Before I had a child of my own, I never had any clue what to give a child for a special occasion. I would Google "children gifts" and would be bombarded with products that I had never seen before. So I thought I'd put together a little guide for anyone who needs help... like I did.
First thing to know: it doesn't have to be something they will use right away. The second year of life is full of changes; if they don't play with it at 12 months, they may be all over it at 18 months. So keep that in mind.
Second thing to think about: How well do you know the parents? Some parents don't give their kids toys with batteries. Some parents prefer not to have loud toys in the house. Some parents only want to give their children educational toys. Take these things into consideration, but don't stress too much. Most parents are like John and me, so any toy you give will be played with and enjoyed. But if you're not sure, go with a best bet, as I have indicated with a (*) below.
Third thing to know: AVOID SMALL PARTS! Kids stop compulsively putting things in their mouths in the second year of life (ish), but that doesn't mean they won't see a small game piece and attempt to choke on it. If the toy has a small piece that has you second guessing, play it safe and find something else.
Fourth thing to remember: Gift receipts. I've gotten a few gifts for Johnny and Hank that we already had and couldn't return because I didn't have a receipt for them. I re-gifted them to others or donated, but I hated to do it since I know how much effort goes into choosing a present for someone. Be a kind gift-giver, include a receipt.
Last thing: It doesn't have to be a really complex toy for them to like it. One of Johnny's favorite toys is a wooden truck that has wooden animals that go with it. It's very simple, but Johnny loves to push it around, put the animals in and take the animals out. Children generally have simple tastes.
*1. Books - Always a winner, but make sure they're the board kind - toddlers are still pretty rough on things. Johnny has really enjoyed the Matthew Van Fleet books that we have, but anything that has texture and/or rhyming is a good choice.
*2. Simple puzzles - Kids this age are working with matching shapes and motor function, both of which are addressed by puzzles. However, they need to be pretty simple and have knobs for easy pick up. Melissa and Doug has a great selection of wooden knob puzzles that would be great for a one-year-old.
3. Imaginative play toys - Kids love to mimic their parents, so if you can provide something age-appropriate that looks like something their parents use, you've probably got a winner. Some toy examples: phones, remote controls, cameras, kitchen utensils, shopping cart, dolls, etc.
4. Trucks - This is definitely something that boys like, though I'm not sure about girls. I know that Johnny has all kind of trucks to play with: cement trucks, tow trucks, tractors, fire trucks, etc. Some are battery-operated and play music, others are wooden and come with wooden accessories. Again, complexity isn't going to matter here.
*5. Blocks - Johnny still loves blocks. Big Lego-type blocks, cardboard blocks, squishy blocks, and wooden blocks still keep his attention. One-year-olds are still working on motor function (as mentioned earlier), so stacking blocks is a great way to build those motor skills. Plus what is more fun than having Mom build a tower so you can destroy it? Nothing, I tell you. Toddlers love destruction.
The bottom line: A gift that you have put some thought into will surely loved by a one-year-old, but try not to over-analyze it... despite all of the instructions I just threw out there. :)
Anyone else have other things to add to my list? I'd love to have more ideas up here!