Today I want to share some activities you can do with your young toddler, specifically your 12-18 month old. As my son grows, I’m finding he still enjoys many of the activities we did when he was 6-12 months old – but we are definitely making changes.
The teacher in me has absolutely loved doing these with my son, but please know that not every child enjoys the same things. There is a large developmental gap between a 12 and 18 month old. So use your best judgement when deciding what activities to complete with your child.
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40+ activities for your 12-18 month old
- Songs are a favorite for many toddlers! We have an overabundance of CDs for little kids. Here’s one of our favorite toddler CDs.
- While you’re listening to one of your new favorite songs – DANCE! You can have the worst dance moves on the planet, but there’s a good chance your toddler will still love being silly and dancing with you (or perhaps just watching you and laughing!).
- YouTube videos are another fun activity for your child. I’m not suggesting you plop your son or daughter in front of technology all day, every day. But sometimes everyone needs a little down time. My son’s favorite videos are this ABC Kids song, this Shapes Song, and anything by Dave and Ana.
- Create a space for your child to crawl through. Blankets draped over chairs works well. But so does buying a tent like this one. Either way, let your young toddler crawl through the space and have a blast! Better yet – join him or her! It’s the perfect obstacle course for this age.
- Go swimming. Our son loves to splash and play in the water. Plus this will get him ready for swimming lessons later in life! We love our shark baby boat. We’ve used it over a dozen times. It keeps our little guy upright and safe, but also allows him to freely splash and enjoy the water! Plus the shade it great for outdoor use.
- Practice walking stairs. As your toddler gets better at walking, it’s important to get them stair exposure. You may want to put the baby gate up to the third step in your home so they can safely explore without falling. Or perhaps you’ll just hold their hand while going up and down the stairs. Even something as simple as a few sturdy books on the floor gives the young toddler something fun to step up and down from.
- Allow independent play. There is nothing saying you have to entertain your child all day, every day. Give him or her time to play on their own! When they have some safe play options that they enjoy, it’s easy to get them to play for sixty minutes a day on their own. Our son happens to love his Laugh and Learn Car!
- Talk with your child. Practice animal sounds. Babble back and forth, or even have entire conversations. Children at this age are often really learning and exploring their voice. Have fun with it!
- Color! We paid the extra money to get this set of jumbo crayons. By fifteen months our son could keep himself entertained coloring for 30 minutes at a time. I will admit even the jumbo crayons break when he throws them, but even when they’re in two pieces – he’s still getting a lot of use out of them. You may want to limit coloring sessions to the high chair to ensure your walls don’t become a masterpiece as well.
- Help your 12-18 month old learn their body parts. Songs like “Heads, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” are fun – but it’s also fun just to point to each body part and name them. Make it a game like Simon Says. Our sons favorite is pulling our ears!
- Make your own water blob! This blog post has a great tutorial.
- That crawl space you created in #4? Turn it into a ball pit! You can often find a great deal on balls at your local department store, or buy them online here.
- Edible playdough is still a favorite in our house. Now there’s more smashing and throwing than when J was little, but it’s still a good time. Here is the recipe we use.
- Read with your child! As a teacher, I’m obviously going to push this one. Even when you feel like you’ve read enough books for the day, read 2-3 more. 🙂
- Break out the every day items. It never ceases to amaze me how much my son enjoys playing with things from our cupboards. If I get out the pots and pans, he has a blast! Or I may let him play with our shoes. Another time it may be the plastic containers from the kitchen or the laundry basket. As long as what I’m allowing him to play with isn’t a choking hazard – it’s fair game!
- Make edible finger paint. Your 12-18 month old will love it!
- Blow some bubbles. We’ve used store bought ones and the recipes found here. J loves them, although he doesn’t totally “get” how it works just yet.
- Bust out the cardboard boxes. Whether I get out a shoe box for my son to use as a step stool or use a large refridgerator box for him to play in – he loves it! Switch it up and your child will have fun for hours!
- Throw a ball. While it’s great for hand-eye coordination, it’s also great fun! Just make sure you choose one that is safe for your young toddler. Our son decided to bite into a couple of his, and they became an instant choking hazard.
- Play a game of hide and seek. My husband likes to run into another room, hide, and then let J find him. Then he’ll run to the other end of the house, hide again, and let the giggling search continue. Granted his “hiding” is pretty pathetic, but our little guy loves finding daddy on top of the couch, behind the door, and on the other side of the bed.
- Take a bath. This is one of those activities for your 12-18 month old that they will probably love! Simply put them in the bathtub, clean them up, and then let them play (supervised of course). Many times we get so busy with our day that we forget to just let our child have fun. Want extra fun? Jump in the tub with your little one!
- Enjoy a round of copy cat. Do whatever your child is doing. Bear crawl across the floor. Crawl with them. Spin in circles. It’s a great workout, and your child will get a kick out of it!
- Have fun with a water table! You can make one using the directions at this link, or buy one this one that my mother-in-law bought for our son. He loves playing in it, even without the water!
- Get outside! Whether you go for a walk, head to the park, take a fishing trip, or just enjoy the sunshine – your child will love the extra Vitamin D!
- Build towers. You can use blocks, but we go the frugal route! I simply save various lids that we use in our home – peanut butter lids, protein shake lids, etc. Then we wash them up and let little man build with them. He has even started sorting them a little bit when we help him out. It’s a great activity that is also teaching skills he’ll need later in school!
- Create a homemade sensory board. This has been on my to do list for quite some time, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet. Hopefully eventually I do… This is my inspiration!
- Play a game of fetch. I still sometimes feel guilty when we do this because I know J is not a dog, but he absolutely loves when I throw a ball down the hall and let him go get it. He’ll bring it back so proud each and every time!
- Invest in a couple books that play music. Our son loves nursery rhymes, music, and books – so it only made sense to buy this item that combines the three!
- Freeze toys. Take small toys, put them in ice cube trays, and then freeze. Get them out to play with on hot summer days – or even just in the bathtub. Your toddler will find the new coolness fascinating!
- Try ice painting. Our son is not a huge fan of cold things, but I like to give him different experiences. This one didn’t go over so well the first time around, but we’ll keep at it because I know it could be a blast if he got over the cold factor.
- Explore window cling. Tape some window cling to a windor, door, or wall and let your 12-18 month old put items on it. This could include scraps of paper, feathers, or anything else that is safe for your child.
- Play on the iPad. While I’m not a huge fan of children – particularly young children – being able to play with ipads on their own, I do think supervised time is perfectly good. We recently bought this app for our son, and he loves it! It’s a puzzle rhyming game. He can’t get enough!
- Make your child some homemade instruments. It can be something as simple as a morocco made with a plastic egg, some rice, and two spoons, or go a bit bigger and make some type of homemade drum. This is one of those great activities for your 12-18 month old that can keep them entertained for awhile, and you can use this toy as they get older too.
- Try a simple tube play activity. Simply take a paper towel roller or toilet paper tube, adhere it to the wall, and let your child put items down it. Our little guy kept trying to rip it off the wall, but he also had a blast doing it!
- Explore pipe cleaners. This activity should be supervised, but let your little one practice putting pipe cleaners directly into a container – perhaps a plastic one you have around the house or a recycled Parmesan cheese container. Not sure you want to go the pipe cleaner route? Then how about using straws?
- Let your child play with his or her food. I know we often get impatient while little man finishes his food. But he needs to explore each of those textures and learn about his food. I don’t want to be sitting at the kitchen table for hours, but I do want him to be able to have fun eating sometimes!
- Pom pom play. You can often pick up inexpensive pom poms in various sizes at a dollar store, craft store, or department store. Let your young toddler explore them, put them into different containers, and simply feel them. Just make sure they stay out of his or her mouth!
- Play with pretend hats. Little man J loves when I set something on his head like it’s a hat. I’ll often do this while telling him to stay still. That lasts all of about two seconds before his chin hits his chest and the uncontrollable giggling starts! Then he picks up the object (peanut butter lid, small toy, etc), hands it back to me, and motions for more.
- Give mess-free finger painting a try! The directions at this post make it look pretty simple and easy!
- Let your child help you clean. Ok – they’re not really going to help, but they’ll love holding onto the broom or pretending to wipe down the floor!
- Play with legos. Our son just happens to love this set so much that we bought him two!
- Introduce your child to puzzles. Our son mostly just likes to throw the pieces around, but I’m confident he’ll catch on at some point. 🙂
It may get a little messy with your young toddler running all over the place and getting into things, but you’re going to have a great time making lots of amazing memories when you try even a few of these activities!