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Uhm, seeing as I took my son to our local museum's "exploration centers" from the time he was 9 months old, quite a bit.
I would go there at least once a week, and there were story times and sing-a-longs, lots of activities (costumes, toys, art projects, crafts, etc). There were play areas as well -- with all kinds of toys, activities to do -- all at different age levels.
I still take my son there about once a month. I would go more, but he's quite busy these days, being 5.
My sister's nanny takes their son (who is about to turn 3) about twice a week to the museum. He's been going since before he was 1 as well. He particularly likes their "water exploration" area -- where they have lots of things to turn and paddle and what nto to watch the water move in different ways. They have a lot of trains, too, and he loves trains.
There might also be a play-cafe that might be a good plan. There was one in our old hood that was for the under-4 set, and we took DS there a lot as a crawler and new walker (until he was about 14 months).
Anyway, it usually had a fee to get in plus costs of coffees and stuff -- so you might see if there's one in your area, too. it's nice for both parents and littles.
If you need the 'suck up to boss' points, I suggest looking for something very loud. The noisier the better. Parents and kids alike just love toys with a long and loud melody, especially a song that plays repetitively.
I wouldn't get a gift cert. for the parents without also getting something for the child, even if it's small (a board book or toy). One year olds like to put things in other things and take them out again, so those shape-sorter toys or toy mailboxes with slots are great. For one year old, I'd go with soft foam or fabric blocks instead of wood, as the blocks are likely to fly across the room more often than not. Soft blocks in a bag can be stacked or put in and taken out. My son had a nesting-boxes toy where the boxes could be stacked into a tower--it was great. He also had a "book" with wooden pages that had magnetic animals that fit into puzzle-like slots in the page. It was the perfect toy. Check Melissa and Doug if you're in the U.S. Touch-and-feel books are great for little kids.