Ask Design Mom: 1-year-old Birthday Gift

April 25, 2007

Ask-Design-Mom Question:

Dear Design Mom, we are looking for a meaningful gift for our soon-to-be one year old boy’s birthday. Since he is the fourth child, we have many toys that he is content to play with. Same with clothes. We want to give him something that will be fun to open and play with on his birthday — something that is unique and age-appropriate as well. Any suggestions? — Kathryn

Design Mom Answer:
What a great question, Kathryn. Thanks for sending it in. There are so many neato toy stores around these days, that my first instinct was to send you somewhwere like Zebra Hall or Mahar Dry Goods or Craftsbury Kids (all excellent establishments by the way). But then I gave it some more thought and reminded myself that the wants of a one-year-old are pretty darn simple. I have tried many different first-birthday gifts over the years — for my own kids and for children of friends — but I think the best one was received on Ralph’s first birthday.

My sister-in-law Traci who was already a experienced mother at this point, brought him a shiny, mylar helium balloon on a ribbon, with a small weight attached to keep the balloon from floating away.

I could see within minutes of the balloon’s arrival that Traci was a super-genius-gift-giver. Ralph sat on the grass and used the string to pull the balloon down and then release it for a half an hour — a long-time for a newly one-year-old. The balloon lasted for days and it’s charms never faded for Ralph. When it finally lost its float, I could discard it with no guilt and without having to find a new home for it. Lovely. This kind of gift seems especially appropriate for a house like yours with plenty of toys.

Design Mom Readers, what are your favorite first-birthday gifts to give/receive?

balloon pic from getty images

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Christy April 25, 2007 at 7:16 am

I got a little child sized rocking chair for my first birthday and I still have it.

My daughter got a rocking horse and my son got a little upright toy piano.


2 Mom101 April 25, 2007 at 7:44 am

I just got a friend’s son the little wooden Schylling train at Chittypulga. I like things that kids can grow into a little that become treasured toys or keepsakes.

The marionettes at Mahar are awesome too.


3 love.boxes April 25, 2007 at 8:55 am

I love all of these ideas. When my daughter turned 1. I did Christy’s idea and I painted her a custom rocking chair and I wrote a little love note to her on the bottom of the chair. She still has the chair and still uses it everyday. I hope it will be something special to her even when she has grown up. :)


4 daisy April 25, 2007 at 10:26 am

I think the best gift (and cheapest I might add) for a 1-year-old is a box of tissues. I gave one to my niece a couple of years ago…and she loved it. She would pull out one of the tissues and magically another one would appear! She kept pulling and pulling. Laughing and loving it! Also it was a lot of fun for all of us to watch.


5 Keli April 25, 2007 at 1:57 pm

When my nephew turned 1, he was given a million trucks and tractors. I wanted to get him something different, so I went around town to different construction sites, and took pictures of all the big equipment. He absolutely loves looking at the “loaders” and “graders” and “haulers” to this day, and he is almost 5!


6 a spectator April 25, 2007 at 3:38 pm

I think it would be nice to make a little photo-book of his favorite people, places and things as they currently are. That would be fun for him to look at now, and I nice thing to have for the future, too.

Or, a custom book of family and friends, especially those who live far away.


7 sarah starr April 25, 2007 at 5:33 pm

I’m loving the balloon suggestion. So simple, yet special.


8 Anonymous April 25, 2007 at 11:21 pm

Cute ideas. I realize the child doesn’t care about this, but I like the idea of a keepsake, which the chair would be. I’m thinking of jewelry: a baby ring on a necklace, etc. Take a snapshot of the baby wearing it..


9 Cecilia April 26, 2007 at 6:40 am

Thank you for your kind words about Craftsbury Kids.

That balloon idea is genius!

I like to give simple books for the first birthday (as well as the second and third). One of my favorites is ‘Little Fur Family’ by Margaret Wise Brown & Garth Williams. This book is covered in faux fur, and is as much fun for babies to hold, as it will be for them to read when they’re older.

One of the best baby gifts I’ve ever recieved was a sweet antique rocking chair for my (now) four year old. We still have it, and he’s gotten lots of use out of it over the years.


10 Kathryn April 27, 2007 at 1:03 pm

Thank you for all the suggestions–what great ideas. Now we have to narrow it down! Thanks Design Mom!


11 esskayelle April 28, 2007 at 8:40 pm

mylar balloons were and still are a hit with my 17 month old. they can also be refilled at most party stores. when refilled, they don’t last as long, but they win her over every time.


12 Catherine August 22, 2008 at 10:12 am

I am presently looking for ideas for my best friends first daughters 1st birthday. Since her dauaghter is in the stages of recognizing friends and family, I made picture flash cards of all of pictures of mommy and daddy’s friends and family so she could learn names even of family she might not get to see very often.


13 Anonymous February 6, 2009 at 3:46 pm

What has been such a neat gift for each of our four children is the empty cardboard roll that comes inside aluminum foil. I taught each of them to state I GOTTA GO POTTY! They think it’s such a game to run get their megaphone and shout this while racing me to the bathroom. When they accomplish their goal (potty), I get to take the megaphone and shout back WOO HOO. It’s the best gift ever and they keep it in their keepsake box forever. WOO HOO, training accomplished for DOO DOO! :-)


14 The Unemployed Mom April 29, 2009 at 3:29 pm

For my nephew’s first birthday, I purchased him one share of Disney stock and had it engraved. The site is below and there are tons of stocks as well as quotes to choose from. We selected Disney because we live in Orlando, Florida and know it will be one of his favorite places to visit.

Although he didn’t really understand it at age 1, he will eventually. The engraving made it a personalized gift that he can cherish forever.


15 Sarah Jo November 28, 2010 at 4:27 am

There’s always something that needs to be fixed, or taken apart, and this tool belt provides hours of entertainment.


16 Lakshmi November 20, 2012 at 10:19 pm

I have a brother.I like to give a toy horse to his son for his first birthday.


17 Birthday-Gifts November 21, 2012 at 1:48 am

Nice Gift to a one year child….


18 Qua tang tan gia November 30, 2012 at 10:13 pm

Playskool Busy Ball Popper is also nice choice. This really silly toy is a big hit with babies. You drop the five colorful balls onto a track, where they tumble down and then pop up through the middle so baby can start the whole thing over again. The Busy Ball Popper appeals to a baby’s desire for repetition, and the fun, lively music adds excitement, as well. Not only have I seen babies play with this toy for long stretches in person, I’ve had several parents email me to say that their babies and toddlers loved it, too.


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