14 Activities Your 1-Year-Old Will Love

You now have a one-year-old. What a time to be alive! Your baby is becoming a toddler - they’re learning to walk and talk, and these new skills open up dozens of new fun time opportunities. As months go by, your soon-to-be toddler will start hitting all their developmental milestones, and you won’t be able to believe how fast they’re doing it.

From making a few steps on their own to fully running away from you when you want to get them dressed. From shaking their head to express their wants and needs to even saying a few simple words. This is when you’ll almost be able to see their progress on a day-to-day basis, and you'll have so much fun.

Baby putting a decoration on a birthday cake.

Now that 1-year-olds don’t just sleep all day, they need some fun activities to keep them occupied. We want to emphasize the word “need.” Why? Playtime is one of the most important aspects of children’s development. It helps their physical, mental, social, and emotional growth all at the same time.

How do we engage 1-year-olds or an 18-month-old when they’re not precisely super excited to follow directions? They only do what they want to, and your idea of a fun activity can be completely different from theirs. That’s where the Montessori method comes in handy. According to the Montessori method, the last thing you should do is tell your kids what to do.

Is Montessori Good for 1-year-olds?

Yes, it is. The Montessori philosophy promotes child-led play and education. That is just what 1-year-olds crave to do. They have an innate desire to learn about the world around them. Soon-to-be-toddlers have just started exploring the world around them properly and are having so much fun with it. They’ve gained new abilities in walking and climbing and can now reach places they could only observe before.

However, they’re interested in more than that. They’re also fascinated by people in their surroundings and the stuff they do. That’s why you’ll often see your child try to copy your actions - and this is where we introduce the Montessori method.

We want to include our kids in our daily activities as much as possible. You’ll hang out together, they’ll learn a lot from you, and you might even get some stuff done around the house. So, depending on what your child can do and what developmental milestones they have reached already, you might be able to do some or even all of the activities for 1-year-olds that align with Montessori.

Here are a few ideas that aim at helping boost the 1-year-olds' cognitive skills, problem-solving skills, and hand-eye coordination - all while enjoying fun activities:

Doing Laundry

Mother and toddler doing laundry.

Here’s one for starters. You’re bound to do laundry anyway, so why not include your little one in that activity? Turn this learning opportunity into a fun activity. You can start your busy toddler by learning to sort clothes by color. After you’re done with that, start loading the washing machine. They’ll find this to be a fun activity.

Your toddler will work on their grasping, gross motor, and color recognition skills and explore different textures. You can turn laundry sorting or folding into one of their favorite sensory activities. Once the drum starts rotating, they’ll watch it with so much joy and a smile on their face.

Peeling Fruit

Little girl eating a banana.

Fruit should be essential to any child’s diet. Therefore, we should turn fruit munching into a fun game that exercises hand-eye coordination, among other things. Let’s include our kids in the preparation process, and maybe we’ll motivate them to enjoy them more.

So, you can use an orange or a banana, start the peeling process and let your child finish it. Again, this is a great example of sensory play, as the fruit will help your child explore different textures, tastes, smells, and more.

They can’t do it on their own at the beginning, but they can definitely finish it off. This is the first step in including them in their food preparation process. If they “prepare” it themselves, they’re more likely to eat it.

Finger Painting

Toddler's arms covered in paint.

Now we get to the really messy part. You can make your own edible paint (there are a lot of excellent and simple recipes online) or buy one. Why edible? We know the first thing all 1-year-olds will do with that point is put it in their mouth. Better safe than sorry.

Once you have your paint and equipment (hands and fingers) ready, let your child exercise their motor skills. Try to place them somewhere they’ll cause the least mess or damage to your furniture. This open-ended activity will boost their creativity and imagination and get them to experience new textures and sensations.

Matching Lids with Containers

Baby holding a cup and smiling.

You have everything you need right in your cupboard to keep kids entertained. Take a few plastic containers with lids and spread them out on the table or on the floor. Try not to have more than 5 or 6, as it might get too complex for 1-year-olds.

This great sorting activity will teach your child colors, shapes, and sizes. They’ll work on their fine motor skills as well.

Simple Puzzles

Montessori Happy Puzzles (6 Pack).

If you want to give your kid just a few toys to keep them entertained, make sure that puzzles are on that list. Getting your kid interested in puzzles at a young age can be such a clever move - they help with short-term memory and increase focus and attention. The best way to start is with less complex puzzles with fewer pieces. A perfect example of a beginner toddler puzzle would be Montessori Puzzles (6 Pack).


Baby playing with a musical toy.

Who’s ready for some super loud, out-of-tune singing and playing? All 1-year-olds, that’s who. Since they will bash stuff anyway, why not get them a triangle or some simple cymbals to make it somewhat musical? Yes, we know other family members and your dog might find these activities for 1-year-olds annoying, but your child will develop their fine and gross motor skills and hearing perception.

Stacking Toys

Montessori Building Blocks.

Toys like Montessori Building Blocks help with coordination, sorting ability, color recognition, focus, and attention span. There are so many benefits that this type of play shouldn’t really be ignored. These types of toys are also self-correcting, meaning your child won’t need any help from adults, and they’ll know exactly when they’ve finished it or if they’re trying a less correct approach.

Object Permanence Box

Montessori Object Permanence Box.

This toy is designed to teach the youngest children that objects can exist even when they’re out of the child’s sight. Object permanence is something that we learn along the way, it’s not implied. That’s why toys like these help a lot. Try a Montessori Object Permanence Box and see how it goes. It also helps with grasping skills and building up finger and hand strength.

Going Up and Down the Stairs

Baby crawling up the stairs.

If you have a safe set of stairs within your house, let your one-year-old try to climb them. Of course, always be around to take care of their safety. This exercise is so important for their gross motor skills. Climbing stairs on all fours will put all of their body at work - legs, arms, and torso. It’s almost like going to the gym. 


Little girl scooping food with fork and a knife.

Let’s practice precise hand movements and focus. Fill two bowls with rice, sugar, water, or even some pop pom balls. The game's goal is to transfer one bowl's content into the other using a spoon. It will be slow and tricky, but your toddler will learn much from these activities. They’re great exercises for fine motor skills and focus.

Washing Hands

A little girl washing her hands in the sink while her mother holds her.

Once your little one is able to stand on their own, you can set up a stool next to the sink. Turn the faucet on, pour some soup on those little clumsy hands, and encourage your kid to wash their hands like a grown-up. It’ll look adorable (maybe a little wet and messy), but your kid will learn how important it is always to wash their hands. Handwashing can become a family activity.

Making a Smoothie

Mother and daughter making a fruit smoothie.

Another food preparation that’s easy, simple, and can be lots of fun to do together. Cut all the ingredients to the appropriate size, and let your one-year-old drop them inside the blender. Watch out that they do it from a safe distance so they don’t hurt themselves. Once again, if they help prepare it, they’re more likely to eat or drink it because they’ve made it.

Using Utensils

Little boy sitting on his lunch chair and eating with a spoon.

This is a great time to start learning how to use spoons. It’s going to be clumsy and messy, but hey, it’s still a start. The sooner they start using cutlery on their own, the sooner they’ll learn how to do it properly and have an easier time once preschool starts. It’s all about letting your child take the lead and get a hands-on experience with everyday life skills they’ll always use.

Unloading the Dishwasher

Toddler standing next to a dishwasher.

Be extra careful when doing this. However, it’s an excellent everyday activity to help your child learn about house chores and responsibility. It’s also good for learning how to sort items, fine motor skills, and focus.

Let your child hold only spoons, plates, and other kitchen items with no sharp edges. Ask them to sort them into drawers they’re intended for. Little by little, they’ll learn to do it all by themselves.

As you can see, most of these activities are actually about learning real-life practical skills. They’ll be fun as any other game for all 1-year-olds. However, they’ll also learn stuff along the way, as Maria Montessori intended in the first place. Try them out, and let us know how it all worked out.

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