A one-year-old child is constantly learning and exploring. You can help foster your baby’s mental and emotional growth by engaging her in fun, stimulating activities. A typical one-year-old understands basic hand gestures, can mimic a parent’s sounds and movements, and is endlessly curious. Try a few of these fun indoor activities for 1-year-olds, and watch your baby’s face light up.
1. Reading Stories
By this age, many infants already have one or two favourite books. Your little one may even hand you a book when he’s ready for storytime. You might even make it a routine, such as by reading a story each night before bed.
Tips: Choose short, picture-heavy books that are designed for or suitable for infants. You want books with lots of repetition. Simple Dr. Seuss books like Hop on Pop and Green Eggs and Ham are excellent choices. Other popular book selections include Where the Wild Things Are, Goodnight Moon, Dear Zoo, and Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes.
Skills developed: Language, listening, imagination
2. Make Music
One-year-old babies love to make noise with anything they can find—you’ve probably figured that out already. But noisemaking can actually be good for their development. Use rattles, baby drum toys, and other percussive objects. You can even teach her to drum on pots and pans using a spoon. Just make sure to keep extra headache medicine nearby for when she starts pounding on everything in sight.
Tips: If you need an instant music maker, take an empty plastic water bottle and fill it about one-third of the way with dry rice.
Skills developed: coordination, balance, musical appreciation
3. Play Paper Towel Basketball
This one is great for teaching hand-eye coordination, and it leaves your baby feeling excited and accomplished. Take a paper towel roll and tape it vertically to the wall. Then take turns dropping cotton balls through the tube. It may take your baby a few times to get it right, and you’ll need to guide him, but once he gets the hang of it, he won’t want to stop.
Tips: Make sure to always supervise your baby during this activity, and don’t allow him to place the cotton in his mouth. As we all know, babies love to put everything in their mouth at this age.
Skills developed: Fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, sensory processing
4. Make Cardboard Box Tunnels
One-year-old babies love to crawl. Make it a game by opening up some cardboard boxes and turning them into tunnels. Make sure to use large boxes that won’t constrict or intimidate your young explorer.
Tips: You can arrange the boxes into mazes to make the game more challenging. For example, at the end of the first tunnel, you might set up two new tunnels pointing right and left. One tunnel leads to the wall, and the other to the centre of the room.
Skills developed: Problem-solving, sensory processing
5. Play Stacking Games
Stacking is one of the ultimate learning activities for a 1-year-old. It’s a skill that many babies start to explore around 7 months of age, but it isn’t well-developed until much later. You can help your baby perfect this skill by guiding her in fun stacking games. One of the simplest and most fun ways to go about it is to make pyramids using paper cups.
Tips: If your child isn’t engaged, consider purchasing a stacking toy that rewards a job well done. For example, you can find ring-stacking games that light up and play music each time the child completes another ring in the stack.
Skills developed: Gross motor skills, hand-eye coordination, patience, sensory perception
6. Explore Shapes
This is the age when you want to start teaching shapes to your child. One of the easiest ways is to invest in a sorting cube with variously shaped holes. The child places the circular block through the circular hole, the triangular block through the triangular hole, and so forth.
Tips: The shape-sorting game is a little more advanced and recommended for slightly older toddlers (like those nearing two years old). If your child just turned a year old, they might find the game confusing or frustrating. If they don’t get it at first, don’t force them to play. Put the game away and try again in a couple of months.
Skills developed: Sensory perception, communication, pattern recognition
7. Make Mess-Free Art
There’s nothing messier than a baby with paint supplies—unless you know how to create a mess-free canvas. Purchase an unused canvas at your local paint supply store, apply a few dabs of different-coloured paint to the surface, and then cover the canvas in plastic wrap. Then let your baby place his hands on the paint and smear it around the canvas. Thanks to the protective plastic, your baby can unleash their inner-Picasso with zero mess to clean up.
Tips: If you want to preserve your canvas for subsequent works of art, cover it in white construction paper before you apply the paint. Then remove the paper after each art project.
Skills developed: Mobility, hand-eye coordination, creativity
8. Put on a Puppet Show
Your 1-year-old should be skilled at recognising faces, even if the facial features are glued onto a layer of felt. Give each puppet a unique voice, have them interact with your baby, and prepare for a whole lot of giggles.
Tips: You don’t need to purchase elaborate puppets. You can glue some craft-store eyes onto a couple of socks and make it a sock puppet show. Your baby will appreciate the entertainment.
Skills developed: Speech recognition, prolonged attentiveness
9. Go Indoor Bowling
This is one of our absolute favourite indoor activities for 1-year-olds. Set up a stack of plastic cups. Then sit your baby a few feet away and allow her to roll a ball forward and knock the cups down. You’ll need to help her the first few times. This game can be played on carpet, but it works best on hard flooring as babies love to hear the cups come crashing down.
Tips: If your baby is struggling to roll the ball in the direction of the cups, you can use pool noodles as bumpers.
Skills developed: Fine and gross motor skills, sensory perception
10. Play With Magnets
Children love to move magnets along a refrigerator, peel them off, and place them back against the cool magnetic surface. Rather than using your refrigerator, you can use a cookie sheet or other magnetic surface placed on the floor.
Tips: Many conventional refrigerator magnets have sharp and non-child-safe parts. They’re also liable to be dropped, so you don’t want to include your favourite fragile magnet from your trip to Prague. Purchase a set of baby-friendly magnets specifically for your indoor play.
Skills developed: sensory perception, gross motor skills, coordination, elementary science
11. Build an Indoor Ball Pit
You can purchase a home pit with 200 balls for as little as £20 online. Then all you have to do is set it up and place the baby inside. Watch her bounce, roll, and toss the coloured balls in the air. It’s much safer and more hygienic than public ball pits, and you can always supervise from just within reach.
Tips: You don’t have to use every ball. For a one-year-old, you only want to fill it high enough for her to be about half-submerged. Once she gets comfortable navigating the pit, you can gradually fill it up more.
Skills developed: Sensory perception, fine motor skills, muscle strength
12. Roll a Ball Back and Forth
This may seem like one of the simpler things to do with a 1-year-old, but it offers some distinct benefits in addition to being fun. Your baby probably isn’t ready to play catch, but he can still learn the basic skill. Sit across from him on the floor or carpet, and then take turns rolling the ball back and forth to one another. If the baby doesn’t get it at first, have your partner or another person sit with the baby and guide him.
Tips: Ideally, you’ll want to use a hollow rubber ball. There’s no ideal size, but bigger is better. Just don’t go too big, as the baby should still be able to grip the sides with both hands.
Skills developed: Visual tracking, muscle strength, sensory perception, hand-eye coordination
Get a Never-Ending Supply of Indoor Activities for 1-Year-Olds
Note that most of these activities require toys or props. Some of these props are just common household items, but certain games require a more elaborate setup. If you’re always exploring new activities for 1-year-olds, we recommend a KiwiCo subscription. Their Panda Crate is perfect for one-year-olds, and it includes a new stimulating, baby-friendly game or activity delivered to your home every month. You’ll have all the parts and pieces you need to keep your budding toddler entertained throughout the year.
If we missed your favourite fun indoor activities for 1-year-olds, please let us know in the comments!