Toddler time: 5 ways to keep a 1-year-old busy

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Confession time. I have been known to groan, “I am going crazy!” at certain moments during the day.

Kind of loudly.

I guess since I have a house full of little ones (6,4,3,1), the craziness is not a surprise.

What I really need is something to keep a certain 1-year-old busy when all he wants to do is hang on my leg and cry big pitiful tears.

When I’m trying to make dinner for six people.

5 ways to keep toddler busy the measured mom 590x590 Toddler time: 5 ways to keep a 1 year old busy

The great thing about having four kids is that the bigger ones entertain the little ones.  I’m not saying we don’t have squabbles.  We do.  But we also have many moments that the kids have fun together.

Like the time last week that my Six decided it was time to play school.  Each of her brothers sat on a living room chair with a rhythm instrument while they had music class.  They got out the play food and had snacks.  They read books.

It was adorable.

But then there’s the dinner hour — long known as “the witching hour” for moms who are trying to hold it together while preparing a home cooked meal.  Or a frozen pizza.

Here are five things I’ve found to keep my 1.5 -year-old busy and happy.

contact paper fun 590x442 Toddler time: 5 ways to keep a 1 year old busy

1- Contact paper craft

I love clear contact paper.  If you peel off the backing and tape it to your table with masking tape (sticky side up), you provide a fun work surface for your toddler.  Give him a pile of construction paper squares and show him how to stick them to the paper.  After about ten minutes of patiently sticking the squares to the contact paper, my toddler took them all off again and put them back into the bowl.  A great first craft that he can do all by himself!

pom poms in container 590x442 Toddler time: 5 ways to keep a 1 year old busy

2 – Poke pom poms through holes 

I love pom poms!  Once my kids get past the stage where they have to put them in their mouth (usually around 15 months at our house), these become a perfect manipulative.  They’re soft, colorful, and quiet!  I poked some holes into the lid of a yogurt container, and my little guy poked the pom poms through.  He was most interested in turning the container upside down and trying to shake the pom poms out.

pom poms in tube 590x442 Toddler time: 5 ways to keep a 1 year old busy

3 – Pom-poms through a paper towel tube 

For 1-year-0lds, the best ideas are usually the simplest. My little guy went from crying at my leg (while his three entertainers were all at Vacation Bible School) to giggling to himself at the sheer wonder of dropping pom poms through a tube.  I’ll definitely be pulling this one out again!

hamper stuffed animals 590x442 Toddler time: 5 ways to keep a 1 year old busy

4 – Toss stuffed animals into the hamper

Here’s another nod to the simple ideas!   I emptied the hamper, filled it with stuffed animals, and put it in the center of the living room.  When my One wasn’t quite sure what to do, I dumped it out.  Filling it up was great fun, and my little boy who’s never shown interest in stuffed animals found a few to cuddle.

tape on table 590x442 Toddler time: 5 ways to keep a 1 year old busy5 – Peel masking tape off a table 

I love this idea from the Stay-at-Home-Mom’s Survival Guide’s giant list of toddler activities.  Many of those activities are too advanced for my 1 1/2 year old, but this one was right on target.  He went right at peeling off the masking tape and trying to stick it back on again.  If you have an older sibling around to reapply the tape – even better!  (A word of caution – try this first on a tiny section of table to make sure it doesn’t damage your furniture.  It worked great on our table, but one commenter said the paint came off hers.)

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button print grnw20 Toddler time: 5 ways to keep a 1 year old busy


  1. I love this list! I know how busy a 1 year can be…especially while making supper! I will be pinning this. Thanks!
    Angela @ Teaching Mama recently posted…10 Benefits to Homeschooling your PreschoolerMy Profile

    • Anna Geiger says:

      Hope some of them help you out, Angela :) Sounds like things are starting off great with your ebook! I can’t wait to get into it myself!

  2. Sheer genius!!! My boy toddler is sooo busy! Sometimes my 8yr boy says, “He’s worn me out, Ma!” Would love more ideas like this! Thank you!

    • Anna Geiger says:

      Funny quote from your 8 year old!! Believe me, I’d love more ideas like these too :) I’ll keep looking and share them as I find or create them!

  3. Oh, I love these ideas! I’m going to start homeschooling our oldest in the fall and have a 1 year old, so these are perfect! Thanks! I’m a new follower from Titus 2 Tuesdays.
    Keri @ Growing in His Glory recently posted…What to Do When You Feel Entitled : 5 Tips to Tackle DiscontentMy Profile

    • Anna Geiger says:

      Bless you, Keri — even though I’ll have three boys (four kids in January, Lord willing) at home during the school days, I don’t homeschool past preschool. I always wonder how you ladies manage with older kids AND toddlers! I’ll be sure to pass along ideas as I find them — anything to make your lives easier :)

  4. Great list! It’s so easy to forget how the simplest things can be pulled out to help save your sanity”. Thanks for the ideas!

    2Momma2 recently posted…Baby Genie PantsMy Profile

    • Anna Geiger says:

      Yes, Kristin – and I seem to forget every day! I am thinking of putting a bin of these items in the cupboard to pull out in moments of necessity!!

  5. I’ve definitely tried a few of these with my little girl. She likes tossing things into the hamper AND the trash can. Thankfully nothing’s gone missing yet :) I’d love to try the contact paper idea. Thanks for sharing.
    Jelli recently posted…Labor-Friendly Natural Massage OilMy Profile

    • Anna Geiger says:

      Ha – we call our one year old “Hamper Boy” (as we called our three year old when he was that age) because he puts everything he finds into the hamper. I keep an eye on the trash can too!

  6. These are all wonderful!!! I will be doing these with my daughter (and my son!!) Thanks for the cheap, easy ideas :)
    Amy recently posted…making noodle necklacesMy Profile

  7. I have used the contact paper trick. That’s a favorite around here. (Visiting from Dollie’s link up!)

    Lindsey @

  8. Oh my gosh, I love these ideas! My littlest also has a bad habit of hanging on me and wailing when I’m trying to make dinner, and these are perfect! Easy to set up and I know he’ll love them. I’m pinning this!

  9. Ok, seriously – pom-poms + paper towel tube = genius! Isn’t it amazing when you see something so simple and you can’t believe you never thought of it??!! Definitely going to use this for my 9 month old!!
    Lindsey – Seedlings Nursery School recently posted…Baby Sensory Play: Sounds with Found ObjectsMy Profile

    • Anna Geiger says:

      Yes – why do we think so hard to find ideas for the littlest ones? But those simple ideas sometimes seem the hardest to come by – if not, my list would have been more than 5 :)

  10. Love it, pinned it! These are great ideas for child care providers :)
    Jana @ HowToRunAHomeDaycare recently posted…Kids Not Listening? Give Instructions That WorkMy Profile

  11. Stopping by from the TGIF Linky Party. I have a 3 year old and a 9 month old and I actually think these would keep both of them entertained! :) Thanks for sharing, heading now to pin. Have a good weekend!
    Laura M. recently posted…Fairy Wands and ToadstoolsMy Profile

  12. I love this idea! Keeping my one-year old out of the trash is a huge goal in my life right now haha. I will be using these simple, yet brilliant ideas ASAP! Thank you for this post! (I found you through the No Time For Flashcards Link-Up!)

    Jaclyn M. recently posted

    • Anna Geiger says:

      So glad you stopped by, Jaclyn! I have got to find some more of these ideas to keep my little guy out of the trash, too… so many interesting things to find in there :)

  13. You share such awesome activities for kids! This is a great resource for moms of little ones!

    My readers loved it and you were featured here:
    Crystal & Co recently posted…Best Mom Advice 7/16/13My Profile

  14. Great ideas keeping a toddler entertained! I am featuring this on iGameMom’s Mom’s Library. Thanks for sharing!
    iGameMom recently posted…Fine Motor Skill Activities – Mom’s LibraryMy Profile

  15. Oh how I love this list! Thank you for sharing it at the Kids CoOp. So thrilled to be featuring this post as part of my toys for babies roundup. xo Pauline
    Pauline @ Lessons Learnt Journal recently posted…Gluten Free Rocky Road with Toblerone and Red FrogsMy Profile

  16. What a great list – I think these would keep my preschoolers busy too!

  17. Such fun, clever ideas!

    I featured this at TGIF this week, Thanks for sharing your creativity & linking up. I hope to see you linked up again this week.

    Have a great weekend,
    Beth =)

    • Anna Geiger says:

      Thanks for the feature, Beth! We were out of town this week – look forward to linking up next Friday!

  18. Some great ideas!! I wish I had them when my four year old was one. Thank you for sharing at Sharing Saturday!!
    Carrie recently posted…Beach Inspired Rock/Nature ArtMy Profile

  19. I love how simple these ideas are! My older kids are OLDER (9 and 14) and I remember the days of playing school very well! Made me laugh remembering that.

    • Anna Geiger says:

      I still remember playing school myself. I found my old lesson plans once — first was the “Applegalegence” :) Thanks for stopping by, Maureen!

  20. These are great ideas, thanks! I often put a towel down on the kitchen floor and put some flour and dried pasta, some bowls and spoons, and other kitchen utensils out for my 15 month old while I’m cooking dinner. He loves to be in te kitchen “helping” me cook!

    • Anna Geiger says:

      Great ideas, Molly Kathleen! I will have to try those very soon… does my 1 year old pulling out the dried pasta from the pantry and dumping it all over the floor count? :) A very recent occurrence…

  21. I appreciate the mention of the tape peel off activity from my page for Toddler’s! Glad it could help that “witching hour”. We experience that far too often at my house too. This list is such a great reminder how simple activities really do engage our toddlers so well. I will be trying out a couple of them with my 2 year old.

  22. my i year old didnt quite like the masking tape and it peeled off my tables paint… not cool… i would really like another sugestion!

  23. I like the ideas!!!

  24. Thanks for the suggestions! Masking tape off a table sounds like one I will try…my little guy will love that.

  25. These seem like good ideas but the pom poms worry me. They look a little small and could be choking hazard. Generally, if something can fit through a toilet paper roll it is small enough for a child under three to choke on. I can totally see my 1 year old shoving one of those down his throat. I think the contact paper craft is great though! We used to do that with kids at the day care I worked for.
    Risa recently posted…What’s my excuse?My Profile

    • Anna Geiger says:

      Hello, Risa! I certainly agree that we have to know our own child before we choose one of these activities. I didn’t try this until I knew my toddler was past the putting things in his mouth stage, but every child is different.


  1. [...] 5 Ways to Keep Your Toddler Busy - Brought to you by The Measured [...]

  2. [...] Many times kids have the best time on things we would never thought being fun – like peeling masking tape off the table.  [...]

  3. [...] 1.The Measured Mom’s 5 Ways to Keep a 1 Year Old Busy–wow these are great ideas! If you have a toddler, be sure to check this list out! [...]

  4. [...] Five Ways to Keep a 1-Year Old Busy from The Measured Mom Sensory Play with Gelatin from Wildflower Ramblings Foil Painting from Enchanted Homeschooling Mom. [...]

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