Finding the best activities for 1 year olds can be a challenge! They’re not quite big kids, but a lot of infant activities are just not stimulating enough.

I am constantly on the search for “busy” 1 year old activities for my baby. He just started walking, and wants to move and play all day long. I want to do everything I can to help encourage his development, and processing of the world around him, with fun learning activities! 

Keep Baby Stimulated With 30+ Busy Activities for 1-Year-Olds - shown are 8 one year old activities for learning playing and exploring the world
So many things to do with a 1 year old!

Throughout my search, I’ve complied this list of Busy Activities for 1 Year Olds that will give you ideas for the entire month and beyond! Fun activities for a fun way to encourage play and development.

This article includes affiliate links.

Activities for One Year Olds

To little ones, anything can become a game! Games can be the best ways to help young toddlers develop hand-eye coordination, increase attention span and cognitive skills as they observe the world around them.

Where can I go with my 1 year old?

Remember that a 1 year old is learning about everything so taking your child anywhere that you have the time to explore is a great idea. The grocery store isn’t a chore for a 1 year old, it is a place full of bright lights and exciting aisles of colorful items and some of those aisles will feel cold! Going to church or a meeting isn’t just about what is being said from the front for a 1 year old it is about where they are sitting, who they are sitting next to and all the people they can watch. Going to the park isn’t just about play equipment, but about being in nature and all that can be observed.

Games for One Year Olds

Keep your cleaned-out cardboard boxes, milk jugs, and containers handy, because many of these Busy 1 Year Old Activities involve items that you already have around the house!

1. Baby Play Station

Make a baby play station with toilet paper rolls. It’s the perfect game for baby! It makes noise, it moves, has different textures and colors.

2. Recycled Cups as Toys

Stack recycled cups up and  let baby knock them down with this educational idea from And Next Comes L. What child doesn’t love destroying what you build…it is literally the best game!

3. Ball Pit

Need to get some energy out of a one year old?  <–said no one ever! haha

Get a ball pit! This easy-fold baby play area is perfect because it’s so much fun, and takes up no space when it’s not in use!  There are a million games that can be played with all those balls.

4. Empty Containers and Plastic Eggs

Make an easy game with an empty container and plastic eggs with this fun activity from Happily Ever Mom! They put them in and pour them out!  I found with my kids that pouring was the most captivating game.

5. Fabric Scraps Game

Save your fabric scraps to make a  quick and easy game, from Hands on: As We Grow. This is a fun activity and all you need is some fabric scraps and an old baby wipe container.

6. Peek-a-Boo House

Isn’t peek-a-boo the all time champion of baby games?  Check out this idea from I Can Teach My Child, and then grab some felt to make a peek-a-boo house! It is so adorable and you can use any pictures! Peek a boo is literally the first form of pretend play.

7. Tickling Game

Baby won’t stop giggling with this tickling game from Adventures at Home with Mum! All the ribbons and cloth tickle as you play with this neat toy.

8. Roll Things Down a Ramp

Learn with Play at Home has the coolest way to show babies cause and effect. Make a ramp, and watch things roll! You don’t really need anything for this, but a book and ramp.  Let’s just call this one the gravity game.

9. Simple Baby Games

Encourage babies to walk and move with How Wee Learn‘s  simple baby games. All you need is house hold items and some tape.

10. Pull Along Box

Make your own pull along box for baby with this idea from Pink Oatmeal. This is great for the little ones who aren’t too steady on their feet yet.  Even walking becomes a game!

Related: Need more 1 year old games? <–Check out these!

Activities for 1-Year-Olds- play with muffin pans, mirrors, boxes, and green books.
So many activities for 1 year olds!

Learning Activities for One Year Olds

Problem solving is an important skill in day-to-day life that we take for granted, when it’s really a fun game! It is why sometimes a child’s favorite toys are the ones that keep them challenged.

11. Snowflake Drop Activity

Make your own baby toy with this Elsa-approved snowflake drop! All you need is an old container that has a wide enough mouth to hold “snowflakes.” 1 year olds are fascinated by the idea of object permanence. 

12. Peek-a-Boo Puzzle

Make a peek-a-boo puzzle with family photos for your one year old with this sweet idea from Nurture Store. I think the favorite way is to use pictures of loved ones, but if you don’t want to use family photos you could use other pictures like that of animals.

13. Disappearing Act Activities

Babies will wonder, “Where did it go?!” with Laughing Kids Learn‘s disappearing act! All you need is some pom poms, paper, and tape and watch their amazement as the pom poms disappear.

14. Activity Boxes for 1 Year Olds

Try out this idea from Danya Banya, and make an activity box for baby. I’ve made this before! You use different ribbons and such to make different things for the paper to play with.

15. Reflection Play

Capture baby’s interest with  reflections in the window from Mama Smiles Joyful Parenting. It’s that simple!

16. Tunnel Play Activities

Give them a tunnel to play in. My little one just adores this fun toy! It’s fun to crawl through, crab walk through, and tumble in.  This makes the perfect way to encourage exercise and energy expenditure in a one year old!

17. Bouncy Balls & Muffin Tins Activities

Grab some bouncy balls and a muffin tin for this brain building  baby play, from Sugar Aunts. This will keep them chasing after the balls as they bounce to and fro.  And if your one year old isn’t walking, it could keep YOU from chasing balls to and fro. {giggle}

18. Clothespin Drop Activity

Make a clothespin drop with an old container with this fun learning game from I Can Teach My Child. This one takes hand eye coordination and is a great way to work on motor skills with little hands which is essential to the development of a 1 year old.

Related: More learning activities for 1 year olds? <–Check that out!

Activities for 1-Year-Olds! Tickle ribbon toy, putting pom poms in a bottle, a milk jug.
Simple fun is the best fun for a one year old!

Exploring Things to Do with 1 Year Olds

Babies are naturally curious. It is so rewarding to see the little light that flashes in their eyes once they learn something new! These toddler activities are some of the best Busy Activities For 1 Year Olds focus on nurturing their curiosity!

19. Make a Toy

Make a toy  that siblings can decorate for your one year old or even younger baby! These little cloth toys are great for stimulation and teething. And keeping siblings engaged with your 1 year old will pay dividends the rest of their lives.

20. Outdoor Sensory Bin Play

Keep baby splashing in the sun with these outdoor sensory bin ideas. The best part is they require no clean up! Outdoor activities for one year olds are so important. It gives them a safe way to explore the outside world.

21. Cardboard Box Tunnel Activity

We’re loving this cardboard box tunnel with socks, from  The Imagination Tree! Sometimes the box is the best part…even when you are only one year old!

22. Star Box Sensory Play

How sweet is Where Imagination Grow‘s  star box sensory play for one year olds? I want to curl up in there, with my little one, and a book!

23. Wash Apples Activity

Wash apples! It is a great outdoor activity to get wet and after you can have an apple snack! via Busy Toddler

activities for one year olds - what should we play first? Kids Activities Blog - 1 year old girl outside laughing and playing activities
What will a 1 year old decide to play first?!

Sensory Learning Activities for 1 Year Olds

I’ll never forget the day my baby discovered his hands! Our whole family gathered around, smiling down on his purse happiness and amazement. Keep that kind of fun and learning going with these fun Busy Activities For 1 Year Olds which take baby sensory activities to the next level.

24. Textured Wall Sensory Activity

Make a gorgeous textured wall for your one year old to explore with this creative idea and a DIY busy board. It’s a great way to use embroidery boards and extra fabric from  Fun at Home with Kids

25. Squishy Bag Touching Activity

Hang a squishy bag  in the window to touch and to explore! I’ve also done this with my littler baby and they loved it! They wanted to touch all the goodies inside the bag. Check out the instructions for this great activity from Paging Fun Mums.

26. Finger Painting…Kinda

If you have ever wanted the fun of finger painting without the mess, we have the best finger painting for toddlers solution around and it is my favorite way to get young kids involved because it is mess-free, I promise!

27. Adorable Sensory Box Activities

Meri Cherry Blog has the right idea for a quick and fun activity: use cardboard boxes for these adorable great sensory activity boxes! One year olds will love the variety and the ability to explore through all their senses.

28. Texture Walk

Get outside and take baby for a texture walk, inspired by Teach Preschool. Touch the grass, the bark of a tree, dead leaves, live leaves, etc. Remember the level of adventure and curiosity that your 1 year old has and embrace the great sensory experience.

Related: More sensory activities for toddlers? <–Check this out!

29. Touch and Feel Board Activity

Make a DIY touch and feel board for baby to explore with this idea from Happily Ever Mom. This is super fun and cool to make. My little one played with this for so long.

30. Velcro and Pom Pom Play

Teach Me Mommy‘s velcro and pom pom play idea will keep your one year old baby playing for hours! They’ll love how the pom poms stick to the velcro each time and once created it is one of many easy activities they can play over and over.

31. Bath Sponges Play

Playing in the bathtub with different color bath sponges is a classic childhood memory in the making! Your one year old will be loving this idea from  Frogs and Snails and Puppy Dog Tails!

Related: More sensory bin ideas? <–Check this out for 100s of sensory bags and sensory bins.

1 year old sensory activity ideas include sensory bins - here is a collection of over 200 ideas here at kids activities blog - about 15 pictured here
1 year olds LOOOOOVE sensory bins!

Outdoor Learning Activities for 1 Year Olds

When you are looking for learning experiences for your 12-18 month old child, don’t overlook simple and easy things! Here are a few of our favorite things to do outside that allows your 1 year old to learn through play:

32. One Year Old Explorer

Explore the backyard or a common area near your home. Once your child has explored everything about the area, have some fun by hiding a plastic egg or small ball for them to discover.

33. Rock Hunter

Go on a rock hunt. Take a walk around your town or neighborhood looking for rocks, acorns or leaves.

34. Playground Fun for 1

Go to a playground. Your 1 year old may not be able to participate alone on everything at the playground, but if it is a quiet morning without a lot of kids playing, you might be able to try some of the “big kid” equipment with your help, supervision or participation. Try sliding together down the slide or swinging on the big kid swing in your lap.

35. Picnic for 1 Year Olds

While you are at the park or in your backyard, have a picnic snack. Kids will have so much fun eating outside especially if they normally always sit in a high chair at home. Choose easy finger foods and bring a blanket for the special occasion.

Developing Skills of Your One Year Old

If you loved these 1 year old activities, let’s talk a little bit about modifications for kids who are just a little bit older like 18 months. I mention this not just because people with an 18 month old might be seeking this information, but because in the first year your 1 year old is growing and developing new skills and one of the best things for kids is to be challenged a bit…pushing the edge.

Knowing where this is all headed and what skills are just a step ahead can help you guide your 1 year old, 18 month old, 2 year old…’s play in a healthy way. And don’t get worried about things they haven’t mastered yet…you have a long time ahead for such things.

Important Milestones for One Year Olds

What should a 1 year old be learning?

I like to think about what my 1 year old should be learning more about providing rich play experiences instead of a rigid list of skills. Everything your 1 year old NEEDS to know can be learned through exploring the world around him/her. I know this list of play ideas for kids 12-18 months may seem structured, but let each idea be the START of a play experience that doesn’t have to go the same way it did for the author of each activity. Let your child take it the way that makes sense for them and have fun with it along the way!

What is normal behavior for a 1 year old?

I hate the word NORMAL when it comes to a 1 year old and how they act! Each baby is so different and reacts to their world in different ways. Generally 1 year olds are opinionated which may look like being stubborn, but think of it more as passionate! They tend to know what they want to do and how they want to do it. They will be exploring and watching everything. They are paying more attention to what you say and do than it might appear. They are active and may or may not be talking, while most 1 year olds may know about 50 words they often are quiet about it for a few more months. They are often saying all of those words by age 2.

What words should a 1 year old know?

Your 1 year old will likely know words that he/she is passionate about. If they love cars, trains, cats, dogs or garbage trucks, those are words that they not only recognize but might start saying. You will see a progression in understanding of what YOU say and what they say over this year and by age 2, most kids are speaking at least 50 words in 2 word sentences.

Activities for 18 Month Old

The awesome thing is everything on this list is a great starting point for an older baby of 18 months. Depending on the developmental level of your 18 month old child (they all mature at a different rate), you might need to modify the games and activities just a little.

When you are thinking about 18 month activity modifications, concentrate on curiosity and coordination whether you are doing indoor activities or out for fresh air.

Curious Activities for 18 Month Old

Choose activities and games for your 18 month old that leverages that they are curious about everything and it takes many shapes. They want to know how things work, how things are put together, how things are in order, how things are decided, how things are scheduled, how things feel, how things taste…and so much more.

Adding a sense of curiosity to a regular game or activity can keep an 18 month old more engaged in that activity for longer and overcome their short attention spans. Allowing some supervised freedom to explore can keep their innate learning sparked.

Gross Motor Skills Development Activities for 1 Year Olds

An 18 month old is developing coordination at a very rapid rate…if only we could harness that later in life! When you think of coordination, you may have heard of the phrases gross and fine motor activities.

What should a 1 year old be able to do?

In general, anything with “big movement” of the larger bones and muscles of the body and trunk are considered gross motor activities. Gross motor activities for 18 months olds:

  • Stable walking
  • Ability to run short distances
  • Jump up high enough with both feet that they aren’t touching the floor
  • Jump off a low surface like a step
  • Kick a ball
  • Walk up/down stairs holding onto something
  • Will squat and stand on tip toes while holding onto something while playing
  • Pushes, pulls and rides on toys
  • Can throw a ball

You can see how all these 18 month old gross motor skills are based in play! The good news is that if your child seems delayed in one or two of these, it can be improved with activities and play that surround that skill.

18 month old fine motor skill activities - skill level of feeding himself with a spoon - I can do it - child feeding himself - Kids Activities Blog
“I can do it!” is the mantra of the 18 month old!

Fine Motor Coordination Activities for 18 Month Old

When we talk about 18 month level fine motor skills, we are talking about the smaller movements that require a more intentional level of coordination. Simply, it would be the child’s ability to negotiate smaller items and more nuanced movements.

Fine Motor Skills that an 18 Month Old Usually has Mastered:

  • Drink from a cup by themselves
  • Eat with a spoon
  • Hold and color with a crayon & scribble – check out our huge selection of easy coloring pages to download & print
  • Undress themselves with easy clothing pieces
  • Make a stack of 2-3 blocks
  • Turn door knobs
  • Put up to 4 rings on a peg
  • Hold a book and turn pages — not expected at this stage to turn just one at a time.

Again, here you see that everything that is developmentally maturing at 18 months is based on play. And because every child is different, looking at the big picture on all these skills is important!

1 year old playing with pom poms on the floor - feet and pom poms showing
Oh the fun we will have with pom pom play!

One of the easiest play ideas is to use pom pom activities. We have created a collection of over 20 ideas that are easy to do at home or in day care.

Amazon’s Top Rated Products for One Year Olds

Have we mentioned that kids 1 year old to 18 months old to 2 years old love to play? Here are some fun resources and learning toys that young children will enjoy.

Activities for 1 year olds faqs

How Do I Keep My One Year Old Active and Busy?

Keeping your one year old active and busy can be a challenge, but it’s important for your baby’s development. To start, you should create a safe environment where your child is free to explore. Always make sure that anything that your one year old may play with is age appropriate and does not contain any small pieces that could be swallowed or become a choking hazard.
Toys that help with motor skills and promote active play are great for one year olds. Items such as bouncy balls, pull toys, push toys, flexible figures, stacking blocks and building sets are all excellent choices. Playing games together like pat-a-cake or peek-a-boo can also be fun for both of you.
Outdoor activities are also important for your one year old’s development and can be a great way to keep them moving. Going on walks, playing in the park or even just running around the backyard can all provide an opportunity for physical activity. Finally, when it’s time to relax, reading books is always a great option!

What Should I be Teaching My One Year Old at Home?

At one year old, your child should be learning some basic skills such as how to recognize shapes and colors, identify body parts and even start counting. At this age they’re also developing their fine motor skills so activities like building with blocks or stacking cups can help them learn coordination.
You should also be working on language development with your one year old. Make reading a part of your daily routine and make sure to point out objects and talk about them together. You can also encourage talking by repeating everything they say back to them in full sentences.
Finally, it’s important to foster your child’s curiosity by introducing new activities and experiences like playing music or exploring nature.

More Resources for Parents/Care Givers

What is your favorite thing to play with your one year old?

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  1. Hi! It would be great if you could put under each game / activity idea also an image of it, in order to evoid clicking everytime on the link for the external website. In this way we could decide which game is more appealing for us and only click those.
    Best regards,

  2. Hello love all your ideas it is just what I am looking for for the ones two and threes do you have a cd or download I can purchase or a book. I am looking for curriculum and lesson plans for ages 18 months to young 4s. I am a licensed family childcare. If you dont do curriculum do you know of one to reccomend. Thank you very much
    Stephanie McKinstry