31 Activities for 1 Year Olds

Looking for fun and educational activities for 1 year olds? We’ve got you covered with 31 engaging ideas that will keep your little one entertained and learning!

Activities for 1 Year Olds

One-year-olds are in that “in between” stage, don’t you think?

They’re not babies anymore, especially as they grow more interested in being mobile and developing motor skills. Their ability to play is more advanced than an infant, and they won’t exactly sit still for a long time.

But they’re also not at the “preschool” stage yet, either. They’re still limited with what they can do, especially on their own. They don’t follow instructions too well, much less create a final product or craft.

If you’re looking for activities for 1 year olds, you’ve come to the right place. Below, I share my favorite things to do with kids this age, both at home and out and about. Many are simple enough to do with materials you already have at home or in your community.

Take a look at what one parent had to say after gathering ideas from this article:

“Every time I have looked for activities for 1 year olds, the activities were too advanced for a one year old because they were geared towards 2 and 3 year olds. These activities are perfect for that ‘in between’ age! Thank you for putting this together! It’s reassuring to see that some of the stuff we have been doing is age appropriate and there are other ideas that can stem off of those.” -Jacqueline Corey

Ready to start? Here we go:

1. Play with a blanket

Sit your toddler down and have her grasp the ends of a blanket (a small one is fine). Then, sit in front of her and grasp the other end. Make waves with the blanket by moving it up and down.

This was a favorite activity with my kids. As they went through preschool and even elementary school, their teachers would do this with all the students in a game of “parachute.” They’d all grab an edge of an oversized piece of cloth and wave it up and down together.

Expert tip

Play peek-a-boo! Hide your head underneath your side of the blanket and emerge with a playful “Boo!”

Free printables: Grab your printable calendar of all these activities I’m sharing! Check them off as you go along, or use the blank template to add your own ideas. Join my newsletter and get it below—at no cost to you. As these parents said about the printable calendar:

“We have done a few things from your list and I have checked them off of your calendar and added them to the blank calendar. I love your list because you give suggestions with objects and things that I had never thought of. We really appreciate you sharing your ideas—they are great!” -Elissa B.

“Thank you! I’m glad I came across your list. It is age appropriate, inexpensive and not messy. We really appreciate it.” -Sally S.

1 year old activities

2. Sing nursery rhymes and have a dance party

Hold a dance party at home! Crank up music you like and dance along with your little one. This is a fantastic way to build her gross motor activities! If she can’t stand yet, carry her in your arms as you dance to the music.

Expert tip

Pick nursery rhymes with movement! A few interactive songs include:

  • Where Is Thumbkin?
  • Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes
  • Itsy Bitsy Spider
  • Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star
  • Hokey Pokey
  • Wheels on the Bus
  • If You’re Happy and You Know It
  • I’m a Little Teapot
  • Pat-a-Cake

3. Play musical instruments

Kids love playing with musical instruments, from xylophones tambourines, drums to maracas. Mine have played with both acoustic and battery-operated toys, and I much preferred the acoustic ones.

If you grab a set of instruments, you can even introduce one instrument a day or week so your 1 year old can truly explore each one’s sounds and feel.

4. Blow bubbles

Nothing delights 1 year olds more than popping bubbles. Stick to simple bottles of bubbles or make plenty with a small bubble machine. A machine makes awesome bubbles for a long time (plus you don’t get tired from blowing bubbles).

5. Play with a ball

Playing with a ball is so versatile. Roll a ball back and forth to one another. Encourage your 1 year old to kick or throw the ball as well. And you can also play “basketball” and teach him to throw the ball into a set place, like a laundry basket or paper bag.

6. Play with a balloon

Like a ball, a balloon makes for fun play. If the balloon still has helium, attach a weight to the string so the balloon floats to your child’s head level. He’ll have a blast hitting the balloon and waiting for it to come right back.

If the balloon is deflated, cut the string off and have him toss it in the air and catch it as it floats down. The air in the balloon makes for a slow fall—and an easier catch—for him.

7. Look at photos and paintings

You likely have walls and surfaces filled with picture frames and artwork. Carry or show your toddler the different images throughout your home. Explain who the people are in the pictures or what the artwork is all about.

An alternative is to flip through albums (remember those?) and share old photos of loved ones. He’ll enjoy looking at people—familiar and new.

8. Play with blocks

I’m a fan of wooden building blocks since they’re easy to stack. Teach your child how to stack one block on top of the other. Build a tower and have him knock it down or help him build a structure out of the blocks.

9. Lay out a large piece of cardboard on the floor

Cardboard is going to be one of your child’s favorite toys. Simply dismantle a cardboard box for plenty of fun! One activity my kids enjoyed was to step and dance on it with their feet. I also encouraged them to draw on the cardboard with washable crayons.

And of course, you can always keep the box as-is for him to crawl into or through for endless pretend play. Mine would bring small toys and stuffed animals into his “room.”

10. Play with household items

It doesn’t take much to keep kids entertained, especially if we teach them the value of simple play. Safe household items make for excellent playthings. Take any item nearby and see how you can turn it into a toy. For instance, these are some of the “toys” my kids loved playing with:

  • Rolling duct tape back and forth on the floor
  • Looping pipe cleaners in and out of an upside-down colander
  • Playing drums with wooden spoons

You may not even need to “plan” this activity so much as follow your child’s lead, allowing him to play in a safe space.

11. Read books

One of the simplest things to teach a 1 year old is to read and love books! This is one of my favorite activity to do. There were times I didn’t know what else to do with them that we’d sit and read until my voice got too tired. Scatter books throughout your home, and visit the library regularly for new selections.

And it’s okay if your child wants to read the same books over and over. The familiarity and repetition offer the comfort he craves as well as cements information in his bread.

Things to Teach a 1 Year Old

12. Water the plants

Yes, chores can be fun for your 1 year old! Doing chores is not only one of the best habits you can instill now, but they’re also an enjoyable activity for kids, especially at this age.

For instance, invite him to water your plants, whether indoor ones or out in the garden. Fill a small cup or get a child-friendly watering can, and show him how to let the water trickle out. Stick to low, floor plants or those you can move for better access.

13. Wipe surfaces

Need to wipe the coffee or dining table? Spray the surface, then hand your little one a rag he can use to wipe. I recommend eco-friendly products when you do this with him.

14. Put toys away

After playing with a set of toys with many parts (blocks, for instance), make a game of putting them away. You might count each piece as you put them away or sort them by color. You and your toddler can also take turns tossing the pieces back in the box.

15. Finger paint

Arts and crafts for 1 year olds focus more on introducing basic concepts than creating a final product. Finger painting, for example, is about experiencing the different textures of paint, not creating a picturesque image. In fact, his paper will likely be nothing more than a soaked sheet of paint.

But that’s beside the point. Finger painting allows him to touch paint, learn what it is, and what happens when you mix it together. He’s using his fingers, which is a perfect introduction to painting if he can’t grasp a brush yet.

He’ll also experiment with putting it on a surface (and yes, sometimes on himself), and you’ll have a fantastic opportunity to discuss color.

Expert tip

I recommend getting washable finger paint. You don’t need a ton of colors right now, only a few to mix and experiment with. Get smocks to cover his body or keep him in his diapers and bathe him afterward to avoid a mess.

Here’s a photo a fellow parent sent of her 1 year old’s finger painting:


16. Paint with a sponge

Another way to paint without grasping a brush or using fingers is to paint with a sponge. You can talk about the different patterns a sponge can make and show him a few ways to apply it, such as dabbing or rubbing it straight down.

Get simple sponges without the brittle surface on the other side. You can also use scissors to cut these in half so he can hold them better.

17. Color on a large piece of paper

A fantastic way to develop fine motor skills and grasping a crayon is to encourage your child to color. Tape a large piece of paper onto a low table, such as a coffee table or an art table, and have her scribble colors all over.

Use washable crayons or pencils so you don’t have to worry about damaging any surfaces. I also used a children’s table that adjusted to my kids’ height, which is a great option if you don’t want other surfaces in your home to get colored.

18. Draw with chalk

Chalk is another art supply that lends itself well to 1 year olds. Bigger chalk are easier to grasp, and they work well either on a chalkboard at home or on the sidewalk outside.

19. Make a collage

Gluing bits of material on a piece of paper is a fun activity for your child. Let him lead the activity rather than trying to create a finished product. For instance, don’t insist on making clouds with cotton balls and tell him where to glue. Instead, let him decide where he wants to place the pieces.

You can use any type of bits to glue. Cut junk mail or old scraps of paper into small bits and have him practice gluing. Start with a glue stick, then work your way up to liquid glue. If he can’t squeeze the bottle, pour some onto a plate where he can dip the bits into.

Here’s how one parent helped her toddler created a collage out of used gift wrapping paper:

collage made of gift wrap

20. Apply stickers

Stickers help your child develop the “pincer grasp,” that fine motor skill of using her thumb and pointer finger to pick things up. Lift the sticker first, then have her pull the rest off the sheet.

Finally, give her a sheet of paper or other surface to place the stickers on. You can re-use old pieces of paper or create a “card” she can decorate and send to a loved one.

21. Play with dirt

One of the best sensory activities for kids this age is letting them play in dirt and soil. We would either head to the park or play with an empty pot of soil on the patio, where they loved digging and playing with its contents.

Encourage your toddler to get his hands dirty. Find an empty spot at a park or your garden with plenty of soil to dig and explore.

Expert tip

Don’t want to deal with the mess? Fill a sensory bin with other nature-inspired items like small pine cones, dried nuts and pits, or leaves.

22. Pour water

One of the first Montessori activities my kids did at their preschool was learning to pour water. Recreate the activity at home, using a large, rimmed baking sheet to catch spills, a small bowl to pour water into, and a plastic measuring cup with a handle.

Fill the measuring cup with a little bit of water and show your child how to hold the handle and pour the water into the bowl. Once he’s finished, repeat for a fun exercise in pouring.

23. Squeeze water with a sponge

Besides painting, you can use a sponge for water play as well. Fill a bowl with water and allow your child to dip the sponge and squeeze the water out. You can also have him squeeze water out of the sponge into another empty bowl, just like you did with the water pouring activity.

24. Play with toys in a sensory bin

There’s something thrilling about dipping your hand into a bucket of dried rice or sand. Your child will love exploring the textures, especially when he can play with toys at the same time.

Fill large containers or sensory bins with rice or sand and place a few simple toys inside. Encourage him to find the toys or use it as a setting for pretend play.

Sensory Bins for 1 Year Old

25. Visit a kids play area

Finding activities for 1 year olds isn’t reserved for at home. In fact, I would try to get out of the house with my kids at least once a day so they weren’t home all the time. 

Depending on where you live, you might have a play area dedicated to toddlers. Some are outright indoor playgrounds, while others are play rooms with pretend furniture and props.

I’ve gone to restaurants with impressive play areas as well (and not fast food, either!). Many malls also include a children’s play area. Regardless of where you go, try to get there when it opens so you have more chances to have the place to yourself and avoid the crowds.

26. Have a picnic at the park

One of the best outdoor activities is to pack your toddler’s meal and take it to the park! Bring a picnic blanket where you can both sit and enjoy a meal outdoors. Pick a spot under a tree so he can lie down, watch the leaves move, and relax in the shade.

27. Go on a nature stroll

Walking through nature is one of my favorite outdoor activities, and it doesn’t have to be strenuous! Local spots can include a favorite trail, a botanical garden, or wetlands near your place.

You don’t have to go far, either. Base your outing more on time spent outdoors than actually trying to get through the whole place, even if it means staying near the entrance.

For instance, rather than trying to get through your entire hike, walk for 15 minutes in one direction, then another 15 minutes back.

Expert tip

Can’t make it out to a hike? Walk around the neighborhood! Explore the leaves on the ground to the sprinklers on the sidewalk. Go at your child’s pace, starting with one block at first until you’re able to explore most of your area.

28. Go to a children’s museum

Many cities have a children’s museum that offers hands-on discovery. I like those that cater to kids of all ages. Several include a “tot room” for little ones without the ambush of the big kids.

You can go to a “regular” museum as well that has a “children’s exhibit” for kids to explore.

29. Attend kid-friendly concerts

There’s something about watching people play live music right in front of you. Kid-friendly concerts don’t have to be an extravagant outing. Many farmers’ markets include live music from a band, and your city might offer summer activities and concerts for the family.

30. Go on a children’s train ride

Kids love riding trains, no matter where they are or what the view offers. We’ve gone on train rides at farmers’ markets and at the pumpkin patch. I’ve also put them on train rides at the mall or a children’s indoor play area.

31. Go for a swim

Warm weather calls for a dip in the pool! Introduce the pool to your toddler early on so he feels comfortable swimming with you.

Remember to practice pool safety, including staying within arm’s reach and keeping an eye on him at all times. (That includes whether he’s in or out of the water.)

Frequently asked questions

How long should these activities last for?

One year olds can’t focus for several hours, so these activities are short. Think of them as bite-size activities to liven up your routine.

How many activities a day should we do?

I suggest doing no more than one activity a day and relying on your regular routine to fill the rest of the time.

Are these activities for younger or older 1 year olds?

These activities are for the entire range of 1 year olds, from 12 to 24 months. If you find your child isn’t ready for a particular activity yet, hold off for a time and try a different one for now.


As easily entertained as toddlers can be, it can be challenging to find activities for 1 year olds every day. But as you can see, you can do many of these activities in a few minutes in the comfort of your home as well as plan for longer outings as well.

Now you can introduce your child to new concepts and environments while relishing in his ability to find joy in simple activities. Yup, even if it’s singing Hokey Pokey and coloring on cardboard.

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1 year old activities

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  1. Lovely and very interesting ideas for every parent to consider and put into practice.

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      Thanks so much for your kind words, Samantha! xo, Nina

    2. What age of children should teach alphabets and numbers etc.

      1. Nina Garcia says:

        Hi Rodelyn, At a year old, it’s less about teaching the exact letters as it is about reading often, both to your child and yourself as well.

  2. Thanks for these great ideas. I’m a Grandma now and like finding things I can do with my grandson.

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      You’re welcome, Bev!

  3. Thanks for these great ideas !
    It really very interesting ideas for every parent to consider !!

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      I’m so glad you found them helpful, Pooja! I appreciate you letting me know.

  4. Jill Hall says:

    What does your day to day routine look like with your baby? I am a stay at home mom, and just wondering how to have a nice playfilled routine for her.

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      Hi Jill! When my little ones were on a regular nap schedule, I basically based the activities we did around the naps. They would wake up, eat, play, then take a nap. Then we’d do this over and over until bedtime. I didn’t so much as go by the clock as base their activities on when they’d wake up. We then did a lot of the things I mentioned in this article, or sometimes kept it even much simpler and just read books, played music, laughed, etc. I find that keeping things simple, like one outing a day, made the day less stressful and more fun 🙂

  5. thank you for sharing, i’ve been looking for ways to make my baby play time more creative. I will start doing this stuff soon.

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      I’m glad the article helped, Jen!

  6. Divya Saraf says:

    my daughter takes everything in her mouth and hence I am extremely vary of doing any activity with her. Kindly suggest how to overcome this.

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      Hi Divya! As she starts to learn how to do these activities, constant vigilance is key 🙂 She’ll learn that crayons and paints don’t go in her mouth the more you reinforce what they are for. That said, it’s always best to get non-toxic, child-friendly materials, too.

  7. Thank you! I had only a few ideas for activities for my one year old and after we were done with them, we were both bored and the day ahead of us felt very, very long. I’m glad I came across your list. It is age appropriate, inexpensive and not messy. We really appreciate it. Greetings from Egypt 🙂

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      You’re so welcome, Sally! I’m glad you and your one year old enjoyed the activities 🙂

  8. Jacqueline Corey says:

    Every time I have looked for activities for toddlers, the activities were too advanced for a one year old because they were geared towards 2 and 3 year olds. These activities are perfect for that “in between” age! Thank you for putting this together! It’s reassuring to see that some of the stuff we have been doing is age appropriate and there are other ideas that can stem off of those 🙂

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      Thanks so much, Jacqueline! I’m glad these ideas are helpful and inspiring you to try even more 🙂

  9. Stephanie Wu says:

    Thank you for these great ideas! I’m staying home this summer with my 14 month old, and I need some fresh ideas for what we can do indoors. We’re in the middle of a heat wave, so staying outside for a long time is not an option.

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      You’re welcome, Stephanie! I’m home with the kids for the summer, and going through a heat wave as well. I’m glad these activities are coming in handy for you!