Brain Development Gift Ideas for a Kid's First Birthday

By Eliza Martinez
Toys are sure to make an appearance in birthday gift boxes.
Toys are sure to make an appearance in birthday gift boxes.

A child's first birthday is a milestone for moms and kids. It might be bittersweet that your baby is growing up, but you want to make the day fun for everyone. If guests have been asking what your little one wants for her first birthday, putting together a list of age-appropriate gifts that promote her brain development allow you to share ideas for toys that you know your 1-year-old can play with.

Open-Ended Toys

Open-ended toys allow your 1-year-old to play with them in many different ways. This is ideal for brain development because it boosts imagination, problem-solving and logical thinking, according to Zero to Three. Toys that your child can use in a variety of ways get her brain working each time she plays with them. Blocks, nesting toys and containers for bath time or the sandbox are entertaining choices. Even a large box left over from the birthday party makes a fun choice because it could be a house, space ship or train all in one day.


Reading to your 1-year-old boosts her brain power by increasing vocabulary and setting the stage for language skills. Board books are ideal for babies at this age because they hold up to hundreds of page turns and tosses across the room. Read stories to your little one, but allow her to look through the pages and examine the pictures on her own, too. Anything with words offers similar benefits, so child-geared magazines and magnetic letters work too, notes With the Brain in Mind.

Pretend Toys

Children love to imitate what those around them are doing. This is why you might see your 1-year-old using the remote control as a cell phone. Providing her with pretend versions of the real thing boosts brain development by helping her learn how items work and how they are used in the real world. A pretend kitchen with plastic food and dishes, toddler-sized tools, an old cell phone, musical instruments and dolls with clothes and baby gear are good choices.

Exploration Toys

Your little one might be a year old now, but she still has a lot to learn about her world. Toys that encourage exploration allow your child to build her skills and increase her logical thinking abilities. They also boost fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination and spatial reasoning, according to Zero to Three. Chunky puzzles, shape sorters, clay, non-toxic paint and salt dough are ideal options. Toys that come apart and fit back together, toys that have a variety of textures, and toys that play music or light up work well, too.

About the Author

Eliza Martinez has written for print and online publications. She covers a variety of topics, including parenting, nutrition, mental health, gardening, food and crafts. Martinez holds a master's degree in psychology.