Things To Do With A 1-Year-Old {no set up, lots of fun}

Things to do with 1 one year old don’t have to be complicated.

In fact, your little one at 1 year old will learn so much more from simple, fun activities that you do together rather than from elaborated complex set ups.

Here you’ll find things my 1 year old is head over heals in love with.
All of the incorporate at least one of the following: language development, fun and bonding experience, brain building through sensory play, gross motor development, fine motor skills development, early problem solving skills, self care and collaboration.

That sure sounds like a lot, but trust me, even a worn out stay at home mom with no help from other can set them up.

If you’re in a rush scroll down below for the list of things to do with 1 year olds, otherwise stick with me for a few more lines.

Have you heard of a term “taby” ?

Probably not, unless you have one!

Tabies are basically young toddlers (baby + toddler).

At the age between 12 and 18 months they are not babies any more but they are not quite toddlers yet either.

Keeping a one year old entertained is not as easy as it seems.

If you offer them a “baby activity” they’re not going to engage. Baby activities for 1 year olds have gotten too old, too simple, too boring.

But if you set up a “bigger kid” activity for a young toddler they won’t engage either. They are yet to understand a lot of concepts to “get” that fun activity you found on Pinterest.

If the activity is too hard it’ll cause nothing but frustration.

Their attention span is also quite limited at this age.

So this is my tried-and-tested list of SIMPLE, FUN activities for 1 year olds that require zero to very minimal SET UP.

If you are a worn out mom who can hardly think of anything but the most essential things to take care of like make food, clean, put little ones to nap (and other fun stuff moms do) I hope you find this list of things to do with your 1 year old handy.

23 Awesome Things To Do With A 1 Year Old

Fun Activities {with lots of giggles}

  • Sneeze off toys

This is a fun little activity I’ve learned from Adrienne. She’s actually using it to promote speech and teach vocabulary so you’re getting the best of both worlds, having fun AND developing speech.

What you do is basically take a light weight (!) toy – can be small stuffed animals, plastic fruit and veggies, small boxes, bath toys etc. – say it out slowly and loudly and put it on your head and sneeze it off. Simple as that, no preparation required whatsoever and you’ll both laugh your belly out.

  • Pom pom throw

We have big pom poms of various colors. There’s so so many ways to use them.

But for now, here’s 2 fun things we do. I will hold pom pom between the tip of my thumb and middle finger and will “pinch” them together making the pom pom pop in the direction of my little one.

I usually accompany it by naming a color of the pom pom and saying “Ping” or “Pop” when popping. The word “Ping” gets a lot more giggles though.

You can also put all pompoms in a bucket or a plastic bowl and dump it on your little one. So much fun. Pom poms can also be thrown just like throwing pillows.

You can also aim and throw them in a bucket or in a bowl. Your imagination is the only limit.

  • Bottle sprinklers (this activity it best perform outside or in a bath tub).

Collect all kinds of preferably small containers with a small opening, clean them THOROUGHLY. I usually like to add a mark on the label so if it gets lost I know it’s a “toy” container. If it’s not marked it’s NOT for play.

Fill clean containers with water and let your little one play. Close and open lids, help them squeeze the sprinkle water. Or sprinkle other family members (hello Daddy) when playing outside. This gets tons of giggles as well.

  • Play with veggie peels

Another super simple but really fun activity. All you need to do is save some veggie peels after your prepared snack for your little one and let your little one explore.

This such a simple sensory activity yet it involves 5 important benefits of sensory play that you probably didn’t know about!

How to play?

Simply let them explore. I also love to stick them to different body parts like nose, forehead, hand etc. Oh and I stick them to MY face too! That cucumber peel is soooo hydrating 😉

Check also:
10 Awesome Games To Play With 1 Year Olds

  • Chase and catch

Probably you’re already doing this in some sort of shape or form.

Creep softly watching your little one giggle and waddle away from you. Speed up your (tiny!) steps and catch him at the end. Watch your little one closely as they can fall rushing away! I’m always staying just a few steps behind so I can literally catch him if I see him stumble on something or just loose his balance.

  • Sing action songs

Action songs are nothing  new you say. Yes, but I bet you have not heard THESE songs yet. I’ve recently discovered ladies from Jbrary and we can’t get enough of their songs and rhymes.

Check out some of our favorite action songs to sing and dance together.

  • Mirror Play

Babies and toddlers love watching themselves in the mirror.
So this is another simple and fun activity to do. All you need is a mirror and a baby.

Let your imagination free here. We make faces, model reflections, draw on steamy/foggy mirror with a finger.

We’ve gone so far that we even licked the mirror. Make sure it’s wiped clean before use 😉

  • Make a slide

If you have a rectangular ottoman or a pouffe remove its top and place it angled on the couch. Make sure it’s secured well. Holding your baby with your hands slide them down this DIY slide. Tons of fun guaranteed!

Once you’re done sliding the baby, slide together their stuffed toys, cars etc. Make sure there are no sharp edges and the toys you slide down are lightweight (no sliding on wooden toys for obvious reasons).

Sensory Activities

  • Play with bubble wrap

I’m including this one in the sensory activities category but in reality it’s more than just that. Like with most of the activities your 1 year old will be working on a couple of strengths that require different skills. Except for crinkling and squeezing that bubble wrap, my little one would also wave and carry it around. 

  • Play with roller sticker

That roll of sticky paper you use to remove hair from your cloths. Just make sure you peel off a fresh layer.

Who could have though that such a simple things can be so attractive.

Those little fingers will love exploring the sticky matter of the paper roll.

You can also stick some yarn or ribbons or even small pieces of fabrics and wax paper (and more) and let your little one take them off the sticker roll.

I think it’s also that thin handle that let’s little hands grab it comfortably that attracts them.

  • Play with veggie discards from juice

Whenever I make fresh juice I often save the fruit and veggie discards in a container.

If this happens to be later in the day I’ll put the container in the fridge to keep the discards fresh. Next day, in the morning this becomes our sensory bin filler. Squishing, smashing, throwing, stepping and walking on it – it’s a 360 sensory experience.

With this activity prepare for mess. It’ll be less dramatic though if you prepare the scene.

Use a big towel or better yet a plastic table cloth, you know the one they sell in a roll. The bigger the better. Once your little one done it’ll be quite easy to clean.

Also if you do it in your backyard you’ll have to worry about little spills even less.
Try it out and you’ll see that it’s definitely worth the mess.

  • Play with pasta dough

This one is a classic. I realize not all moms are making fresh pasta regularly, and even if we eat a lot by Italian traditions I don’t make it as often.

But when I do I definitely let my little one play that dough away.

I would normally sit him in a high chair to avoid too much mess in the kitchen.

I would roll him different shapes off of that pasta dough – big, small, round, long etc and just let him explore. Any pasta dough works.

We’ve been doing this activity since 8 months old and he absolutely loves it every single time. When he was still a baby I prefered to give him the eggless pasta dough (just water and flour) but as he got older I’m giving him egg plata dough as well.

Of course supervising closely  – it’s taste safe but definitely NOT edible!

  • Play in a big bowl of rice

Get a big metal or plastic salad bowl or just a big plastic container. Put in some toys (I like to use these farm animal figurines), cover with rice.
Let your little one dig in.

Plain white rice right out of your pantry works great but if you’re really into it, you can make colored rice or even rainbow rice. I also recommend lining a bed-sheet or a big towel on the scene for easy cleaning.

  • Play with leafy greens

Fresh spinach and all kinds of lettuce works great. They are easy to rip and fun to touch – that’s for the baby. And there are pretty easy to clean after – that’s for you.

You’ll Also Love:
Awesome Easy Set-Up Sensory Bins For 1 Year Olds

Fine Motor Activities

  • Pick up fruit/snack from ice tray

Do you know those slow feeding bowls for cats and dogs? It’s a regular bowl with cavities that makes it harder to get and gulp the food in one go – something dogs and cats do a lot. But apparently babies do that too!

No kidding, I’ve invented this “play activity” as an attempt to stop my little one stuffing his mouth with food before the previous portion is consumed. Hilarious, right?

But worked wonders!! Plus, turned into a great fun activity in itself. 

All you need is an ice cube tray and pieces of fruit you would normally serve to your child. Let the fun begin.

  • Play with loose parts

This is one of those activities that keeps my little one super engaged and concentrated for a relatively long period of time. He loves to explore new shapes and objects that are normally out of his reach.

I will prepare a small basket, a box or a bowl with one kind of material. Loose parts that he loves: large pasta shape (like rigatoni), q-tips, mommy’s mascara and lipsticks etc.

Always watch your child closely during the activity and remove the material if they start to become cranky.

Also, I recommend you limit the number of pieces of loose parts and always count them so that at the end of the activity you can pick the all up and put back in a secure place making sure no pieces are left around.

For example I give 10 pieces of pasta or 4 q-tips and that means I will have 10 pieces of pasta or 4 q-tips back once we are done playing.

  • Magnets on the fridge/dishwasher

This is a free play that my little one does when I’m doing things right next to him in the kitchen. I love this set of One-Piece Wooden Animal Magnets from Melissa & Dough that also come in a nice wooden box for storage.

  • Foil wrap with toys/animals

Another simple and fun activity that make those little fingers work. Simply wrap up a couple of toys or animal figurines in an aluminum foil you already have in your pantry and put them in a basket.

Let your little one unwrap and discover what’s inside. You can do the same activity with hard fruits and veggies and probably with a lot of other things.

Supervise your child carefully since they can mouth small aluminum foil pieces and that’s a choking hazard.

Nature Activities {playing outdoors}

Being outside, in the nature is one of the best experiences for children of all ages. With younger kids everything is new to them, everything is fascinating. So get outside and just explore together.

Here are some of the things we love doing outside when possible.

  • Blow a dandelion, touch flowers
  • Touch and play with leaves and grass
  • On those rainy days, sneak outside for a couple of minutes in the drizzling rain and let them feel the rain drops on their face, smell the rain, see how the sky changes.
  • Pick up and eat fruit and/or veggies from the garden.
  • Smell and rip aromatic herbs growing in a pot on your windowsill.
  • Play with the snow in the winter time

Gross Motor Activities

  • Help mommy unpack groceries

From packs of pasta, soft drink bottles to fruit and veggies, let your taby “help” you unpack the groceries. Of course, as always under close supervision of an adult.

Also make sure you remove glass jars, bottles, delicate groceries, shampoo bottles that can leak or can be easy opened up and basically all items with chemicals like soap, detergents. Well, you get the idea. 

  • Cary/Drag/Push/Pull toilet paper block

Once groceries are unpacked I would leave paper towel or toilet paper rolls around for the evening for my taby to play.

  • Load/Unload laundry

Here’s another one practical life skill. Since toddlers love taking things out and putting them back in again this is a great activity to engage them in what you do.

  • Laundry basket push

Forget pull toys, laundry baskets is an ultimate toy- push it, drag it, pull it, put things inside, take them out, get inside yourself. There are so many ways to play. 

  • Play with paper tubes from parchment paper rolls, plastic wrap roll etc.

My little one is obsessed with all things that have a long, easy to grasp shape.

These paper tubes are those magic wands he can waddle around for quite some time.


Use food related activities AFTER a feed. I find once my little one is fed and is not hungry any more there’s less temptation for him to put things in his mouth even if they are taste safe, veggie peels for example.

I bet you have been doing some or a lot of these activities with your little one already,

As you see, there’s no rocket science here and no special equipment or material needed whatsoever.

What I find stops a lot of parents is a “No Mindset” which translates into a ton of things babies and toddlers CAN’T do. Instead I invite you to include your child in your household activities always under adult’s vigilant supervision.

They still mouth most of the things so NEVER LET THEM PLAY ALONE with things that can be potential hazards.

With your close supervision there’s a lot more things for them to explore.

Pin this for later!

things to do with 1 year old
Get this list of 23 Things To Do With A 1 Year Old that you both will love! #thingstodowith1yearold #1yearoldactivities #toddleractivities #toddleractivitiesathome #toddlerplayideas

Related Articles


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button