Real world things to teach a 1-year-old is something first time moms truly need.
At about the 1 year old mark there are a lot of changes happening with your little one. They aren’t babies anymore. With physical development comes the freedom of movement and desire to explore every corner of the house, every teeny tiny grit of sand.
They love to run, to jump, to throw, to bang, to touch things, to be actively involved in all activities that you are doing.
You might also start getting all those “well-intended” questions from your family or friends, that you wholeheartedly HATE (I know, I did!).
Something along the lines:
- “Is he/she walking yet??”
- “Is he/she talking yet??”
- “Is he/she sleeping through the night??”
And so you start to google (again!) growth milestones, baby development checklists and basically anything that will prove that your baby is on the right track and that YOU are doing all the right things.
Plus, all the pressure you might be getting from famous social media platforms, looking at those perfect playrooms, tidy, always happy kids that learn their ABC at 15 months!
So you start to wonder what should I teach and how should I teach my 1 year old?
And most certainly, to worry, am I doing enough to help my baby learn?
But before that mum guilt has even had a chance to rise, let me tell you – it’s intrinsic to mamas to naturally teach their little ones without even realizing it.
- Do you catch yourself repeating the same word 25 times in a short period of time? Emphasizing key words when talking in phrases?
- Do you like going together for a stroll?
- Do you let your little one out in the backyard?
- Do you sing, dance and just be silly together?
- Are you giving them a chance to be themselves: climb, touch things, be messy?
- Are you trying to create a safe “Yes” environment where there are more Yes’ than No’s?
I’m sure you’re nodding your head you’re on the right track.
Continue to go with the flow of your natural mama instinct and your babies desire to learn.
Now, I totally get that your exhausted body and mind already do so many things on autopilot that sometimes you just need to see a bigger picture lined out for you and have that reminder that you’re on the right track.
So here’s my list of the things that may come obvious and pretty much on autopilot when it comes to teaching your 1 year old but that truly make a difference.
My classification has been inspired by Montessori approach to child education.
Most of the activities don’t belong just to one category they’re listed under. They’re most certainly on the intersection of 2 or even more.
And even though some of them may sound and seem to be not necessary for a 1-year-old, trust me, they’ll make a HUGE difference when your little one will approach the toddler-hood.
Here, fits perfectly one of my favorite Maria Montessori Quotes, –
The education of even a very small child, therefore, does not aim at preparing him for school, but for life.Maria Montessori
Things To Teach A 1 Year Old
When writing this post, I was mostly considering appropriate skills of a 12-18 month old.
Since there’s a huge difference in what 12 months old and 20 month old can do, you’ll naturally start from the most simple things and add on as your baby grows.
Practical Life (Kitchen, Play & Outdoors)
- Independently eat with a spoon and a fork.
Not only this prepares your little one for day care or school but it’s also a huge milestone in their independence. And trust me, you don’t want to be always the one feeding your (likely not so cooperative) toddler.
- Peel banana.
When serving banana don’t do all the work. Simply make a slit cut along the banana and then cut it in rounds. Show your little one how to peel the skin and get a delicious bite of a banana.
- Drink from an open cup.
Seems simple but not so simple to teach a young toddler. They’ll definitely want to play with the water in a cup, dig their hands in or simply flip over and spill.
You have LOTS of patience – is the key.
First, demonstrate how to drink from an open cup, help them hold it with both hands and lightly assist if needed. They’ll definitely make a mess but soon they’ll get the idea and will get better and better at it all on their own.
You have a huge advantage if you’ve never given a straw cup or a sippy cup in the first place. But you can also go through these transitions smoothly, as I did with my little one. We used both straw cups and sippy cups and removed them completely at about 20 months.
By the time your baby is 18 month old they should be pretty good at drinking from an open cup.
As with all other things keep in mind and respect your child’s individual pace of development. Some babies start drinking from an open cup at around their first birthday, for some it may take a little longer.
- Wipe up spills/ clean after themselves.
To teach your little one to wipe a spill as you do it, simply demonstrate and explain your moves whenever you’re cleaning a spill. Give your little one tools of their own to model you.
- Clean windows.
Not because other types of cleaning are less important but because it’s something that they mess a lot with (those spotty windows just minutes after you cleaned them ugh! – ahah :D) but they also learn easily.
So that’s no an essential skill per se but rather a nice addition to their activities and help around the house – WIN – WIN!
- Pick up toys and put them in the bin.
- Load/Upload laundry (washing machine or dryer)
Self Care and Care Of Others
- Wash & dry hands.
Simple and kind of “duh” skill, something that everyone learns anyway, right?
But think of a moment when you’ll need to do a whole bunch of other things around the house (not to mention if you’re planning on having another baby!) how awesome it is when your 2-year old will be able to squeeze soap, rub their hands, rinse and wipe them with a towel ALL BY THEMSELVES.
Make sure your child can easily reach the sink, soap and towel as the first step.
- Go potty.
There’s a ton of information on potty training so I’m not going to go into details on this. I would just say that the best time to start potty training is anytime between 12 and 18 months considering your child’s sings of readiness.
- Brush teeth, brush hair
Do this together and be a role model for your little once. They LOVE copying adults at this age.
Make it a routine.
Don’t make a big deal out of it if they don’t want to do this (especially with brushing teeth). This is one of the instances where I play it totally cool. “You don’t want to brush your teeth? Fine. I’m brushing mine”. In 99% of the cases we ended brushing teeth together.
- Dress/Undress – push arms through the sleeves, pull up pants, put on and take off shoes etc.
- Feed pets.
- Water flowers.
Language, Manners & Communication
- Body parts
You would naturally name body parts throughout the day as you go to wash hands, and you dress up and you’re bathing them etc.
- Animal and animal sounds
Animal figurines and sounds books are great when teaching animals and animal sounds.
Check out my Top 15 Farm Animal For Kids Ages 1-5 and Favorite Sound Books For Babies & Toddlers.
Don’t forget to also notice, point and talk through different animals when you see them outside.
- Nature & nature sounds
- Driving your little one’s attention to sounds and not just words is really important. It develops their phonemic hearing and phonemic awareness – the ability to hear and manipulate the sounds in spoken words, and the understanding that spoken words and syllables are made up of sequences of speech sounds.
- Outdoor objects & outdoor sounds – vehicles, street noises (soft and loud).
- Household items, including their items that are frequently used
- Food names – fruit veggies, diary, things they like
- Right side/left side
- Please and Thank You – simple and most natural way is to use these words yourself when communicating with your little one.
Whenever he asks for something or I know he want that I would form a short sentence/request for him.
For example: he wants more bread.
I say – Would you like MORE BREAD? Yes?
Mommy, more bread please.
I give him the bread saying – Thank you mommy.
Since I’m teaching him American Sign Language as well I also sign all the words as I say them.
It took about 6 month till he started signing back to me, but once he started he’s now able to sign a huge number of words, adjectives, verbs, colors, numbers and even such complex things as emotions.
If you’re curious, the #1 things that helped my son learning sign language is this Extraordinary TV Show. This is an affiliate link, which means I might earn a commission if you make purchase. But I would have recommended it in heartbeat regardless.
- Be gentle
- No biting/no hurting
- Wave hello
- Blow a kiss
- Kiss and give a hug to mommy and daddy
- Point – role model
- Ask for things – please & thank you, yes and no, asking for more
- Push the chair in after a meal
- Making the bed
- Stretching/doing exercise
- Patience – knowing they have to wait. Explain what you’re about to do and what’s coming up next.
- For example when my little one starts to ask for milk right before a bath time, I would tell him and sign:
Milk after bath.
Bath first, then pajama, then vitamin (he’s still taking vitamin D), then clean your ears, then blow dry your hair and THEEEN milk.
- I’ll also line out our structure in a very similar way when we need to run errands together. I’m thinking even to print out some photos and show them in a sequence as they are going to occur.
Last but not least and actually the most important category is teaching your 1 year old safety.
This list included but by no means is limited to most common areas.
- Watch your fingers when closing drawers/doors
- Watch your step/no running
- Watch out for things on the way/angles/watch your head (under the table)
- We don’t put fingers in the sockets
This list, by no means, is complete. It’s meant to be an inspiration and a sparkle for your creative mind to start thinking and noticing all the things that are applicable for you and your family that you can teach your young toddler.