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You’ve hit the first birthday milestone! Your child just turned one and you’ve got a whole year of fun ahead of you. They are just learning to walk or already know how and are getting into A LOT of things.
I know what you’re thinking. What are things to do with my 1 year old to keep them busy? What activities can he or she really take part in?
Well here is the best list of everything you can do to entertain your new little toddler inside and outdoors.
The main thing to remember when doing different activities with toddlers is that things may not go exactly to plan. You need to let them enjoy the activity the way they want, even if it’s not fully what you envisioned.
Sensory activities are a great educational way to keep kids busy for hours. They provide new textures and introduce your child to different description words to further their understanding.
Bonus points: Some of these sensory activities are edible! That means less stress worrying about the constant need to put their hands in their mouth while playing.
Make a Sensory Bin
Sensory bins are easy to make safe for one-year-olds. Fill a small shallow tote with cereal and provide plastic utensils like a small colander, different kinds of serving spoons, a measuring cup, and spatula.
Making the entire sensory bin edible creates a toddler-friendly environment. Rice can cause a choking hazard if you turn your head for 2 seconds and should not be used until you can trust your child will not try to eat it.
Here are some great cereals to use:
- Froot Loops
- Rice Krispies
- Fruity Pebbles
- Lucky Charms
- Cocoa Puffs
Create a sensory construction truck bin
One great way to develop the imagination of a 1 year old is through make-believe play. Fill a shallow tote with cornmeal and add in some small construction trucks.
Feel free to add in medium sized rocks once your child is old enough not to put them in his or her mouth.
What toddler doesn’t love making a mess?! There are several ways for a 1 year old to paint. Here are 3 favorite ways:
Simple Finger Painting
This is the finger painting your kids know and love. Take a large sheet of paper and put some paint on a small paper plate and let them have at it.
I recommend stripping them down into just a diaper to save their clothes or get one of these amazing art smocks that will grow with them.
We’ve used this one for a good 2 years and my daughter has yet to get paint on her clothes.
Note: Finger paints are said to be non-toxic, but still should not be eaten in any way.
Mess-Free Finger Paint
Yes, it’s possible to do finger painting without a mess! Take a gallon-sized bag and place a piece of paper inside. Squirt little bits of different finger paint colors inside the bag.
Tape the bag either on a highchair, table, floor, or the window and let them paint! They will start to blend different colors to create their own masterpiece.
I’m all about making things edible when it comes to a 1 year old. I mean, they like to put EVERYTHING in their mouths! Why set activities up for failure from the start?
Separate a 32oz container of yogurt into 5-6 small plastic bowls. Place a few drops of food coloring in (just enough to turn the yogurt a slightly different color) and stir it up.
You can also use natural ways to dye the yogurt as well.
Give your toddler a large piece of paper and let them paint! This is a great idea for the summer outdoors as well. You don’t have to worry about the mess getting on the floor and if you must turn your head away for 2 seconds, you know they’re safe.
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This is a great sensory activity for 1 year olds. Make 2 boxes of Jell-O and put them in a heat-proof plastic container (just so it doesn’t melt from the boiling water).
Place different small toys in the Jell-O. Think small plastic animals, plastic chain links, etc. Basically, anything that can fit and can be rinsed off afterward. Then let the Jello-O thicken in the fridge.
Once the Jell-O is set, put the container down with a towel underneath and let them dig! If they are hesitant to dig with their hands, offer them a plastic spoon to help. I’m sure they will use it to eat the Jell-o as well!
Play with Toddler Friendly Play Dough
Play dough is such a great sensory activity and personally one of my daughter’s favorite things to do! The colors are bright, and the texture is so “smushy.”
The one issue with Play-doh is it’s geared for ages 2 and up because it’s not edible Yes, I know we’ve all eaten it at some point in our lives, but we really shouldn’t be.
There’s a simple solution to that. Make your own play dough! It honestly takes 10 minutes and you can make whatever colors you want.
Here’s a 10-minute edible play dough recipe without any salt as it can be unsafe in large quantities.
Outdoor Activities for Summer
By the time summer comes, you’re dying to get outside. You’ve been confined in your house all winter and your 1 year old is just so over all the toys they’ve gotten for Christmas and even Easter. Here are some fun ways to entertain your toddler outdoors all summer long.
Go for A Walk
Sometimes something so simple as going for a walk will keep your toddler entertained for a while. They get to see the scenic views and learn where you leave while you get some exercise.
Using a wagon is a nice change-up from the typical stroller rides they have when you’re out and about.
Dig in the Dirt
This works wonders if you have a garden in the spring and summer. If not, you can just put some dirt in a rectangular shallow tote outdoors. Give your toddler some plastic gardening tools and let them play!
This is a great sensory activity to feel the dirt in their hands. They also can get dirty while you’re prepared for it.
Jump in Puddles
Your one year old will need rain boots for this one, but go outdoors on a rainy day and let them have fun! Kids don’t care if they get wet, so you shouldn’t either!
Play with Bubbles
Have you ever met a toddler who doesn’t love bubbles?! Bubbles are one of the best free thing to do with your 1 year old.
What’s even better is you can buy bubbles in bulk (it’s so much cheaper) and just fill up the bubble containers you already have when they get low.
Collect Things on a Walk
One year olds LOVE touching things they’re not supposed to. Why not play into that and let them pick up anything they want?
Go on a walk either around the neighborhood, in a park, or on a nature trail and bring a backpack along and collect leaves, rocks, flowers, feathers, sticks, and anything else they find along the way.
The backpack will get dirty, so pick up a cheap on designated for outside play.
Here are 4 more ways to play with your toddler with just a backpack!
Play with Chalk
Another fun outdoor activity is writing with chalk. This is not only an entertaining thing to do all summer, but also an educational activity.
Holding the chalk is a fun thing to teach your child as they feel more comfortable. Plus coloring on something besides paper is an entertaining aspect!
Inside Activities for Winter or a Rainy Day
Not all days are filled with sunshine to get outside. It’s so crucial to find unique ways to keep your kids from getting bored during those rainy days and all throughout winter. Otherwise you will go stir crazy one week in. Here are some fun things to do all winter long.
Clean the Windows
It’s funny how adults hate cleaning, but kids love it. It’s like how you can’t wait to be an adult until you are one. Then you want to be a child all over again.
Grab a small spray bottle and a micro-fiber cleaning cloth and let them clean! Melissa & Doug has a fun cleaning set that even includes a squeegee! My daughter still loves hers!
Build a Fort
Entertaining a 1 year old without leaving your house isn’t too hard when you transform your living room or play area! Find a few large blankets or sheets and bring in a couple chairs from the kitchen.
Let the blankets hang over the chairs and/or couch to create a fort. You can even put up some fairy lights to make it extra special. The lights don’t get hot on the blankets and your toddler can enjoy the extra sparkle.
Here are some fun things to bring inside a fort:
- A snack
- Stuffed animals
- Plush blankets for the floor
- A Ball
- A tablet to play a supervised game/their favorite TV show (yes, TV is okay for 1 year olds!)
- A fun 1 year old game
Have a Dance Party
My daughter has loved dance parties since the day she turned 1. Turn the Pandora “Toddler Radio” station on and dance along to their favorite songs!
Even if your toddler isn’t walking or dancing yet, pick them up and dance WITH them! Toddlers learn from example, so pick them up and dance around. It’ll get your workout in for the day too!
Make a Sticker Craft
Toddlers love stickers and it always seems like they are everywhere! Grab a blank sheet of paper and let your toddler put a sheet of stickers on it! We personally have an infinite supply of stickers, or so it seems. This helps us dwindle them down.
If the stickers have a theme, create a quick background with crayons for them to use.
IE: if you have farm animals, put a little blue pond, a circle of mud, and some grass. Or for underwater, use blue construction paper and color brown for the bottom.
Paint with Water
I’m sure you’re all about keeping things as mess-free as possible. Yes, water can be messy, but when you compare it to paint, I think you would choose water any day.
Grab a piece of construction paper, a small paint brush, and a small plastic bowl of water.
When the water hits the construction paper, it creates a darker color making it look like they are actually painting.
Contact Paper Fun
Contact paper is very under rated thing to do with your one year old. It’s so versatile and cheap! Just tape the contact paper up on a window with painter’s tape with the sticky side out. You can even do the same on the floor.
Use a small plastic bowl to place things like Q-tips, cotton balls, and anything else that will stick. Your 1 year old will have such a fun time watching everything stick.
I’ve even used construction paper and cut out fish quickly to make it an aquarium!
Play with a Cardboard Box
Have you ever heard of a child liking a cardboard box better than their presents? Next time you get a larger package in the mail, keep the box.
Let them play inside the box and even give them crayons to color the box. They will think it’s the coolest thing ever.
If you don’t get frequent packages, you can get a cardboard playhouse for your toddler to color.
Knock Things Over
One thing to remember is simple things entertain 1 year olds. That means something as small as knocking over blocks, boxes, or dominoes will keep them from getting bored.
We’ve even had about 6 packages of diapers (those smaller 32 packs) and my daughter thought it was hilarious when we stacked them in a domino formation and she knocked them down.
It entertained her for about an hour.
One way to keep toddlers from being bored all winter indoors is by making music. If you don’t have a music set (which I highly recommend), grab a pot and a spoon and let your 1 year old play!
You can play along with them with another pot and spoon to teach them about rhythm and sound.
Coloring is another under-rated activity with your one year old child. The assumption is they can’t draw or hold crayons well because they’re so small.
Crayola actually makes these Jumbo Crayons that are the perfect size for one year olds. You can buy a coloring book from any store (even the Dollar Tree!) and let them color – with supervision of course.
Play a Game
Games aren’t off limits for 1 year olds! As your child turns 18 months, they are starting to learn how to follow directions (a little bit) and like to act silly!
Try an educational game like this Roll and Play game to introduce them to the concept of games.
Simply put all the cards down by color and have your child pick a card up. Help them learn what each picture says and complete the action.
Actions include one such as pull on your ears or bark like a dog.
As your toddler grows, you can start using the die cube included to make the game seem like new and last longer.
As your toddler starts to near 18 months to 2 years old, Seek-a-Boo is a great first matching educational game where you search for a certain picture instead of trying to match two alike pieces.
If your child is almost 2 years old, here are a bunch of board games and other fun games and activities to play with them.
There’s no better way to teach your toddler to talk than songs. They start to learn what rhymes sound like and will start to mimic the rhythms as time goes on. By age 2 my daughter was humming all the tunes and making up her own words to the songs.
Favorite songs to sing include:
- The Itsy-Bitsy Spider
- Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
- Pop! Goes the Weasel
- Row, Row, Row Your Boat
- London Bridges
- If You’re Happy and You Know It
We also enjoy listening to Laurie Berkner songs as well. Each song allows you to create your own motions to dance to while singing.
Read Picture Books to Them
Reading to your 1 year old is one of the most important things to do with them. You teach them how to use their imagination, match words to pictures, and even learn how to pronounce small words.
Make a Water Table (Pouring Station)
Have you ever seen a toddler at a water table? They go NUTS! Get out the water table this summer and just let them have fun!
Want to change it up? Create your own unique pouring station that can even be used in your kitchen in the middle of winter.
Fill a long shallow tote with 6 inches of water and put a ladle, plastic cups, and measuring cups to let your 1 year old practice pouring while having fun.
My daughter personally loved this activity and still continues to do it into her 3 year old birthday.
Take an empty Parmesan cheese container and about 15 Q-tips. Open the side with the holes and show your child how to place the Q-tips into the container.
You can keep the wrapper on, but I prefer to take it off, so you can see the Q-tips. When they’re done, you can keep the Q-tips in the container for future use.
One years old is never too young to find unique ways to teach your toddler and picture recognition is one of them.
Buy a package of very inexpensive flash cards and set 3 to 4 pictures down in a row. Say the word of one of the pictures, like “apple,” and have your toddler point to the apple.
As they grow, you can start to have them repeat the word back to you and even tell you what each picture is on their own.
A great alternative to using flashcards is a First 100 Words Book used in the same way.
Play with Magnets
It’s never too early to teach your kids about science. Keep them busy by giving them ABC magnets and let them put them on the fridge, a metal lunchbox, or an old baking sheet.
They’ll keep busy by sticking the letters to it and you’ll keep sane knowing they’re not off coloring on the walls somewhere.
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Places To Go
One question that’s asked all the time is, what are some places to go with your toddler? There are actually plenty of places to go! Here are some of the best that don’t vary too much depending on location.
The new craze the past few years are up and coming splash parks. Splash parks are little water parks with water spraying out of the ground and other features.
They are geared specifically for kids and can be attached to another playground or as a stand-alone park. Some are free and some have a minimal charge to get in.
Splash parks are a perfect way to get your toddler to cool off from the summer heat. Plus, the water is a nice alternative to a sprinkler or water table!
Most toddlers love animals. If you have a local zoo, grab a membership (they usually pay for themselves in 2-3 visits as a family) and see all the animals!
The best part is you can get your exercise in by walking and pushing a stroller.
Don’t be alarmed if your 1 year old doesn’t pay attention to most of the animals. They are just entertained seeing all the different kids and looking around.
When my daughter first turned 1, she paid more attention to the wooden fences in front of the animals than the actual animals. She still had fun and we got to see all the animals and learn their names as we went more frequently.
Did you know swimming lessons can start as young as 6 months? Take a parent and tot swim class at a local recreation center or school to get your toddler used to the water.
They will sing songs and learn to kick their feet. It’s amazing how far they can come along from just turning 1 years old to almost being 2!
Story Time at the Library
The majority of libraries have a child story time. A lot are held on weekday mornings, but check your local library and they may have a Saturday or night time story time too.
Libraries also have other events planned for kids as well. We’ve attended tea parties, vet clinics (with stuffed animal pets), potty time classes, and even dance parties on the weekend!
Even if you can’t get to the classes, most libraries have toys for kids to play with. Your toddler can play with the toys while you look for a few board books to borrow within eye sight.
A free place for your kids to run around? Sign me up please! Get the kids outdoors and try out different local playgrounds.
You will quickly find 1 or 2 that your kids love and stick with them.
It may seem young to get your 1 year old into gymnastics. It’s not. Toddlers can take parent and tot classes to learn simple movements like walking like a monkey, climbing a tilted ladder, or even jump into a foam pit!
Classes can start as soon as they start crawling at some places.
A Pet or Fish Store/Aquarium
Who doesn’t love going in and seeing those cute little puppies and fish (unless you’re allergic of course)?
Travel to the pet store and take in all those adorable animals and even pet them if allowed.
They will also have fun watching the fish swim and seeing all the different colors. The store may even have a clown fish like Nemo!
Depending on your location, you may have some sort of children’s museum. It may be a play museum or a science museum.
Each has different activities for kids of all ages. Our local museum even has a little train to ride, which is perfect for a toddler.
Thursday 16th of May 2019
Love this list! Sometimes ideas are the hardest part!!
Natalie - Katarina's Paperie
Wednesday 15th of May 2019
I wish I had this list when my little ones were one. I always found I made it more complicated to find activities than necessary. As your list shows, it doesn't have to be that hard. My favorite was the homemade play dough. We always had fun making different scents and colors. Thanks for sharing!
Wednesday 15th of May 2019
I do a lot of these fun sensory activities with my 18-month-old! She absolutely loved the yogurt paint! And, it was nice to not have to worry about when she shoves it all over face! Haha! Great ideas!
Wednesday 15th of May 2019
Haha! That always happens doesn't it? If it's not all over her face, it's all over mom's face.