It may be hard to believe that your baby is already a year old… And getting into anything they can reach! When you’re thinking about a suitable first birthday present, you might want to consider a new piece of play equipment. Here is our guide to what’s suitable for your baby from 12 months.
Push along toys
Push along toys can vary from a simple wooden truck, lawn mower or trolley with building blocks to a more extravagant design with lights and songs for your child to play with. Their main purpose is to get your baby on their feet and start them moving, with the toy providing support and balance.
Less controversial than a walker, a push along toy is a good choice to encourage those first independent steps – how simple or how advanced you go is really up to you. If you’re restricted on space, you might want one that folds so it’s easier to store.
A ride-on toy encourages your toddler to explore their surroundings. You can get a lot of different kinds, from simple wooden trikes to more advanced options with songs and lights. They are a great choice to help develop their balance and co-ordination.
Some have parent handles, so that you can take your toddler out for a spin round the block. Not all of them are easy to control though, and you may want to get one where the handle is detachable, so as your child grows they can be more independent.
Activity play tables
An activity play table encourages your baby to stand up and balance, as the table top is covered in various things for them to interact with, be it buttons to press to make sounds or shapes to sort. This also helps your baby learn – like many other toys do – about cause and affect, shapes or sounds, and develop motor skills.
Some activity play tables are suitable from a younger age (6 months), because the legs can be removed, and the table top used on the ground for floor play. Some are height adjustable, too, so they grow with your baby.
If your baby hasn’t started cruising around yet and isn’t showing any signs of being interested, it might be worth thinking about a walker. They provide a seat and frame on wheels where your baby is supported and uses their own feet to move the walker. Most also have play trays or toys and lights to entertain your child.
However, a walker is a controversial choice. Some parents love them, arguing they encourage your baby to get used to standing and taking their own weight, providing freedom of movement. Others say they slow down development by preventing your baby from exploring their environment. They’re also said to be a safety concern in case your child tips it over or is unable to control their speed in it.
But this is really a judgement call for individual parents. If you live in a house with a lot of flat, even surfaces for your baby to roam, a walker may work for you. However, if you have steps or different levels, it may be more trouble than it’s worth. You need to remember never to leave your baby alone in the walker.