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Birthday Gifts for 1 Year Olds

Our youngest child recently turned one year old. This year has brought so many changes for our family. Ezri just finished kindergarten. The daycare provider we had since her birth retired. I left behind my full-time corporate career and threw myself into family businesses and non-profits. And of course little baby Kai is now entering toddlerhood just as his big brother is about to start preschool! So in a way, his birthday marks a celebration of all we've accomplished this year.

Kai's First Birthday Cake!

With my first two kids, I didn't struggle to come up with birthday gift ideas. But now that we already had many of the "typical" things handed down from Kai's older siblings (and the gift of experience in knowing what gifts were completely useless!), I found myself at a loss. I can't be the only one with this problem, so I'm sharing my knowledge with all of you :)  Read on for my top picks for 1 year old birthday gifts:

Kai opening his first birthday gifts


After three kids, we have quite a library in our home. But there's always room for more! There have been so many great books recently published that it certainly garners a trip to your local bookstore, but a few of my faves include personalized books, books that embrace diversity, and also this 100 First Words for Little Geeks book. Ha! I have found so many books I want to add to our bookshelf I started a Reading List for Little Minds here.


This is one item I had not seen before with my older two kids. It's basically a board (or cube) with all sorts of locks, zippers, gears, latches, switches, bells, etc for little ones to fidget around with. What toddler doesn't love pressing buttons, opening and closing latches, and zipping zippers? I found so many cute options on Etsy, from smaller "travel" boards, to cubes, to pretty large boards that include everything your little one's heart desires!


Kai's First Birthday at the Science Museum of MinnesotaThis is a big one for us during any gift-giving occasion. We want our kids to value experiences over things. The zoo, children's museums, water parks, the aquarium are all great places to spend a child's first birthday!

For Kai's birthday, we took a day trip to the Science Museum of Minnesota. I was worried there wouldn't be much for a one-year old to do here, but he had so much fun exploring everything! We found several interesting exhibits for each one of the kids, and of course us adults too! In fact, I lost my husband more than once only to find him completely enthralled in an presentation or activity.


One year old birthday gift idea - play houseKai is definitely an outdoorsy little man. He loves the water table and ride-on car we got Roa when he turned one, so I decided to add to our collection of toys for the backyard. A playhouse was just the ticket (not *quite* as cool as the treehouse Justin built, but it is a close second :)! As with so many kids items, I knew that there had to be a local family looking to unload their own. Why buy new when you can do the earth and your pocketbook a favor by getting one gently used? Not only do you keep a perfectly good toy out of a landfill and conserve the resources that would have been used producing a new one, but you also save yourself from assembly too! I scored big this year and got a great playhouse AND a child-sized picnic table for $50! Keep an eye out on Facebook Marketplace, Craig's List, and good old-fashioned yard sales to score your own. 


I come from a rather large extended family, all of which ask for gift ideas too. Thanks to this little research project, I had plenty of ideas to share!

Picture Alphabet Blocks Wooden ABC Block Set Smiling Tree Toys

  • Alphabet Blocks or Building Block Set: Every kid needs these classic wooden toys. We got a set for Ezri nearly 7 years ago and they've been passed onto both of her brothers, and have held up beautifully.
  • Swim Float for summer days at the lake.
  • Shape Sorter is another classic toy every one year old needs!
  • If your child is like mine and not yet walking by his first birthday, a Baby Walker or Corn Popper can help him work on those skills.
  • Long-Distance Friendship Lamps: this is one of my favorite things ever! Some members of our family do not live nearby, but this is a great way to actually see their presence every day. One lamp will stay in Kai's room, the other will go to his uncle several hours away. If either one of them touches the lamp, the other will emit the same glow. So cool!

Kai had an incredible birthday and I felt good gifting him items I knew he'd use for years to come. There is nothing more depressing than taking a look at your kid's toy box and adding up how much you've invested in things they never play with, right? Hopefully some of these ideas bring joy to your little one that lasts long after the day of his party!

One year of Kai with Smiling Tree Toys Photo Prop Blocks

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