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Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Ultimate First Birthday Gift Guide

So my baby girl is turning one this week...

Everybody in my family thinks my kids are hard to buy for, apparently "they have everything" because our house resembles a toy shop. Yes, I agree, our house does somewhat resemble a toy shop {or a childcare centre} and we do have a lot of toys, buuuut there are always more toys. I guarantee I can always find things we don't have {that we obviously need}. If I had a bigger house and a never ending supply of money you can bet our house would be packed with way more toys than it is now. There's so many amazing toys out there, you just have to know where to look {or spend hours scrolling online shops while breastfeeding like me}. Thankfully you don't have to though, because I've done the hard work {aka research} for you and put together this awesome gift guide. I swear if toy scout was a job, I'd be all over it. If you have a one year old to buy for, or your own baby is about to turn one, this post is packed full of ideas, and they're all great for girls and boys.


I have to admit, when my big girl was a baby, our toy style could pretty much be described as plastic fantastic. I used to walk into all the department stores and be blinded by the bright colours, whizz bang sounds and cheap prices, I'd buy a new toy every time we went to the shops. I was so excited to finally have a baby I wanted e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. It's safe to say I quickly got over my fascination with all things noisy and plastic. The endless need for new batteries, creepy toys going off in the middle of the night and my house looking like shiny rainbow vomit had a lot to do with it. So began my obsession with wooden toys {around about when she was 18 months old}. 

Not only are wooden toys less likely to freak me out in the middle of the night, they're also inherently open ended providing numerous learning opportunities that evolve as your child grows. They inspire hours of pretend play, limited only by your child's imagination. They're also extremely durable and won't fade, crack or deteriorate as quickly as their plastic counterparts. All of these reasons are why I've only bought wooden toys for my girls for the past few years. The ones we've collected so far are such good quality I'm planning on keeping most of them for my future grandkids to play with.

But what do you get a one year old? They're too old for baby toys...

That's totally true, most one year olds are in that odd in between stage where they're too old for baby toys like teethers and blankies, but don't have the skills yet for things like puzzles and games. However, I like to think of toys that will suit them for the whole year not just what they can do right at this moment. Between 1-2yrs of age toddlers brains are developing rapidly and their physical, cognitive and language skills and abilities will also evolve exponentially.

During the next 12 months most toddlers will hit big physical milestones like learning to walk, but they'll also master less obvious ones like their pincer grip, through actions like grasping, stacking, transferring and sorting objects. They'll also start simple pretend play with their toys by mimicking actions you do with them. Not to mention their speech will start expanding and one of the best ways to facilitate this is through play.

I'm very passionate about learning through play so I've put together a list of some amazing good quality toys that will help develop these skills. And yes these are the actual presents she'll be getting for her birthday. The way she plays with each of them will continue to evolve as she gets older. Keep an eye out on Instagram to see them in action over the coming weeks and months.

*This post contains some affiliate links*


The Hape roller derby is one toy that's been on my wish list for months. We hired it for her big sister when I was still pregnant and it was such a hit I've been wanting to buy it ever since. It's essentially a more toddler friendly version of a marble run using bigger balls. Kids put the balls into the top hole and watch them fall down the ball run, through the different holes, changing sides as they go and then finally dropping onto a bell at the bottom. It's such a simple toy, but it provides loads of tactile, visual and auditory stimulation. It's also a really easy way for younger kids to practice hand/eye co-ordination while placing the balls through the hole. I imagine her big sister will be keen to play with this one too as she's used it before, so I'm hoping it'll also help the girls practice turn taking.

I was so excited when The Creative Toy Shop added the roller derby to their Hape range, because I'd been having a bit of trouble tracking it down online. The Creative Toy Shop is an online toy store that stocks educational toys, activity guides and resources to facilitate play based learning for children of all abilities. I first met owner Brianna via her notes from a home educator Instagram account where she shares learning activities she does while homeschooling four young boys. She's now living my dream and running her own toy store alongside her teaching job. Everything available in her shop has been carefully selected to cater for children of all abilities, including those with special needs. You can follow The Creative Toy Shop on Facebook and Instagram.


This rainbow wooden egg and cup puzzle set is a great little matching game for toddlers. They can start to develop fine motor skills, hand/eye co-ordination, learn about balance and cause and effect by grasping the eggs and transferring them in and out of the cups. What I love most about this set is that it essentially grows with your child because it can be used to learn and reinforce different skills at different ages. As she gets older I'll also use it to teach her the different colours, for colour sorting, problem solving, counting and sequencing. I dare say her big sister will probably play with these a lot too.

The egg and cup game is made from renewable birch and hand painted using vegetable based paints. I got it from Works at Play, a Brisbane based toy store with a focus on affordable, sustainable, open ended toys, resources and play sets for at home and childcare centres. Owner Melissa is an Early Childhood Teacher passionate about sharing her knowledge of play resources and learning opportunities with others. Many of the toys and resources sold at Works at Play are Montessori or Waldorf inspired. You can follow Works at Play on Facebook and Instagram.


When it comes to wooden toys Grimms are pretty much up there with the best of the best. I'd even go as far as saying they're probably the world leaders in open ended toys. I think the best place to start your Grimms collection for a toddler is with the 7 rainbow friends in bowls. The peg dolls will help develop baby girl's pincer grip as she grabs them and transfers them in and out of the bowls. The bowls can also be stacked on their own. They're also great for introducing colour sorting and matching and eventually we'll use them to sequence the colours of the rainbow. As her imagination develops they'll also be fabulous for pretend play.

This set is made from sustainably sourced alder and maple wood and is hand finished with non-toxic, water based dyes. Each piece of Grimms has unique markings from the natural wood grain so no two pieces or sets will ever be exactly the same. I also got these from The Creative Toy Shop, they have an extensive range of Grimms toys with options for babies right through to older children.


Wooden blocks provide children with a delightful tactile sensory experience and are a perfect first birthday gift for toddlers starting to explore grasping, stacking and sorting. These wooden rainbow sound blocks have added sensory stimulation with coloured panels and different beads within each block. Baby girl is obsessed with anything that makes sound so I know she's going to love shaking, banging, stacking and knocking them over to explore the different sounds they make. They're also a good size for kids who are still prone to mouthing {always use them under supervision with young children} and they pack away neatly into the included storage box when not in use.

Like a lot of the other items included in this list, wooden blocks appeal to a large range of ages so I know they're something she won't get bored of or grow out of quickly {I still love playing with wooden blocks at 33}. As she gets older I'll also use them for introducing colours and shapes and in treasure baskets.


Activity centre cubes and tables are a pretty staple gift option for 1 year olds that you can't really go wrong with. Toddlers love to explore and play with anything and everything and activity centres give them a chance to play interactively with multiple items at once. Not only are they having fun putting items in and out, spinning, winding, opening and shutting, and pushing and pulling little pieces, they're also doing a great deal of learning. Each manoeuvre strengthens their hand muscles and assists fine motor skills as well as teaching cause and effect and problem solving.

We've had quite a few different activity cubes and tables over the years {I know I have a toy problem}, but I think this tree top adventure activity centre may be the best one I've ever seen, because it's a 3D tree! How cool is that?! The four quadrants that make up the tree include gliding tracks, bead runs, spinning beads and gears and flaps that open and close. What I also love about the tree design is that it's up off the ground so baby girl can play with it while standing {which is good because she's been walking since 10 months and prefers standing over sitting}. It also has enough room for both girls to play together. I'm sure her big sister won't be able to resist having a go, in fact I can just imagine all the pretend play that will happen here.


These Two Little Ducklings Colour & Shape flash cards are a great way to introduce toddlers to colours and shapes. I specifically chose the colour & shape set as they're the easiest concepts for 1-2yr olds to learn. Although flash cards are a more structured learning resource, they work well for younger kids when used {under supervision} alongside other items. To start with I'll be using the colour cards in special colour themed treasure baskets {with toys and loose parts} to slowly introduce her to different colours. As she gets older I'll incorporate them into colour hunts {pick a flash card and go find items of that colour}, colour matching items to the cards, colour sorting and I'll also introduce the same activities with the shape cards.

The flash card set includes 25 cards, featuring primary and secondary colours and shapes, represented by everyday items children will be familiar with. They're printed on thick environmentally friendly 300GSM paper with rounded edges and come in a calico storage bag. I got them from Avidiva, an online store that stocks quality, stylish, natural, non-toxic gifts for mums and little ones. Avidiva stock a range of Two Little Ducklings flash cards including the high contrast cards {great for babies} and the alphabet, counting, fruits and vegetables and feelings and emotions cards that are all great for toddlers and preschoolers. You can follow Avidiva on Facebook and Instagram.


What's the best thing to get someone when you don't know what to get them? Easy, a gift box....  Gift boxes aren't just for adults, there's special toy gift boxes available for one year olds too. The Big Little Box Co is a Brisbane based online business specialising in curated and custom gift boxes for little ones from babies right through to 5 year olds. The best part is almost the entire range of products available are wooden educational toys designed to stimulate fine motor development. If ever there was a business right up my alley, this is certainly it! To compliment the amazing contents, the gift box itself is sturdy white gloss cardboard with a magnetic flap and your child's name is printed on top in vinyl in your choice of font and colour. The boxes themselves make great keepsake boxes after the gift giving is over.

The Big Little Box Co have a number of curated first birthday gift boxes, however because we have a couple of similar items already, I chose to create my own box. There's a huge range of toys and books available from The Big Little Box Co with prices starting at just a few dollars so you can put together a gift box for any budget. I chose all of our items based on where she's at developmentally and her current interests. She's starting to want to do simple puzzles so I chose the Hape colour and shape sorter and the wooden bee puzzle. The wooden lion is a screw puzzle to help work her fine motor skills. She also loves anything to do with music so I got an owl shaker. Finally we're collecting the "That's not my" Usborne touch and feel books so I chose That's not my duck to add to our collection. I can't wait to see her face when she opens up her box. I'm going to keep the box to use as a special baby memory box for her {and yes I'll be ordering a box for her big sister so she has one too}. You can follow The Big Little Box Co on Facebook and Instagram.


Most of baby girl's gifts were deliberate out of the box choices as we have so many standard toddler toys already. If nothing on this list takes your fancy, other toys we already have that are great for toddlers are:

Hopefully this list has given you plenty of gift ideas for the little ones in your life. To see all these toys in action and the different ways we play with them over the next few weeks, follow us on Instagram. Now I'm off to console myself over the fact my last baby is already turning one. Why do they have to grow up so fast?

Disclosure - Some of the products featured in this gift guide were gifted to us and others were purchased. I have purchased from all stores featured in the past and will continue to do so in the future. I have only included items I was going to/have bought for her. All stock images have been used with permission. To see these products in action over the coming weeks follow us on Instagram. Always supervise young children while playing with toys containing small parts.

*This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience which means I may earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you, should you make a purchase.

Would you like to comment?

  1. They're all such beautiful toys! My daughter would have loved that activity cube.

    1. She's just opened them all and I'm pretty sure the tree is her favourite.

  2. I have an almost one year old who I will be needing to buy for in a couple of months time! I will be referring back to this post for my purchase inspiration!


  3. Great article, and happy birthday to your little one!

  4. I love high quality wooden toys. We should probably have a few more around here.