Updated on April 27, 2020 by Lyric Fergusson
While some of these suggestions require a parent to be hands-on during the activity, many can be introduced to your child and monitored from a distance. This is important for both child and parent, because while your child is learning and mastering independent play, you can enjoy a little freedom of your own to change out laundry, answer emails, or just sit back and enjoy observing that beautiful baby of yours!
Be sure to see our free activities for 1-year-olds towards the bottom of the page for even more ideas that won’t break the bank.
21 Engaging Activities for 1-Year-Olds
Though we don’t want our children spending hours in front of a screen, the time we do allot for television should be both fun and educational. And that is exactly what Baby Bum provides! Not only will your child enjoy the fun music and characters, they also learn about literary devices, counting sequences, colors, and more!
Around the age of one, children become increasingly interested in animals, faces, and textures. Stuffed animals offer all three! Though you should consult with your pediatrician about when to allow your little one to sleep with anything in their bed, stuffed animals are a wonderful wake time toy. Coming in all sorts of shapes and sizes, finding a stuffed animal that suits the interests of you toddler is a breeze. Here is one of our favorites!
As your one-year-old continues to develop, they will likely enjoy interacting with a doll or action figure. This type of play allows them to explore the world around them and practice social interactions such as sharing and having a conversation. Your little one not participating in social practice just yet? It can be helpful to model that behavior by either playing with the doll yourself or engaging directly with your child.
Little ones love play that mimics real life. This kind of play is important because it prepares them for stages and situations to come as they get older. Playing picnic or restaurant with a young child helps them to learn about different foods and lets them explore utensils (without the mess!). This sort of play also provides opportunities to learn about shapes and colors.
5. Take a Bath
Bath time is a household favorite of ours! Our little girl could play in the tub for hours if we let her. One of the things that has allowed bath time to be so enjoyable is this bathtub seat. While a child should never be left alone in the tub, even when thought to be secure, this seat can give your child some freedom to explore the water and toys without mom or dad having to have hands on at all times.
Blocks are an age-old classic, because they have countless learning opportunities—colors, textures, letters, numbers, shapes, and even sounds! They also have themed blocks, so you can likely find your child’s favorite character! Our personal favorites have been these One Two Squeeze blocks because they are soft, chewable blocks that are safe for teething toddlers and have soft edges for those falls we know will come.
Similar to the classic blocks are Mega Bloks, or over-sized LEGOs. These toys are great for advancing fine motor skills as well as spatial awareness. They also encourage your 1-year-old to use their imagination while creating a tower or road. Is your child not quite ready to build on their own yet? Try putting something together for them and encourage them to knock it down!
The Piano Mat is such a creative tool to keep handy! Not only is it a blast, but it is full of learning and developmental opportunities. Your child can practice motor skills by walking or crawling over the keys, develop linguistic knowledge through the songs, and learn about cause and effect as they search for their favorite sound. Plus, the mat folds up for easy storage. It’s a win-win!
Music is a major hit for our little one! Especially when she’s the one making it! Whether it is miniature maracas or tiny tambourines, her eyes light up at the sound. One of my favorite things about music is it encourages learning in other areas, such as motor functioning, coordination, sensory development, language skills, memory, and artistic abilities! Give you toddler some musical gear and get moving!
10. Thread the Hole
Lacing toys are simple trinkets that pack a big punch! With inviting colors and interesting shapes and cutouts, your toddler will be immediately drawn to these toys. You can model how to lace the thread and then allow them the chance to imitate you. After a few practice runs, your little one will get the gist and be on their way to mastering complex fine motor skills!
11. Read Books
Reading to children has been proven to help with language and literacy development—even reading before they show interest or participate. And with endless options, you don’t have to wait for your child to appreciate the story to be engaged. Find books with music, textures, or puppets to meet your child where they are at and make reading fun today!
There is no denying one-year-olds love to hear new sounds! And it is important for them to be introduced to as many sounds as possible. That is why toys that make different sounds are so readily available for children. Toys that make sound are helpful for learning because the noise reinforces behavior and encourages your child to repeat their action in order to hear the sound again. Below is our favorite noisy toy!
Our little girl is walking and enjoys exploring wherever she can, but she still enjoys playing with her activity center! An activity center includes several toy options for your child to choose from while remaining secure in one area. These centers are also wonderful for toddlers who haven’t mastered walking just yet, because they allow infants to strengthen the muscles and develop the balance necessary for standing alone and taking those special first steps!
14. Play Ball!
Playing with a ball is a classic activity for parents and children. Ball play is important for learning about surroundings, coordination, and motor functioning. In our house, we like to start by rolling the ball back and forth between mom and dad, then encourage our daughter to participate. The act of playing with a ball, though simple, provides opportunities to learn about their surroundings and play with different textures.
While walkers that children sit in to cruise around are discouraged by medical professionals, a Learning Walker, such as this one, is a helpful friend to have as your little one is working on improving their balance and coordinating their feet to take those first steps (and eventually take off running!). With fun lights, sounds, and activities, this walker promotes learning in other areas as well!
Coloring is a fun activity for the whole family, and these Palm Grip Crayons are perfect for toddlers who may not be able to grip traditional crayons just yet. No need to worry about coloring sheets, just give your toddler a blank canvas of some sort and let them explore the colors and texture of the crayons.
Stack Up Cups are a hot commodity in our house! They are bright in color, make fun noises when you clank them together, stack on top of each other to make a fun tower, or fit nicely inside each other. Plus, they are durable, easy to clean, and perfect for traveling.
18. Sort with Shapes
This is another favorite in our home! Our 1-year-old is still learning to correctly sort the shapes, but she loves to clink them together to make fun sounds. She also enjoys exploring the different shapes and colors and has even learned to group shapes of the same color together! These are perfect for keeping your little one entertained in any space.
19. Sippy Cup Break
Hear me out on this one! When our daughter is having a particularly rough day, a sippy cup of milk or water (sometimes with a tiny splash of juice) not only brings her joy, but buys her parents a few moments of leisure. These Munchkin cups are our favorite cups right now because we’ve had no leaks or spills, plus they are affordable!
20. Snack Time
Similar to the sippy cup suggestion, snack time is something we already have incorporated into our schedule, so turning it into a fun activity is super simple! We simply cut up fruit or give her some of her favorite yogurt snacks and let her practice some independence (and fine motor skills) by feeding herself. This typically allows us time to prepare our own meals or get a few chores knocked out.
Have you noticed that your little one loves latches and zippers and shoe laces? While the ones found in everyday life may not be appropriate for your toddler to play with, busy boards provide a safe way to explore these gadgets! This activity is great for introducing textures, inspiring imagination, and refining motor skills.
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7 Free Activities for One-Year-Olds
Listed below are 10 bonus activities that you can do RIGHT NOW with your little one that require NO additional items—just you, your child, and a bit of creativity.
1. The Old Song and Dance
Put on your family’s favorite tunes and sing and dance along! Whether it’s your or your child’s favorite song, music is such an exhilarating activity and a great chance to work on coordination and language skills.
2. Kitchen Helper
One of our 1-year-old’s favorite things to do is shut the refrigerator door! Anytime we are in the kitchen, we make a point to ask for her “help” to shut that door. For some extra fun, try giving your little one a wooden or plastic spoon!
3. Laundry Fun
Our little girl loves helping with the laundry! Sometimes we sit on the floor and let her search the basket, other times we will “accidentally” leave a piece of clothing within her reach for her to play with while we put the rest of the clothes away.
4. Look Who’s Talking
As your child gets older, you will notice they babble more and more. Try talking to your little about your day and listen as they “talk” about theirs.
5. Scroll through Albums
Looking at old pictures and videos isn’t just fun for adults, your child will love it too! Scroll through old photo albums with your little one and point out people, places, and objects for them to learn.
6. Work It Out
Practicing healthy habits is important. Why not encourage those habits by involving your baby in an at-home workout? Get moving and get creative in how you include your mini workout partner.
7. Pillow Fight
Pillows have become increasingly popular in our house. Our one-year-old likes to take them off the couch or jump on them on the floor. Try taking some of your pillows and creating an obstacle course for your child to navigate.
All of these activities and toys are great for fun, learning, and development! You can keep it simple and let your little one explore these activities on their own or you may choose to put together a more structured activity! Either way, your child is sure to have a blast!