5 simple activities for 1 year olds

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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.

Looking for activities for one year olds?  These 5 toddler activities kept our 18 month old busy and happy!

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 activities for 1-year-olds that keep my toddler busy and happy.

Looking for activities for one year olds?  These 5 toddler activities kept our 18 month old busy and happy!

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!

Looking for activities for one year olds?  These 5 toddler activities kept our 18 month old busy and happy!

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.

Looking for activities for one year olds?  These 5 toddler activities kept our 18 month old busy and happy!

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!

Looking for activities for one year olds?  These 5 toddler activities kept our 18 month old busy and happy!

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.

Looking for activities for one year olds?  These 5 toddler activities kept our 18 month old busy and happy! 5 – 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.)

If you liked this post, I’d be honored if you’d like me on Facebook and follow my Toddler Play Pinterest Board!

Follow The Measured Mom’s board Toddler Play Ideas on Pinterest.

© 2013 – 2015, Anna Geiger. All rights reserved.


    • 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!

  1. Angie says

    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!

    • 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 :)

  2. says

    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!


    • 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!!

  3. says

    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.

    • 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!

  4. says

    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!

    • 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 :)

  5. says

    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!

    • 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 :)

  6. says

    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!

  7. says

    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!

  8. says

    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…

  9. Jaimi says

    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.

  10. Nicole says

    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!

  11. says

    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.

    • 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.

  12. Virginia says

    Hi Anna. Well done for supplying some good activities and finding the time to share them. I have 6 children under 9, youngest boy, 1.5. It is the hardest work to find things for him to do as he is very bright. A battery run bubble blower is also a fun, low outdoor energy thing to do.

    • Anna Geiger says

      You must have a very busy house! We have five under 8, which is already crazy. 😉 Thanks for the battery run bubble blower idea. Love that!

  13. says

    Im Granny, 1 st sleep over was a disaster. Did not know how to keep my 10month old granddaughter busy. Well, now she is 11 months and coming to stay over again. I have a surprise for her . Thank you for the brilliant, simple ideas.

  14. says

    OMG! This is the most amazing thing I’ve ever read. I’ve been saving my toilet paper and paper towel rolls, and it’s because I was meant to read this post before throwing them out! LOL

    I already know that Activity #3 is going on the cupboard right beside the sink. For some reason, my son always seems to bother me when I’m washing the dishes. That’ll keep occupied.

    Thank you in advance for the peace and quiet that I know is sure to come in due time!


  15. says

    Hi Anna,

    I wrote a post on my blog about my experience using the Pom Poms Through a Paper Towel Tube idea. I’ve linked this post plus your website in my post. I hope you check it out. Please let me know if you want me to remove the link to your site. I can always generalize the idea instead of having to specify your name, if you’d like.



    • Anna Geiger says

      Thanks for linking back to me, Reena! I’m glad your toddler enjoyed the pom pom activity – it’s a winner :).


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