Montessori Activities for 1-2 Year Olds

Looking for Montessori activities for 1-2 year oldsIn this article, I’ll tell you about easy and fun activities, with tips for getting started!

Montessori Activities for 1-2 Year OldsFor many of us, the idea of toddlers doing Montessori activities feels all but impossible. They’ll eat the paint, can’t sit still, and have no concept of following directions.

But rest assured, even 1-2 year olds can still participate in Montessori activities. You can introduce them long before your child picks up a pencil or solves a puzzle. This also means you can keep her busy with plenty of Montessori activities that are appropriate for her age and stage.

Take a look at these ideas. I’ll share plenty of our favorite ones, from practical life skills to crafts for 1 year olds. Let’s get started!

Crafts for 1 Year Olds


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If your child is at least 15 months old, providing him with art supplies is one of the best ways to encourage open-ended play. Coloring with thick crayons he can grasp also helps him practice his fine motor skills, even at an early age.

Get thick, washable crayons he can grip easily. Then, tape a large sheet of paper onto a surface or the floor and letting him scribble. The tape holds the paper in place, and the large canvas gives him more room to color.

Don’t worry if all you see are lines and scribbles, since this is normal for kids this age. Instead, encourage a love of curiosity and play.

You can also color with chalk outdoors, whether on the driveway, the sidewalk, or out at the park. Can’t get outdoors? Draw on a chalkboard easel like this one. This allows him to draw no matter the weather outside.

Art Supplies for 1 Year Old

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Free worksheets with learning activities for 2 year olds

Matching cards to objects

At around 18-20 months old, your toddler may be able to match 2D photographs to 3D objects around the house. This helps her understand that pictures are flat versions of physical objects.

One activity to nurture that skill is to take photos of her favorite or most-seen items. Her lovey, pacifier, toy truck, or teddy bear are good items to start with. Then, print (preferably with color ink) and glue them onto thick cardstock.

To play the game, arrange the items within the room and stack the cards. Then, show her a card and have her grab the matching item. You might want to start the game first so she knows what to do.

Squeezing sponges

Your toddler will love the sensory activity of squeezing water with sponges. Start with two bowls—one filled with water and the other empty. Then, soak a sponge (the ones without the abrasive side is best) into the water-filled bowl.

Next, have him take the sponge out of the first bowl and squeeze the water into the empty one. Repeat until most of the water is now in the second bowl. You can keep going even then, squeezing the water back into the first bowl.

Instead of sponges, he can also use a measuring cup to pour water from one bowl to another. This was one of my kids’ favorite activities in their Montessori preschool.

Scooping puff balls

Like squeezing sponges, scooping puff balls is another great activity to help your toddler concentrate. Start with two bowls, one empty and another filled with puff balls. Then, give her a large scooper or shovel (a measuring cup works fine, too).

Show her how to scoop the balls from one bowl to another. When she has emptied the first bowl, repeat and put the balls from the second bowl into the first.

Pushing toothpicks

Older toddlers will enjoy this activity! Take several toothpicks and an empty cheese shaker. Then, show your toddler how to put a toothpick into one of the holes so that it lands inside the container.

Once he has put all the toothpicks into the shaker, you can empty it once more and repeat the activity.


A fantastic way for your toddler to practice fine motor skills is through stringing dried pasta or beads. Pour large, short pasta, like rigatoni, on a tray, and give him a string he can easily grip, like a shoelace. (Of course, as with all tiny objects, supervision is key!)

Then, have him string the shoelace through the pasta before tying the ends together to make a necklace. To make it even more festive, you can dye the pasta beforehand to make fun color patterns.

Wooden toys

If you’re in the market for Montessori toys, look no further than wooden toys. Below are several favorites you can get for your toddler:


Montessori encourages self-sufficiency and an environment where kids can do plenty on their own. The same is true with doing chores. In fact, your toddler can participate in practical life activities as young as 13 months. She could help you:

  • Wipe surfaces
  • Bring an empty dish to the sink
  • Water plants
  • Place clothes into the dryer
  • Help garden
  • Wipe or mop spills
  • Dress herself

Make chores more conducive by setting up her environment for her size. For instance, give her a light stool she can easily move around to reach high items. Assemble her closet rungs so they’re low enough for her to pick her clothes. And get child-size cleaning supplies suited just for her.

Cardboard boxes

You know all those packages you get in the mail, particularly the larger ones you dread flattening and putting away? Save them as props for cardboard play with your toddler! As exciting as new toys may be, I was always amused that my kids could spend so much time with something as simple as a cardboard box.

Here are some of the activities you could do:

  • Create a tunnel. Tape large boxes together to form a tunnel he can crawl through. Large, uniform boxes work best for this activity, so save big packages you get regularly (like diapers or subscription boxes) to make one long tunnel.
  • Toss items inside a box. Make a game of tossing light items like stuffed animals or balls into a box. Use different-sized boxes, with the smaller ones as an extra challenge.
  • Dance parties. Flatten the cardboard box on the floor, play some tunes, and dance on them! It’s helpful to keep your child’s feet bare not only for sensory play but so that she doesn’t slip and fall. I still chuckle at a video I took of my twins “tap dancing” on cardboard.
  • Build a fort. Similar to tunnels, create a “city” of forts that she can crawl into. Open the boxes and lay them on their sides along a wall. She can even place a few stuffed animals into some of the boxes.
  • Decorate the cardboard box. Grab several crayons, markers, or stickers and go to town with decorating the boxes.

Sensory bins

Sensory bins don’t have to be the nightmare of a messy project as you might think! The trick is to get a shallow bin and place it over a towel, large tray, or easy-to-clean surface like the kitchen floor. Once you have the preparation set up, you can fill it with various materials and items like:

  • Dried rice or sand that your toddler can use to scoop with. Show her how to “write” using your finger. Hide small items that she can dig and discover, or mix sand and water for a mini beach play. Don’t have sand or rice? Kinetic sand makes forming shapes easier.
  • Dried beans or small pasta. You can dye them certain colors beforehand to mix and match.
  • Building blocks like Lego blocks. Use them to fill the bins and create structures as well.
  • Ice cubes, especially on a hot day. You can play with the ice cubes and watch them melt away.
  • Bubbles. Turn your sensory bin into a car wash and scrub toy cars, or wash cups and spoons with a sponge.

Sensory Bins for 1 Year Old

Basket of kitchen items

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

We’ve all wondered how to entertain our little ones while we prepare meals in the kitchen. Why not give your toddler a basket of kitchen items, especially those you no longer use, that he can play with while you cook?

For instance, fill it with wooden spoons, measuring cups and spoons, and a whisk (always a hit with my kids for some reason). You could include old plastic bowls and utensils, napkins, small chopping boards, or even a small pot or pan.

And of course, you can always get a play kitchen set, complete with pretend food. This can keep him occupied while you prepare your real food nearby.

Expert tip

Another option besides kitchen items is magnetic letters and numbers on your refrigerator. My son loved arranging these magnets, and it allowed us to point out words or numbers he may have formed.

Pipe cleaners

One fun activity my kids enjoyed at this age was playing with pipe cleaners—particularly, poking them through a colander.

Take a sturdy metal colander and place it upside down. Then, show your child how to poke one end of a pipe cleaner through one of the holes and the other end into another hole. Keep doing this with several more pipe cleaners so that, by the end, you’ll have quite a few looped through the colander.

Another activity to do with pipe cleaners is stringing (which can also build his fine motor skills). Just as you did with a shoelace, you can also poke large beads through the pipe cleaner, then tie them together to make a necklace or bracelet.

Contact paper

Tape a large sheet of contact or sticky paper on a wall or glass door with the sticky side facing you. You and your toddler can then stick small, light items onto the surface and play with different textures.

You can make a specific collage using similar-colored pieces of paper (for instance, sticking red and pink bits of paper that you’ll eventually cut into a Valentine heart). Or you could simply attach whatever items you have handy, from pompoms to small pieces of fabric.

Play dough

Bring out a few tubs of play dough for fun exploration. Show your child how to squish, roll, cut, or combine different colors. See if you can make a tower of play dough balls, or have her smash them into flattened pieces. My son would also spend the whole time pinching little bits off.

Frequently asked questions about Montessori activities

How can parents practice Montessori principles when playing with our kids?

These activities are based on a philosophy by Maria Montessori. She believed that activities should be child-driven with little adult guidance. We should follow their innate drive and natural curiosity, letting them pick and choose how to play.

At the same time, this is only possible if we observe. We note their abilities along with their frustrations. We offer activities challenging enough to motivate, but not so much that they’re frustrating. And we know when and how to move on to the next activity.

At what age or stage can my child do these activities?

Many of these activities are best saved for when your toddler has mastered her gross motor activities. For instance, if she has been walking for a while, then now would be a great time to start with seated work to develop her fine motor skills.

But if she’s still working on her large motor skills like crawling, walking, or talking, then everything else simply gets ignored. Wait until she has mastered those skills first before introducing these Montessori activities.

Gross Motor Activities for 1 Year Olds


As you can see, it may not be too early to start Montessori activities for 1-2 year olds.

Simple coloring, stringing, and pushing toothpicks can help develop fine motor skills at home. Matching cards can teach the relation between 2D and 3D objects. Squeezing sponges and scooping puff balls allow your child to concentrate and move things from one place to another.

Now you have several ideas to introduce—all without him eating the paint.

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Free worksheets with learning activities for 2 year olds

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  1. Ambrose Virginia says:

    This was really helpful, thanks

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      I’m so glad, Ambrose—thanks for letting me know!