Here is your Fun Activities for 1 Year Olds cheat sheet:
Think of the three Es: keep them entertained, engaged, and educated.
Um. But where do you even start? Seriously. What do 1 year olds play with? The honest answer? Everything they’re not supposed to. Electrical sockets. Their food. Dog poop. Yep, 1 year olds love a bit of contraband and have an amazing ability to get into ev-e-ry-thing.
That’s because they’re devilishly curious—and with good reason: play is how they learn about the world.
Essentially, fun and games are not just, well, fun and games.
Play is instrumental in your child’s development and a crucial contributor to their wellbeing. In Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatricians, the authors of a 2007 report tell us:
Play allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength. Play is important to healthy brain development. It is through play that children at a very early age engage and interact in the world around them.
This is not just about keeping them occupied.
Not only will finding suitable activities for 1 year olds keep them out of trouble, but it will get those curious little brains growing.
So what do you do with a one year old all day? (Yes, one of the hardest parenting lessons is that it truly is a 24/7 job.)
Don’t worry. We’ve got you covered.
How can I entertain my 1 year old?
The best news is that it doesn’t have to be complicated.
Games for 1 year olds
Telephone, telephone. Here’s the thing: your baby is your Number One fan—and they will show it through imitating you. Flattering, sure, but also very useful when it comes to thinking up games to play. Get your baby on the other end of the line of a play-play work call with play-play (or real or plastic) phones. There you have it, Baby Boss is on the phone and wow do they have a lot to say.
Make an obstacle course. Luckily, at their tender age this is an incredibly simple rig. Like maybe a tunnel (AKA open cardboard box) to crawl through, a small step to climb on, and a bell to ring. And then, of course, your uproarious applause for your genius child’s amazing abilities.
Put a sock in it. This is one of the activities for 1 year olds that may be more fun for you than it is for them. Do you know how easy it is to make a sock puppet? Find a sock, put your hand in it, move it up and down, and talk. Finally, a use for all those partnerless socks. There are of course more elaborate designs—but you do as much as you can handle.
Time for tee. While it may be a little early for them to be swinging golf clubs, golf tees go a long way. Show them how to push colorful tees into a cardboard box. It’s tactile. It’s satisfying. And, if they get into it, it’s an activity that could last for a while…
Sensory activities for 1 year olds
How can I stimulate my 1 year old’s brain?
The quick answer is to think of involving their senses as much as possible.
Start a band. Music-making is magic. (Believe us. Even when your 1 year old is banging that drum. Believe us.) The good news is, this activity doesn’t even require going out of your way to buy expensive instruments. Pots make great drums, spoons make great drum sticks, and containers of seeds make great shakers. You may want to pop a track on in the background to get them inspired.
Capture the hand and footprints. Provided you have the time for a bit of clean-up duty, popping their hands and feet into some paint and then straight onto paper can be a lovely way to entertain them, and immortalize their one-year-oldness in the process. Name colors as you go. You’ll be surprised what they’re picking up on.
Get things to stick. All you need is some colorful tape and a surface of some sort that you feel happy with the tape being stuck to. Cut small pieces of tape for them and stick them to said surface. (Some kind of plastic works well as a canvas.) Encourage them to pull bits off and stick the bits down again. And there you have it, you’re working those motor skills, stimulating their visual sense, and creating art, all at the same time.
Cup stack. Incredibly simple and a source of endless educational fun, stacking cups help with all sorts, from motor skills to learning colors to getting that frustration out. (You should see them knock over their constructions. Little tyrants.)
Outdoor activities for 1 year olds
Get muddy. Disclaimer: this will get the totally-worth-it kind of messy. Find a sandy patch, add some water, and voilà! This kind of tactile fun can open up a world of marvelous discovery. Just a quick note: make sure you monitor this one closely as hazards abound.
Bubble bubble. Whether you make the simple soap and water version or get super fancy with your bubble making, bubbles never go out of style.
Have a picnic. Say “cheers” with your plastic cups. Watch them obsess over a piece of fruit. See how much a patch of grass can be of interest. The outdoors comes with so much built-in entertainment.
Take a hike. Or whatever outdoor activities you used to enjoy in the BB (Before Baby) times. Even though you have some extra luggage, your outdoor Me time can now be outdoor We time.
Activities for 1 year olds at home
Give them a fun basket. Again, this can be incredibly simple. Fill a bucket or basket with random (non-choking hazard) objects. Balls, Tupperware, spoons—it’s all new and exciting.
Build their dream home. Luckily, at this age, materials come cheap. Think cardboard boxes. Or the bottom of a cupboard. Ring some sort of doorbell, real or imagined, and it’s home sweet home. Wow. If only real estate was always this simple.
Have fun with Velcro. It’s as simple as this: glue some Velcro onto bits of material (cardboard, toilet paper tubes) and watch them build mad constructions with these shapes.
Get them to run errands for you. Getting the groceries, collecting from the dry cleaner, popping into the bank. These are all great activities for 1 year olds. Okay. Maybe not quite yet. But they are very good at bringing Mama her shoes (one at a time) and putting a toy in a box. Pointing at and naming an object also helps develop that mama tongue.
And lastly, follow your instincts. Watching what your baby loves to do and responding accordingly can give you some stellar ideas for fun activities for 1 year olds.
Have a blast with your little one, Mama!
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