Activity Ideas for 12-18 Month-Olds
This is a post that I have wanted to publish for awhile now (obviously- since Kade is now two *face palm*) but just never got around to it. I have recently had a lot of people reach out to me saying things like "I want to do activities with my __-month-old but I don't know where to start!" Or just asking for advice/direction/ideas in terms of activities and crafts for babies under a year. I labeled this post more for 12-18 month-olds but quite a few of the activities could be done as soon as your child can sit unsupported and grasp objects.
I also labeled this post as a "daily rotation of activities." I did this because this was how I set up all of these activities the week we actually did them and I photographed them. Kyle was traveling for work this week and I wanted to be prepared with fun, new-ish activities to do and materials to explore so that I didn't lose my sanity by the end of the week and so that Kade was entertained and not bored to tears playing with the same old toys. Yes, this took quite a bit of prep work the weekend before but it honestly made our week run SO MUCH smoother and it was way more enjoyable for both of us.
When Kade was this age, I tried to switch out his toys in our main play spaces once a week. This helped to keep things fresh and exciting. Even if they were toys he had seen before, if he didn't see them as often, they were more interesting and would keep his attention and focus for a longer period of time. For this post, I will go through each day of the week and briefly explain each of the activities or developmentally appropriate toys that I had set out for him to explore that day. I will also link any materials used where and when I can for your reference. I hope that some of these ideas are helpful!
Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links which means that I would receive a small profit if you were to purchase through that link. Any profit made through these links will be put toward materials needed to provide activity ideas and resources on my blog for my readers and subscribers. All opinions are still my own and I only link to products that I actually, truly recommend.
1. Magnetic Letters & Play Doh
I propped Kade up in his bumbo booster chair at our kitchen table and laid out some play doh for him. I set out a tub with some magnetic letters and let him just explore. I showed him how to squish the different letters into the play doh as we talked about the colors of the letters and searched for the letters to spell his name. Play doh is 100% an activity that I very closely monitor (even still at age two- but especially when he was younger) because every now and then he would try to sneak a taste. It is non-toxic which always gives me peace of mind but I still would rather not add it to his diet. ;) This activity is great for sensory exploration, works on fine motor skills, and also introduces uppercase letters and colors.
2. DIY Lift the Flap Book with Post-Its
I used one of our beloved "first words" books that has lots of real life pictures and just covered a few of the pictures on each page with post-it notes. I had to use some different sized post-its depending on the size of the picture but this was super fun and really easy to prep! Kade loved turning the pages, and tearing off the post-it notes to discover what was hiding underneath them. This activity works on fine motor skills (turning pages and pulling up post-its), and helps build vocabulary.
3. Finger Puppet Board Books
We have three of these sweet little nursery rhyme finger puppet board books that are perfectly interactive for this age. There are TONS of them on Amazon! We read/sang them together and Kade loved touching the puppet as I wiggled it around and read to him. These books help build vocabulary, promote a love for reading/literacy, and are great for bonding with your little one. ;)
4. Stacking/Nesting Cups
An EXCELLENT developmental toy for this age. Ours are technically bath toys as they have holes in the bottom of them. They have come in handy in many different sensory bins and we love using them in our water table, too. This set of cups was one of Kade's favorite toys to tinker with even before he was a year old. As he grew older, they grew with him as he was actually able to build towers with them and nest them from largest to smallest. This toy helps promote problem solving, and works on early child development skills such as stacking, building, and nesting.
[similar] Stacking/Nesting Cups
5. Straws in an Empty, Plastic Water Bottle
We still bring this activity with us in the car on longer road trips! We have switched it up from straws and also used pipe cleaners (Target carries a Kid Made Modern brand of really thick/fat pipe cleaners that are especially fun). I used an empty Flavored Sparkling ICE drink bottle as they are a little taller and thinner but a regular empty water bottle would work too!
6. Muffin Tin Color Sort
I used some colored paper that I had to cut out little circles and taped them to the bottom of a 6-cup muffin tin. I put coordinating colored plastic balls that we had from a ball popping toy in a little bin with a plastic ice cream scooper. This activity was great for the obvious color sorting piece but also for building hand-eye coordination with the scooping/dropping into the tin.
7. Things That Go Felt Playmat
Oh how I WISH I could link this item for you! This was an awesome piece I scored from the Target dollar section last season and we absolutely love it. Great for sorting and categorizing all the different "things that go." I have not seen this one in particular but I do know that the dollar section in Target often has super cute imaginative play type felt activities or felt sorting mat activities so always, always check there when you go (as if there's anyone who DOESN'T browse that section every single time anyway? Is that even possible?)
1. Rubber Building Blocks
Kade still plays with these blocks at age two! Another great developmental toy that grows with your child. When he was younger, these were great for gnawing on ;), banging together, and throwing around. As time went on, they were great for watching mommy and daddy build towers and getting to knock them down. As he grew even older, he is now able to stack them AND knock them over all on his own.
2. Flashcards in Envelopes
This one took a bit of prep time before hand but it was such a fun, different/unique activity for us! I took a set of alphabet flashcards and stuffed them all in separate envelopes. I put all the envelopes in a little bin and let Kade "open up all the mail" as we looked at and talked about each of the pictures on the cards. He definitely did not open all the envelopes in one sitting since attention spans at this age are very, very short but he did come back to them on and off throughout the day. This is a great fine motor activity and also helps build vocabulary.
3. Mother Goose Mini Board Books & Cloth Book
I tried to put some fun, new, different type books out for each activity rotation to switch things up from his regular basket of board books. Giving little ones different sizes, shapes, and textures to explore in book form is a great way to keep them interested and excited about books/literacy. Kade still absolutely loves these mini mother goose books and he especially loves the little "suitcase" that they come in. He knows a lot of these little sing-songy mother goose rhymes now from having me read these to him, too. The cloth book that we have was actually a super sweet, thoughtful gift for Kade from a close friend of mine when he was first born. She is so talented and she sewed it herself. It's very special to us and it was one of Kade's favorite books as a little babe!
Stamps are a great, not-too-messy, yet still fun art project for little ones. I obviously had to model how to use the stamps with the ink pads so he knew what to do with them but then he loved it. I only had letter stamps from teaching but this would be fun with animals, shapes, or any other little stamps you could find. There is no rhyme or reason to where or how to stamp them, I just gave him a big sheet of paper and let him go to town.
5. Magnets on a Cookie Sheet
Another super simple activity using household items. Probably an obvious statement, but make sure the magnets you choose are not ones that you would need to worry about being a choking hazard for your child. The magnets don't have to be anything special- as you can see, some of the ones we used are actually also what we use for chip clips. Babies/toddlers don't care- they love playing with real life, household items that they wouldn't typically find in their toy baskets. This activity works great with the magnetic letters I recommended earlier in this post as well.
1. Small Toys in an Empty Wipes Container
If you've ever wondered what on earth to do with all these extra, empty wipes containers- don't throw them! You can use them for fine motor play. ;) I used some small wooden fruit that we scored from the Target dollar spot for this activity but you could use a variety of different items. In the fall, I did this activity with some fake/silky fall leaves, you could use fake flowers for spring or plastic bugs, small wooden blocks, chunky wooden puzzle pieces (Melissa & Doug makes some great ones- linked their chunky shape puzzle below for reference), magnetic letters, etc. Kade loved using his little fingers to push the play food into the slot and down into the empty container. He then would open it up, dump it out and do it all over again. He also loved shaking the container with the fruit in it and carrying around the wooden fruit pretending to "eat it."
2. Ten Tiny Tadpoles Board Book
This is another fun book that we have that is full of bright colors, includes early counting concepts, and is also a cute story. Kade loves touching the little tadpoles that stick up on each page and pushing them like they are buttons. The last page opens up real big and has a bunch of pop-up frogs on it- such a fun surprise!
3. V-Tech Musical Rhymes Book
Another one of Kade's favorite toys as a little babe. This book came in handy on our road trips home to see family. He loved flipping the pages, listening/learning the songs, and playing with the little buttons and switches throughout the book. I would definitely recommend these musical rhymes books for little ones!
4. Bucket of Balls
This is a simple one I just threw together based on toys we already had laying around. I grabbed a little bucket and just filled it with all the different balls that we had collected. We have plastic balls, rubber balls, balls that light up, balls that make noise, etc. This was great sensory play as Kade explored the different looks, feels, textures, and sounds of all the different balls. We also worked on skills such as rolling, "throwing," and "catching."
5. Popsicle Stick Drop
For this activity, I just taped an empty paper towel roll up to the wall and set out some colored craft sticks for him to drop down the tube into a bin/basket. This activity is great for hand-eye coordination and could easily be turned into color matching/sorting by adding colored paper to a few different tubes. We did this for our apple theme that fall with red, yellow, and green craft sticks. You can find the post with that activity here.
6. [not pictured] Pom Pom Push
This activity didn't make it into the original round-up of "Day 3 activities" picture simply because I forgot to include it. I did snap a pic of it separately though. This is another one (similar to the straws in an empty bottle) that we bring with in the car on long road trips, to this day. The poms that I used for this activity are fairly small, so make sure you monitor this closely if your child is prone to putting things in their mouth. I just used an empty plastic yogurt container and had Kyle drill some holes in the top. Great activity for fine motor skills!
1. Melissa & Doug Chunky Farm Puzzle
I mentioned this before but we love these puzzles! This one in particular has been a favorite for a long time. It was especially popular around this stage when we were learning animal names and the sounds they make. We also have the truck one that is very well-loved. I will link them both!
2. I See Me! Personalized Board Book
These books are BRILLIANT. They are personalized in that they allow you to insert your child's name in the story and also include a picture of their actual face as a character in the book. I did a full post/review on these books that you can read here. Definitely a great way to get your child excited about/interested in reading at a young age!
Also just FYI, they are having a Spring sale April 10-17! Save 25% with code SPRING18. :)
Yes, that simple. I pulled a couple pieces of blue paper, and any fish/under the sea related stickers I had laying around in my stash. I peeled stickers off the paper for him as he pointed to the ones he wanted and then we talked about putting them "in the water." I did this same activity another time with green paper and farm animals (putting the animals "in the grass"). This is great for little ones as they get older, too, because peeling the stickers off the sheets themselves is great for fine motor muscles. Before then, it still helps to grow their imaginations and it fosters creativity. It can also be a great vocabulary building activity since you will likely be talking about the different stickers.
4. Toys in Tin Foil
This one takes a little prep time before hand, but still is super simple with toys you already have and a common household item. I gathered up a bunch of random, small toys and literally just wrapped them up in tin foil and tossed them in a tub. It was like having a bunch of tiny presents for him to open. It was so fun to see his reaction to each little toy he opened up- even though it was a toy he had seen before, it still seemed exciting because it was a random surprise for him each time.
5. Musical Instruments
Noise makers are such a hit with little ones. Musical instruments can be played with/explored completely independently, or with someone else. When Kade and I played with these together, I would demonstrate different ways to use the instruments, talk about loud/quiet, fast/slow and describe the different sounds we could make. This is a great activity for when you have music playing too which is great for development. I am linking the "B" brand drum of instruments that we have and love.
Yes, I know, there are 5 days in a week, and I only included 4 days-worth of activities. On day 5, the Friday of that week, I thought back on the rest of the days and reflected about which activities/toys he enjoyed, explored, and interacted with the most. I pulled those toys/activities back out for day 5!
Here are a few other activity ideas for 6-18 month-olds:
- no-mess color mixing paint in a ziplock baggie taped to a table, window, or wall
- edible finger painting with vanilla pudding/yogurt and food coloring
- clothes pins on the edge of an empty box (great for fine motor)
- threading cheerios on pipe cleaners
- painting ice (just use regular paint and fill a tub with ice cubes- great outdoor summer activity!)
- explore tubs (tubs with random household items to play with/explore
- water play/finger painting in the bath
- sensory squish bags (hair gel or shaving cream and food coloring with add-ins such as water beads, small erasers, beads, googly eyes, buttons, etc. in a ziplock baggie taped shut to a table
And lastly, here are three separate blog posts with themed activities that I did with Kade when he was 15-17 months old. Many of the activities could be done even earlier than that so I thought I would link them for more ideas/inspiration!
I hope this post was helpful! Thanks for checking it out! :)