Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Activities for your 12-18 Month Old!

Someone once told me that 12-18 months is the hardest of the baby stages. And so far, I couldn't agree more! It's that difficult stage where they are developing their personality, know what they want, but can't verbally tell you their needs (so then get mad when you can't understand them), and are always on-the-go.  But the hardest part in my opinion, is keeping them entertained for more than a few minutes!

If you ever watch my Instagram stories, you'll know I'm super into making little activities for Marlowe to play.  I think it's the teacher in me, I can't help myself.  I'm constantly searching on Pinterest for activities appropriate for her age, and I've tried A TON.  Below I've compiled a list of activities that were successful with Marlowe.

Three things to keep in mind, babies at this age have a SHORT attention span so it's completely normal for them to be done with an activity after no more than 10 minutes.  Second, it's normal for them to want to taste everything at first, so make sure everything is supervised.  Marlowe almost always puts the activity in her mouth just to see that it isn't food.  Luckily, they are old enough where they understand what "no" means, and after a little reinforcement and modeling, they will play with the activity correctly.  Finally, with every activity, show them how you want them to play with it, what they can do with it, and spend a few minutes to play WITH them.  The activity always lasts so much longer when I do this, and then you can leave them to discover the rest on their own.

Most of the the things you need can be purchased at the dollar store!  I've also linked to some resources from Amazon below as well.  I've compiled a little list below of things that come in handy often, and can be used for multiple activities.  I store everything in plastic three-drawer carts for easy access.

Sensory Play

Helping your toddler to explore all of their senses is crucial for development at this age! If you expose your baby to all kinds of different textures and smells early on, they are more likely to be a better eater in the future and try new foods without hesitation.  Sensory play can often be VERY messy, so I recommend buying a LARGE plastic tub.  I often put Marlowe inside the plastic tub and then give her the activity so that the majority of the mess stays in the bin.

-Rice Bin:  Go the dollar store and get a bunch of bags of white rice!  Dump the rice into the bin and give your toddler all kinds of scooping and pouring devices (funnels, spoons, toilet paper rolls).  You can make the rice more fun by dying it different colors too! Also, you can have your little one search for objects in the rice by dumping out wood puzzles into it, cars, animal figurines...for Halloween I dumped a bunch of plastic spiders into the rice for Marlowe to fish out!  I've reused the same rice countless times!

-Bean Bin:  Same idea as the rice bin, but instead use dried beans!  I like giving Marlowe a muffin pan for her to scoop the beans into each section.

-Ice Play: Dump out a bunch of ice onto a cookie sheet, go outside, or in the tub, give baby a kid friendly hammer to crush the ice, or washable paint and a paintbrush to paint the ice is fun too! This exposes them to "cold", and makes for a good resource to teach that key word.

-Spice Bottle Smelling:  This one is for their little noses!  You know all those spices you have in your kitchen cabinet you never use?  Get a tray, put all the plastic spice bottles on the tray, and give it to your toddler.  First I let Marlowe explore them and she likes to look at them closely to see what's inside, shake them, and roll them.  Then, sit with your toddler and open each bottle one at a time and let your toddler smell them!  Talk about the smells!

-Contact Paper Activities:  Buy a roll of Contact Paper (you know the stuff you can line your kitchen drawers with! Get the clear version, with a sticky back!), and tape the contact paper to the wall or sliding glass door.  Give your baby light objects they can stick to the contact paper.  I like feathers, pieces of colored tissue paper, pom poms, and cotton balls.  You can make the activity fun by printing off an animal picture, putting it behind the clear contact paper, and tell your toddler to put the feathers on the bird/spots on the cow/wool on the sheep etc.  For Christmas, we did a Christmas tree and Marlowe had to put the ornaments (felt circles) on the tree!  Other ideas for contact paper include having them walk on the contact paper by sticking it to the floor so they feel the stickiness on their feet!

-Sensory Bags:  Take large ziplock bags, fill the insides with various things like paint, shaving cream, ice, oobleck (cornstarch and water), tape them down to the table or cookie sheet using painters tape, and let your toddler explore their textures WITHOUT the mess.

-Jello Play:
  This one you need to prepare ahead of time, but make a batch of jello, put blocks or various toys into the jello as it sets, and then let your toddler get messy by finding the toys in the jello!  You probably want to go in the tub or a large bin for this one!

Fine-Motor Activities

It's never too early to help your little one develop their fine-motor skills!  The best part is that most of the activities below require things you already have at home.  And stock up on those pom poms because they come in use ALL the time!

-Pom Pom Push:  Use any tupperware or shoe box with a lid, cut a hole in the top, and give your child a bowl of pom poms to push into the small hole.  I've seen versions where they decorate the hole to make it look like you are "feeding" an animal a pom pom too!  Mine is simple and boring, but Marlowe LOVES IT.

-Popsicle Stick Push:  Same idea as the pom pom push, but with popsicle sticks instead!  You can also use cotton balls, poker chips, or cut up straws.

-Pom-Pom Dropping:  Save those toilet paper rolls, wrapping paper rolls, and paper towel rolls!  Use blue painters tape to tape the rolls in whatever fashion you want to a wall and give your child a bowl of pom poms to drop into the hole.  Children this age like watching things fall!

-Card Slot Drop:  Get a Quaker Oats Container, cut a slit in the lid, get a deck of playing cards, and let baby drop each card into the slit!

-Egg Carton/Ice Cube Tray Sort: Keep an old egg carton, ice cube tray, OR muffin pan and model scooping a pom pom into each hole of the tray.  I give Marlowe large cooking spoons and she stays occupied for awhile! Plus it's great fine motor practice for eating with utensils!

Bath Activities
Sometimes bath time is a ton of fun, and other days bath time is a total fight.  I've finally figured out that I have to rotate the toys in the bath weekly so that bath times continues to be fun.  Here's some other ideas!

-Glow Stick Bath:  I save this one for nights when I'm just really tired, but turn out the lights in the bathroom, and crack open some glow sticks! It's like a party in the tub!

-Painting in the bath:  Use this recipe for tub safe paint (shaving cream and food coloring!). Let them get messy in there, and then wash it all away!

-Pom Pom Bath:  Again with the pom poms...just dump the bag into the bath, give your toddler a colander and a cooking spoon and they won't want to come out.

-Lego Bath:  Dump the box of mega sized legos into the bath. That's it.

-Give the Baby/Truck a Bath:  Buy a baby doll that is meant for water use (meaning it won't get moldy, and will dry quickly, without any holes for water to get in!), put the baby in the tub and show your little one how to wash the baby with a washcloth and soap! The same can work for washing cars, trucks, etc.

-Tupperware Bath:  Sometimes I take a whole shelf of Tupperware and dump it into the bath.  Boom. They will pour, dump water, and try putting lids on for a LONG time.

-Pool Noodle Bath:  Take a few cheap-o pool noodles from the dollar store, cut them into a bunch of smaller pieces, and dump the pool noodles into the bath.  Again, it's just something new for them to play with that is water safe and fun!

-Identify Body Parts:  I think the bath is the BEST place for babies to learn and identify their body parts.  Print or find flashcards with various body parts on them, hold one up while your baby is in the bath, and ask them to show you where it is. The key here is lots of praise when they get the part correct!

Book and Reading Activities

Toddlers at this age are capable of so much more than we think!  Read, read, and read with your child! Did you know the first stage of reading is just teaching a child how to hold a book right side up, and turn the pages from right to left?  You'd be surprised how many Kindergarteners don't know this when they first come to school!

-Post-it Note Peekaboo:  I think my teacher friends will laugh when they see this one.  I can't tell you how many teacher trainings I went to where the subject of using "post-it notes" during reading was taught.  So, I thought about how I could use them with Marlowe too!  Toddler's at this age LOVE peek-a-boo books or lift the flap books.  Take your post-it note and cover up some pictures in your child's favorite books.  Voila! Now you have a lift-the-flap book!

-Matching Animals:  For this one, you need to find a good ole book with animals in it (here's my favorite).  I'm sure you have one already if you have a baby.  Then get some animal figurines, and have your baby match the figurine to the picture.  You can open a page and say, "Let's find the giraffe!" and then model how to put the giraffe figurine on the picture of the giraffe in the book. This is soooo great for learning animals.

-Question and Point:  This stage of reading is mostly about identifying objects in books.  Marlowe loves getting a book she's read a hundred times, sitting on my lap, and me asking her to find something in the book or on the page.  For example, I say, "Where's the horse?" and she points to the horse, and then I tell her how amazing she is, and maybe ask another question such as, "What sound does a horse make?" Easy peasy.
Magnet Play

For these activities, get all your magnets from the fridge, your paper clips, or purchase a few sets of magnets.  Letter magnets are great (although it's too early for letters, you'll use them later), and Melissa and Doug makes a really nice set of animal magnets.  The goal here is to let your toddler explore magnetism.

-Cookie Sheet: I often just get a bag of magnets (usually the animal ones above!), put down a cookie sheet, and let Marlowe stick each animal magnet on the cookie sheet.  Then we talk about the sounds the animals make and search and find the animals.  She loves taking them off the sheet, and putting them back on.

-Refrigerator Transfer: Again, give your child a bowl of magnets, and let him/her stick each one to the fridge.  Then watch as they take each magnet off and put it back on again.

-Magnet Wand:  On Amazon, they sell these really cool magnet wands (they are actually used for bingo chips!).  This one is great for dumping out paper clips and letting your little one play with the wand and the paper clips on a tray! Great exploration here!


I know so many moms out there that are so afraid of paint at this age! If that's you, don't be afraid, painting is a ton of fun for them!  Some words of advice though, make sure you strip them down to their diaper because even if the paint is washable, that doesn't necessarily mean it will come out of clothes.  Learned the hard way.  If you can, paint outside.  Also, have the wipes ready for clean up when they are done!  My last word of advice is to tell them how great their work is and put it on the fridge!  For Marlowe's very first painting on paper, we hung it on the fridge and she literally would pull anyone new who came to the door and show them her painting.  She was SO proud.

-Paint Objects:  Obviously you can just have them paint on paper, and I suggest starting there, but when that gets old, paint other objects!  They can paint rocks from outside, a leaf, wooden blocks, toy cars (and then throw them in the bath with them later for them to wash!), a pumpkin during fall, pinecones during winter etc etc.

-Dot Paint:  This is a way less messy version of painting and totally fun!  Just buy this dot marker paint, and let them make dots all over the paper!

-Paint with Water:  Get construction paper, some water, and paintbrushes, and they can paint the construction paper using water! They love it, and I love that there's virtually no mess.

Crafting Activities

Pull out that box of crafts and let your little one try whatever you have in there!  Coloring and crayons are the easiest choice here, and at this age you will have more than a few moments of accidental eating of the crayons...

-Sticker Transfer:  This one is easy, put stickers on anything and everything.  I always grab the pack of dollar stickers found in the dollar section at Target, and the Dollar Store has a whole aisle of stickers as well.  If Marlowe is ever quiet, it's because she's busy with a pack of stickers.  It literally only took a few times to show her how to peel a sticker off, and then we've been able to stick stickers on paper taped to a wall, the dog, our face etc.  Just kidding about the dog...ok not really. Stickers are my go-to when I'm in the shower because it never gets old.

-Decorate a Box:  You know those huge Amazon boxes that you usually just throw away?  Keep it!  Stick your toddler INSIDE the box with a tub of crafty items!  Let them color, use markers (take off the lids), and put stickers ALL over that box!  When they are done, throw it in the garage and pull it out another day for them to decorate again!

Gross-Motor Activities

Most toddlers will learn to walk at some point during this age, if not sooner.  Once they can walk, feel free to challenge them with some gross-motor activities!

-Laundry Basket Kick:  Set up a laundry basket on it's side, get a few balls, and show your toddler how to kick the ball into the basket!

-Throw the Ball:  Before 12 months, you can roll the ball back and forth with baby, but try taking it a step up by practicing throwing.  You can throw back and forth, aim at an object, or use the laundry basket like above and try throwing into the basket!

-Pool Noodle Balance Beam:  This one's pretty easy too, get a pool noodle, put it on the floor, and hold your child's hand while they practice walking on the pool noodle and "balancing".

-XL Exercise Ball Play:  If you have one of those big exercise balls, let your toddler have at it!  They can push it, roll it, or try kicking it.

Flashcard Activities

Again, go to the dollar store and buy a pack of flashcards with pictures on them! I also really love the Seek-A-Boo game I've referenced before.

-Search and Find:  Put a small amount of flashcards face down and tell your toddler to find a certain picture.  Marlowe likes to pick it up and bring it to me.  Make a big deal when they find what you asked them to!

-Flashcards in Envelopes:  Put flash cards in plain envelopes.  Give them a stack of envelopes that already have the flash cards in it, and watch as they sit there and take every flash card out of each envelope.  Then show them how to put it back in the envelope!

-Matching:  Match a real object to the picture on the flashcard.  Get a tub of objects from around the house that go with the picture on the flashcard and sit with your little one as you match each one and talk about it.

-Family Pictures:  Glue pictures of familiar people on an index card.  For example, you can glue pictures of daddy, grandma, the dog...etc. I guarantee this will be a hit.  I say, "Who is this?", and Marlowe can now tell me who each person is on each index card.

Imaginative Play

During this age, children begin to have imaginative play where they are able to take fake objects and use them as if they are real.  The biggest thing here is to play WITH them initially, and help encourage their play.

-Take care of a Baby/Stuffed Animal:  Little kids want to take care of things and pretend they are the "big kid".  Show your toddler how to take care of a baby doll/animal.  Marlowe likes to pretend feed her baby (I give her spoons and fake food), put diapers on baby, put baby in the stroller, and loooooves wrapping baby up in a blanket and carrying her around.

-Play Food/Grocery Cart:  Play food is great for teaching this age to identify food!  Get a fun little grocery cart, a play kitchen, or some shelves and let them go shopping or cook some food.

-Spray Bottle/Wipe:  Tell your child you want them to help you clean and fill a spray bottle with some water.  Show them how to spray it themselves, and then give them a cloth or paper towel and let them wipe up what they sprayed!  Marlowe likes to spray the sliding glass door and then wipe it up!  This is also a great activity for when you are actually cleaning and need something for them to do.

Outdoor Activities
Sometimes you just need to get outside and get some fresh air!  Here's a few of our favorite things to do to in the neighborhood!

-Nature Walk: Bring a basket for your toddler to hold and encourage him/her to find things to put in the basket.  Find rocks, pinecones, leaves, flowers, and twigs.  Talk about each one, and bring it home.  You can tape each item to a piece of paper and stick it on the fridge for them to see and talk about the items whenever you get the chance!

-Push Baby in a Stroller:  For this one, you need a play stroller, but it's pretty self explanatory.  Stick a baby doll, or stuffed animal in the little stroller, and let your toddler push that baby outside until they are tired!  Marlowe likes to push it all the way to the park, and then make me carry her AND the doll stroller home. Every. Single. Time.

-Water the Plants:  Probably Marlowe's favorite outdoor activity, because she LOVES water.  Turn on the hose and let them water all the plants in the backyard!  Don't have a backyard?  Then get a little watering can and let them water the plants in the neighborhood.

Other Activities

-Smell the Flowers:  This one seems dumb, but little kids like flowers.  Go to Trader Joe's and buy those bouquets of cheap flowers, put the flowers on a tray, and just let your toddler explore them.  They can smell them, pick the petals, sort them, water them.  Whatever floats their boat. Trust me it works.

-Foam Letter Play:  You know those foam letters or shapes you usually use in the bath?  Take them out of the bath, bring them to a window or sliding glass door, put them in a bowl with a little water, and show your toddler how to stick them to the glass! Somehow those foam bath toys become new again.

Now, go get to playing!

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