20 fun activities for a toddler (12-18 months)

 

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1. Make a sorter with ping pong balls and a yogurt container.

You can really create sorters from anything, but these ping pong balls are so colorful and bright, that I decided they would be perfect for sorting. Cut out an opening in a container slightly larger than the size of a ping pong ball(it’s hard to see an opening in this picture since the lid is clear). A toddler’s task is to get a ball in the container using ice cream scoop. Younger toddlers can use their hands instead of a scoop. Great for development of hand eye coordination.

 

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2. Throw ping pong balls into a box.

This is another activity that we do with these ping pong balls. The goal is to get balls inside a box. We have been using our cardboard house for this purpose but any box would work. This was a success because our toddler loves to throw stuff. Great for hand eye coordination, gross motor skills and fun for the whole family!

 

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 3. Search for animals in a tray of tissue paper.

Tear up tissue paper into small pieces and hide animals underneath. When your toddler finds each one, you get to repeat animal names and sounds or do a tickle attack by each animal. This is a great sensory activity and it helps language development if you talk about items you find. We used to play with these animal sets: Animal Planet Farm Bucket because they are not expensive for the set and we liked the size of animal toys, and later on we got Schleich animals – they are more expensive but their quality is just so great and they look very similar to how real animals look.

 

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4. Paint with water on construction paper.

All you need is construction paper and water –  the easiest set up and cleanup. Our toddler likes to use a brush, but some kids prefer to paint with fingers or sponges. Great for development of creativity, sensory awareness, fine motors skills.

 

sticky notes

5. Sticky note peek-a-boo

A book can become suddenly more interesting when you add sticky notes to it. It works especially good with this book First 100 Words Board Book because every page is split into sections and has a variety of pictures and words to learn. Just add sticky notes to create flaps. A toddler can interact with a book now by either lifting flaps or taking them off. Scarlett gets excited when she takes the sticky note off to discover the picture underneath, and we get to learn new words.

 

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Tissue boxes are perfect for sorting activities because it’s easy to get things out of them through the tissue feeder. Draw a face on it, and make an opening in the mouth area and you got a pet to feed. We feed pets with pasta. If your toddler is putting everything in the mouth, you can substitute raw pasta with blueberries or Cheerios – that way everyone gets to eat.

 

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7. Play with colored rice.

There are so many ways to play with colored rice. You can read details in my article about 12 ways to play with colored rice.

 

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8. Draw on a cream of wheat.

Little artists can express themselves by drawing on a layer of cream of wheat on a tray. Besides drawing with fingers, you can also show your toddler how to draw with a q-tip or a craft stick. Cookie cutters can also be used for leaving shape marks.

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9. Hide a toy under a blanket.

This activity is so easy, it can be played any time, and is always a hit. I hide a toy underneath a tablecloth/sheet and my toddler is trying to find it. When she finds it, i hide another one, so this activity can last as long as you want it to. Scarlett loves it so much, she would bring me a tablecloth all the time to show that she wants to play.

 

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 10. Feed an animal with pom poms.

It’s good to use different sensory materials for sorting purposes so kids can learn to handle different types of objects. PomPoms are great for sorting because besides practicing pincer grip, a child also has to push them through the opening in a sorter. We made a sorter with a tissue box, but any container can be used as long as you cut an opening about the size of the pom poms.


 

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11. Make a cardboard house.

Boxes are very valuable when you have a toddler around. Convert it into a house by cutting out windows and a door. You can read a detailed description about 6 ways how we play in a cardboard house here.

 

Poke a dot book

12. Play with poke-a-dot book

I just can’t recommend enough this book. I saw it at a friend’s house and Scarlett would not stop playing with it so I had to get one of our own. Each page of the book has raised buttons that pop when you press them. It’s such a fun way for kids to practice fine motor skills. We also count how many buttons she pops on every page. I just wish I found out earlier about this book because it’s one of a few things that keeps her attention and gives me a little break.

 

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 13. Ice pops sensory play.

This is a great activity for educating young senses. It can introduce toddlers to a concept of cold/frozen, they can learn about colors, length, shape. This can be a great vocabulary lesson if you talk about these qualities of ice pops. As children learn to connect words with objects, the world takes on a new meaning for them.

 

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14. Scotch tape toys for a toddler to take off.

This activity is great for practicing pincer grip and fine motor skills. Tape a few toys to a table or a tray and have your toddler take them off.

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15. Walk on sensory bags.

Old baby socks can be turned into sensory bags. Fill them with beans, rice, pasta, cream of wheat, flour or any other grains. Your toddler can enjoy playing with them, touching them, hiding them in boxes or walking on them.

 

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16. Blowing activities.

Blowing activities are very important for the development of oral motor skills as they teach the muscles to move in the right way. These skills are very helpful for speech development. Oral motor skill exercises help develop strong and mobile articulators (lips, cheeks, jaw and tongue). The ability to blow is essential for sound production. Here are some activities that help develop those skills:

  • Blowing bubbles. We found these really cool no-spill bubbles Fubbles that are appropriate for this age.
  • Blowing a whistle, there are some cute ones, like Cute Crocodile Whistle
  • Blowing cotton balls or pieces of tissue paper from your palm
  • Blow in a straw in a cup of water to make bubbles
  • Blow Lip Whistles
  • Blow on a paper butterfly on a string to make it fly.
  • Play a recorder

Be careful to only do these activities for a little bit at a time since blowing for extensive period can make a person dizzy.

Benefits: learning to coordinate lips, cheeks and jaw, increased speech sound variety and improved speech clarity.

 

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17. Play with a hide and seek board.

This board has been a hit for us. Scarlett loves to open little doors and discover an animal there. We learn animal names and animal sounds like that, and it’s also a great memory game. I was surprised to find out that she remembers where each animal lives. Great for memory development, fine motor skills and language development.

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18. Put on paper towel circles onto paper towel holder

Cut paper towel roll or toilet paper roll into smaller circles, and show your toddler how to put it on a paper towel holder or a stacking tower holder. Plastic cookie cutters can be used for stacking as well.

 

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19. Water play

Probably all kids like to play with water. I don’t add coloring to the water because Scarlett plays with cups in the water and sometimes would drink it, which is a great self care skill. We also add small plates to put animals there to float, and we like to play with Stacking Cups and watch water go through the openings on the bottom of cups.

 

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20. Match lids to bottles.

This is an easy to set up activity that your toddler would probably like. All you need is a couple of empty plastic bottles and lids. It’s tough for little hands to put a lid on a bottle, they might need a lot of practice. It gets more challenging when there are lids of different sizes and they need to pick the right one.
Benefits: development of fine motor skills, grasping and shape and size recognition.

65 Development-Promoting And Fun Activities for 12-18 month olds e-book
If you like these activities, check out my e-book 65 Development-Promoting and Fun Activities for 12-18 Month Olds . It includes most of the activities in this article plus many others that were tested on my toddler.

 
 

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16 thoughts on “20 fun activities for a toddler (12-18 months)”

  1. This article was so helpful, I feel like I have done every activity with my daughter and shes only 18 months so im glad I came upon this! I love the fact that everything is cheap, not very messy, and most of all that they all have some sort of reasoning behind them. Thank you and keep up the good work! 🙂

  2. This is Great! I work from home, and my daughter has been addicted to my phone(shame) These activities look like they would be a hit for her.. she’s gotten so busy lately! it’s a good thing, but i was ill-prepared.

  3. I love these ideas but with most of them I’m thinking “That would go in the mouth immediately” Does your daughter not try to put everything in her mouth? Especially the colored rice worries me but looks so fun. Any ideas for mouthing everything?
    Also, do you only do one of these activities/trays a day? Or do you continuously get out a tray when she’s bored with it?
    I’m wanting to get better at giving only one activity instead of having tons of toys strewn out, but my son gets bored pretty quickly and wants to move on to the next thing.
    Thanks!

    1. Scarlett goes through periods when she doesn’t put things in her mouth and then she suddenly starts to. I’m usually next to her when we do these activities and if I see her trying to sneak something in her mouth, that activity is stopped right away. She hasn’t tried to put colored rice in her mouth, but she would occasionally try to eat raw pasta, so I substitute feeding the cat activity with Cheerios or blueberries.
      Looks like you already read my post about Daily Toy Rotation – I rotate activities between 7 days of the week, so she would not get tired of them. I’ll respond the rest there 🙂

  4. These look fun and very little mess. I have an 18 month old granddaughter and i cant wait to do some different things with her. She seems bored with all the toys she has now. I tried to click th link for the 7 day toy rotation but it says there is no site

    1. I really hope your granddaughter likes some of them! And thank you for telling me about the not working link, I just fixed it.

  5. I love your ideas and look forward to trying them! One comment I do have to make as a licensed speech language pathologist is that research has shown that non-speech oral motor activities are actually not beneficial for developing good speech articulation. To benefit actual speech sound production, you need to practice speaking tasks. A great way to work on speech sounds with children in this age range is making animal sounds and other environmental and silly sounds such as trucks and trains, saying “uh-oh” “beep beep” and “pop” and other simple sounds and words. Thanks again for your fun post.

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