This past weekend, we celebrated Little Dude’s first birthday with a park party and family lunch. Stay tuned for a future post on how I planned a relatively stress-free birthday party that looked awesome but did not break the bank. I just need a little more time to collect my thoughts, right after I process the fact that we have a ONE YEAR OLD!

As Little Dude grows, we hope to instill the idea that birthdays and other celebrations do not revolve around the gifts that often accompany them. To that end, we included a little rhyme on his invitations reminding guests that he didn’t “need” a present (I don’t even need a present, just honor me with your special presence). Of course, some people still chose to bring gifts, and I’m okay with that, but nobody felt obligated to shell out money for the occasion, and everyone ate, played, and had a good time (which was what we wanted).

We waited until after the party to open gifts. I stole this idea from Little Dude’s aunt, who always does the same thing with his cousins. I like it for several reasons:

  • An overwhelmed or distracted child can take breaks in between gifts, as needed.
  • Guests are free to enjoy the party and do not feel singled out if they chose not to bring a gift.
  • Other children will not get “upset it’s not their birthday” or try to play with all the new toys during present time.

With that said, the handful of gifts Little Dude received seemed chosen with care – things he can grow into that hold plenty of replay value. Little Dude definitely singled out his favorites immediately…


I thought I would share them in case any of my readers had a special little one they needed present ideas for:

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures. Whenever I could not find the exact item Little Dude received, I did my best to find the closest item I could find.

1. Fabulous Lightening McQueen ride-on toy. From the moment we opened the package, Little Dude bee-lined it for the box and found the horn and other buttons. He seemed to know exactly what this toy did, which surprised us. He only had eyes for his new “truck,” and we had to open it and try it out as soon as the gifts were finished. Check out these similar models:

2. Dancing, singing Happy Birthday bear. A close second for “favorite gift,” the bear Grandma gave Little Dude sang happy birthday and danced around. Little Dude’s face lit up as the bear began his song, and he kept tapping the bear and looking at us, asking us again and again to make the bear sing. At one point, he even leaned over and gave the bear kisses. I found a similar bear and earmarked it as a future gift idea for other little ones:

3. ALEX Jr. My Busy Town Wooden Activity Cube. I never considered purchasing a cube like this for the house, having only seen them at daycare and doctor’s offices. However, this ranks third on the list of toys that thrilled Little Dude. He takes frequent breaks from the noise-makers and gravitates toward the cube, opening and closing the doors and moving the beads. It’s a great way for him to practice standing and fine motor skills. I can see this holding his interest for a while, with lots of moving parts and learning opportunities. The corners are blunted for safety, and the product is all wood – definitely good value for your money.

4. Lego Duplos. Little Dude’s daycare buddies play with Legos all the time, and as he tries so hard to keep up with the big kids, he gets so excited about the Duplos. A bit of warning: there are some smaller pieces, so I would definitely supervise a one-year-old with these. That said, he gets a kick out of taking apart the pieces we put together, so it’s fun for the whole family right now. He received the following sets this year:

He also received this fire truck. While not Lego brand, it’s still blocks, so it counts:

5. Squirt Toys. It seems so silly, I know, but these squirt toys provide fun for all ages. My friends used them as decorations for my gender-reveal party last year, and they’ve become a favorite pool toy for the kids and the adults. Little Dude goes nuts over them whenever we go swimming. He got a second set for his birthday, and we use a few as bath toys and will save the rest to replace squirt toys in the pool as they get lost or weather-worn.

BONUS POINTS go to the mom who brought a small gift for Little Dude, and a giant container of Water Wipes refills for me! That momma took it to the next level! If you have never tried Water Wipes, trust me, they are worth the extra cost – Little Dude hardly ever has diaper rashes, and I feel comfortable using these natural, chemical-free wipes for cleaning his hands and face as well.

I hope one of these toys brightens the day of a special little one in your life.

What toys are your go-to gifts? What traditions have you adopted to make birthdays special while toning down the greed factor? Share your best tips in the comments below or reach out on social media.