Keeping toddlers busy is a challenge, but particularly for those 1 year olds who are fiercely independent, but still need a lot of help with most things. To help, this list of 100 activities for one year olds will give you ideas to try, whether indoors, outside, or in the kitchen.
Activities for One Year Olds
After three kids and three one year olds, I can say with confidence that I adore this stage of toddlerhood! But alas, with short attention spans, only partially developed communication skills, and a loose understanding of boundaries and limits, this phase can also be really hard when it comes with keeping the kids busy.
To help, this list of more than 100 ideas includes classic activities to remind you of the simple ones you might have forgotten about, new ideas for sensory play, easy outdoor activities, fun indoor activities, art projects and more.
The idea here is to give you inspiration to make it through your days with a few more tools in your tool kit when you run out of your usuals.
Easy Kids Activities
Here are some classic toddler activities to try with your kids. Most of these ideas don’t involve buying anything new, though I did include some of our favorite toys to play with too.
- Read books
- Listen to music
- Magna Tile bowling (set up a few tiles upright and roll a ball into them)
- Popsicle bath (Give the kids a popsicle during bath time! Idea via Busy Toddler)
- Bubble bath
- Put baby bottle tops into a reusable bag and let them take them out and put them back in
- Play with a play kitchen
- Play peek-a-boo
- Race cars
- Stack Duplos
- Stack Bristle Blocks
- Stack Blocks
- Stack baby books
- Practice animal noises
- Simple yoga stretches (or Cosmic Kids Yoga)
- Put away laundry
- Practice putting on clothes and shoes (don’t expect proficiency!)
- Facetime with loved ones
- Watch garbage trucks or cars out the window
- Look for birds outside
- Smell flowers and discover colors
- Practice clapping and waving
- Practice learning names for parts of the body
TIP: Sometimes just changing locations in the house to do an activity you usually do can make it feel fresh and fun!
Sensory Activities for One Year Olds
Getting those little hands into materials to work their senses is a fun way for them to further their development, explore, and have fun. Many things can be considered “sensory activities”, even eating, but these are a few fun ones to try.
- 2-Ingredient Playdough
- Salt Dough
- Sensory bin with bubbles
- Sensory bin with kenetic sand
- Pom-Pom Push: Cut a hole into the top of a clean yogurt container and let the kiddo push pom poms into it.
- Pipe cleaners stuck into the holes of a colander
- Shake musical instruments
- Dance with silk scarves
- Play with rain shakers (or a secure container filled with a little rice)
- Crumple paper from the recycling bin
- Move a little paint around inside a sealed plastic storage bag
- Shake a partially filled water bottle
- Paint with yogurt (on their highchair!)
- Put plastic figures or animals on a bottle drying rack to explore the textures
- Put random, but interesting feeling, objects into a bin for them to explore
TIP: Some kids don’t love the idea of getting messy or touching various textures, so know that can be normal if that’s your child.
Kitchen Activities for One Year Olds
Cooking with toddlers is a perfect way to involve them in the activities of normal life, but also keep them busy and exploring. These are my favorite ways to have 1 year olds in the kitchen.
- Help fill and empty the dishwasher (my one year old likes to take the silverware in and out)
- Pressing the button on the salad spinner
- Peeling bananas: Cut them, peel on, into rounds. Slice a slit and let them remove the ring of peel.
- Peeling clementines: Start the peel and let them finish it.
- Kneading dough
- Cutting soft fruit like strawberries or bananas with a crinkle cutter
- Cutting hard cooked eggs with an egg slicer
- Stirring together simple recipes like Overnight Oats
- Practicing using a spoon
- Washing produce
- Washing hands
- Washing dishes
- Sweeping up crumbs with a toddler broom
- Help to put away the groceries
- Help to set out snacks
- Play with plastic containers
- Play with kitchen towels (peek a boo is fun here!)
- Assemble and disassemble freezer pop molds
- Play with pots and pans and spoons
- Play with a sponge and water
- Play with magnets on the fridge
- Play with cookie cutters
- Help make a smoothie (Let them add ingredients you hand them, then turn on the blender once you secure the lid. Unplug it until you’re ready for them to turn it on to avoid a mess!)
- Paint yogurt on graham crackers or bread
- Make Bread in a Bag
TIP: Find more easy kitchen activities for toddlers in my book Food Play.
Outside Activities for 1 Year Olds
Getting fresh air is one of the best ways I know to rest bad moods, to make the day more fun, and to tire those little bodies out for nap and bedtime! These simple outside activities for little kids will give you some ideas for things to do with the kids.
- Chasing bubbles
- Drawing with sidewalk chalk
- Going for a walk
- Going for a stroller walk
- Picking dandelions or wildflowers
- Playing catch
- Playing with a water table
- Playing in a baby pool
- Playing with a sensory bin with water
- Giving plastic toys a bath in a baby tub or bin
- Digging in the dirt with a shovel
- Playing in a sandbox
- Swinging on a swing
- Going down a baby slide
- Helping to water plants
- Helping to harvest plants
- Helping to wash garden veggies
- Sticking Magna Tiles to the garage door
- Sticking magnets to the garage door
- Washing the house/deck/patio with water and a brush
TIP: Find my favorite kids gardening activities.
Art Activities for 1 Year Olds
Doing arts and crafts with kids may or may not be your speed, so don’t worry about it if this sort of a mess stresses you out. If you’re game though, art can be so much fun—even with the most basic of craft supplies!
- Stamp Dot Markers
- Paint egg cartons
- Paint toilet paper rolls
- Paint with a mini roller
- Finger painting
- Stamp fingertips
- Feet painting on paint paper or a drop cloth (do this one outside!)
- Paint with washable paints in the bath tub
- Paint water colors on coffee filters
- Paint with flowers
- Trace hands to color
- Make oversize art on brown kraft paper together
- Make designs with tape
- Make designs with stickers
- Practice scribbling
- Play with Water Wow book
- Practice clapping to a steady musical beat
- Practice shaking instruments to a steady musical beat
TIP: Remember that they will likely make a mess, so protect surfaces and clothes (we like these Bumkins smocks) so you can relax while they play.
Best Tips for Activities and Projects with a One Year Old
Keeping younger toddlers entertained and happy is no easy feat, but a lot of it has to do with our expectations of what they’re capable of. Here are some simple tips to keep in mind when doing activities with your one year old.
- Keep activities simple.
- Assume short attention spans.
- Try not to expect your kiddo to play independently all day long, but expect to do most of these together with short bursts of independent play.
- Try not to start an activity when they’re tired.
- Don’t force it—if they’re not interested, let it go.
- Use thing you have around the house—1 year olds don’t need fancy supplies or systems!
- Involve them in your usual routine to make the day more interesting and to teach them to help without really thinking about it.
TIP: Find my Master List of Free Kids Activities, which may also be useful.
I’d love to hear about your favorite activities to do with toddlers, so please add yours below in the comments!
This post was first posted March 2020.