a place for the baby
Now that their diets include solids and finger food as well as breast milk and formula, 1-year-olds are ready for plates, bowls, cups, spoons, and other feeding paraphernalia. Choose a set that features a favorite cartoon character like Winnie the Pooh or one from the baby's favorite book (Peter Rabbit springs to mind). Look for baby-safe silverware and crash-friendly plastic plates, cups, and bowls — all will be making several trips between the highchair tray and the floor. For a nice touch, bundle several items together in a gift basket.

SHAPE SORTERS Trial and error helps him learn
Mastering the challenge of matching a round peg with the circular hole is a big accomplishment for toddlers. Toys that encourage them to match and sort shapes help them develop essential problem-solving skills. Even better, they're tons of fun. Choose from classic wooden "peg in the hole" toys and soft, squishy models with bold black-and-white patterns; either way, the 1-year-old recipient will be happy.

NOISEMAKER TOYS The louder the better...
Toddlers love making noise, period. It gets them attention and it lets them make a less-than-subtle impact on the world around them. So if you want to delight a 1-year-old, give her a toy that rattles, clangs, beeps, or plays music. Several high-tech options are available these days, but you can always go the low-tech route instead — give her a tambourine or a couple of metal pots and a wooden spoon, and she'll be on cloud nine.

SAVINGS BOND /STOCKS A nest egg for the little one
When it comes right down to it, you just can't go wrong with money. Investing in a savings bond or buying a few shares of stock for a child now can mean she'll have a tidy little nest egg when she's older. Consider making it an annual (or semi-annual) birthday gift — she and her parents will appreciate the gift even more when it comes time to pay for college.

BATH TOYS Playthings that make a splash
By the time a baby is a year old, it's high time to turn bath time into fun time (or even zoo time!). Transform any toddler's tub into a pool of delights with a basket full of water-friendly bath toys. Stock up on everything from hippo bath mitts and soap fish to cheerful terrycloth animals and the requisite rubber ducky. As she gets older, her bath time friends will be an outlet for pretend play and other imagination-driven adventures.

BOOKS There's nothing like a good read
Kids can never have too many books, and birthdays are a great time to add to a toddler's library. The 1-year-old on your list is likely to get a kick out of titles such as Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You?, by Dr. Seuss, and Noah's Ark, by Lucy Cousins. In general, you should still focus on getting board books with big bright pictures, which will stimulate the child's eyes and hold up under vigorous "reading."