59 Fun 1 Year Old Development Activities To Engage Toddlers

After celebrating his or her first birthday, your little one is entering the exciting new phase of todderhood.  And life for you is about to get even busier! 

You’re probably wondering how to keep those busy hands engaged and contain all that energy. 

These 1 year old development activities will do exactly that. 

Not only will they cater to your child’s new and ever-developing skill set, they’ll be entertained and kept a little bit out of mischief.

From fine motor and baby brain development activities to language, social and self-help development activities, you’ll find them all here.

And stress not, these 1 year old development activities are simple to set up and faciliate.  Fun too.

By the end of this post, you’ll be fueled with inspiration to encourage your child’s development at around the 1 year old mark with easy play and activity ideas.

This post contains affiliate links. If you click on one and make a purchase, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you.

What should a 1 year old be learning?

A typical 1 year old should be learning and working on a broad range of skills, from fine and gross motor, communication, social and emotional to cognitive and self-sufficiency skills.

  • Gross motor: crawling, pulling up to standing, cruising and taking first steps
  • Cognitive: beginning to understand cause and effect, able to recognise familiar objects and people
  • Fine motor: able to grasp and manipulate objects with their hands
  • Communication: beginning to understand simple phrases, attempting simple words, using gestures
  • Socio emotional development: learning to interact with others, developing empathy
  • Self-help: learning to feed themselves, use a sippy cup 
  • Early literacy: enjoying board books and pointing at pictures

What is the best way to teach a 1 year old?

The best way to teach a 1 year old is to offer them a wide variety of activities and play opportunities. Exploring their surroundings and playing with new materials and concepts is the most efficient and engaging way for kids to learn.  

By interacting with their environment, your young toddler will learn why things work in the way they do and experience new sensations.  All while developing their gross and fine motor skills.  

Children also pick up on new skills by observing others’ actions and mimicking them.  Observing and interacting with others will also help your 1 year old to develop important language, social and self-help skills.

How much focus should a 1 year old have?

A younger 1 year old should be able to focus for approximately two to three minutes, while an older 1 year old (closer to their second birthday) should be able to focus a little longer, up to around six minutes. 


The process of developing thinking and reasoning abilities is known as cognitive development.  

What cognitive skills should a 1 year old have?

Here are some of the cognitive skills that a one-year-old should be developing:

  • Problem-solving: e.g. How can I reach that toy? I need to try and push that chair out of the way. 
  • Ability to follow simple directions, such as, “Go to Daddy!”
  • Sorting and matching items by simple characteristics like color
  • Memory – allowing them to remember familiar faces and objects
  • Cause-and-effect and “if/then” thinking, such as “If I tip this toy over, then it will fall over.”
  • Imitation i.e. learning by copying, such as waving, clapping, pointing

Cognitive development activities for 1 year olds (baby brain activities)

Cognitive growth is constantly unfolding within your child’s brain, so it’s important to facilitate enriching baby brain development activities for your 1 year old.

These activities will test and help develop several different cognitive skills.  Plenty have a tactile element too and will help to develop your child’s sense of touch as well as they’re creativity.

For supplies and materials for these activities, check out our recommended product list.

1. Elastic Ball Box

To create this elastic ball sorting box, you will need a small or medium cardboard box, approximately shoebox-sized. Cut out the sides of the box and stretch rubber bands around it.   

I found that the elastic bands I had fitted nicely across the width of the box.  For the longer distance I looped elastic bands together and tied them in a knot at the back.  

Stuff the box with balls or other small toys, then allow your child to pull them out and put them back in. 

This 1 year old development activity is great for problem-solving, patience, persistence, and making predictions/observations.  My twins, one pictured above, absolutely loved it.  

2. DIY Sensory Lids 

Save any lids you may have from containers around your house, such as formula, ice cream, and yogurt containers. You’re going to repurpose these lids for this DIY sensory lids activity. Once you’ve collected the lids, find any sensory craft materials, and secure them to each lid using glue. 

You can make them color-coordinated or texture based…Anything will work for this 1 year old development activity. Some examples of materials include feathers, dried rice/corn, ribbon, craft poms, and more.

3. Pom Transfer Activity 

For this pom transfer activity, you will need a muffin tin, craft poms, and tongs or scoopers to transfer the craft poms from one compartment to another. 

Begin by placing pom poms into each muffin tin compartment and allow your child to scoop and pluck the poms and move them around.

You can encourage them to sort by color and work on color matching.  Or simply let them play.


4. Building & Knocking Down Towers 

Here’s another simple cognitive development activity for 1 year olds that works to develop their understanding of cause-and-effect reasoning.

What happens when you swipe a tower with your hand? It falls down!

Simply provide blocks or other building toy pieces and demonstrate to your child how to build towers. You likely won’t have to teach them how to knock it down.  Their curiosity will guide them!

5. Magnatiles on a Vertical Surface

Provide your child with Magnatiles or other magnetic toys and let them play with them on a vertical metal surface.  If you have a built in fridge, like we do, try a metal kitchen bin or garage door. 

In this 1 year old development activity, your little one’s understanding of spatial relationships will grow as they experiment with sticking the tiles on, moving around and taking them off again.

6. Light Table Sensory Bin

Facilitating a light table sensory activity for your 1 year old will be so enriching for your child’s cognitive development.  Your child will be making connections and problem-solving throughout this visual sensory play.

The photo from And Next Comes L depicts a winter-themed sensory bin using a light table.  But you could adapt it to any season, holiday, or topic.

If your little one loves putting things in their mouth, of course, you’ll need to watch them like a hawk.  Or simply use taste-safe materials in the sensory bin, such as oats or Cheerios.


7. Color Bath 

This color bath activity is a super simple 1 year old development activity that’ll be so engaging. This is a great one to do at bath time in the winter months but why not make it an activity for outside when it’s warmer?

Simply add items of a certain color to create a color-themed bath and dye the water with bath drops to enhance their play. 

8. Painting Ice Cubes   

Here’s a fun cognitive development activity for 1 year olds in the warmer months.

To paint ice cubes simply place ice cubes in a container, and provide your child with washable tempera paint and paintbrushes (optional). 

This activity helps develop cause-and-effect thinking. Your 1 year old will be able to see what happens when ice is exposed to room-temperature air, and how the colors and texture changes.  They’re be excited to watch their creation evolve as they work.

They may be happier to play and experiment with their hands, rather than using a brush.  You could also provide a large cardboard canvas for them to finger paint onto.


9. Ball Ramp 

A DIY ball ramp is super easy to set up and will provide so much fun for your young toddler. All you need are balls and a cardboard sheet or plank of wood for the ramp. 

You could add a tub or basket to catch the balls in, but my 1 year old twins were far too entertained by rolling the ball down to care where they went!

Experiment with different sizes of ramps and different sloped inclines to extend the fun.

This 1 year old development activity works on your child’s sequential understanding, that processes work in a particular order. 

As well as their ability to engage in cause-and-effect reasoning: “If I drop the ball at the top of the ramp, then it will roll down to the bottom of the ramp!”


posting toys into a bottle easy toddler activity for at home

10. Posting toy cars into a large bottle

What happens when I shove something through this hole?  “Posting” objects is such a fun cognitive development activity that toddlers never get bored of!

Pictured is my eldest daughter when she was just over a 1 year old posting toy cars into an empty 5 litre water bottle. But you could adjust this to suit what you have to hand. 

We’ve also cut holes into the lid of a formula tin just big enough to fit bottle lids through…the possibilities are endless!

11. Fruit Loop Sorting 

Put a yummy twist on cognitive matching with this Fruit Loop sorting activity. All you need are Fruit Loops and a means of sorting.  You can use the sorting chart pictured, just click the link for the free printable.

Alternatively, colored cups, bowls plates or even some colored construction paper would work. 

You may find your 1 year old is more interested in eating them!  Or crunching them in their hands or crushing them with their feet and playing with the fruit loops in a sensory way.

That’s ok too!

12. Contact Paper Sticky Wall

Cut a large sheet of contact paper and attach it to the wall with painter’s tap, sticky side out.  Let your 1 year old explore and play with this fun new surface. 

Show them how they can stick items like feathers, wrapping paper and tissue paper to the sticky paper.  Supply them with some baby-friendly materials to experiment with.

Which will stick, which won’t? How long before things fall off?

Another fun and simple baby brain development activity that’ll keep your little one engaged.

13. Rainbow Ice Ball Sensory Bin 

This rainbow ice ball activity would be a fun way to cool down on a hot summer day. 

To facilitate this development activity for your 1 year old, you’ll need an ice ball mold, liquid watercolors (or food coloring), a mini funnel, and water. Once everything is prepared and situated, provide tongs or any other tools for your child to explore and play with.

This activity works to develop your child’s grasp on cause-and-effect reasoning as well as problem-solving skills, both essential cognitive concepts. As they observe the multicolor ice melting and changing shapes, these concepts will be strengthened.

Another fun activity that provides an interesting sensory experience too.

Check the comprehensive tutorial from Craftulate linked above for the full details. 


Fine motor skills refer to the ability to use small muscles in the hands and fingers to perform precise movements.  Here are some examples of the the things they’ll be able to do around the 1 year mark:

  • Pincer grasp: the ability to pick up small objects between their thumb and forefinger.
  • Scribbling and making marks with crayons on a piece of paper
  • Stacking blocks, which requires fine motor control to manipulate the blocks and hand-eye coordination to stack them
  • Turning the pages in books
  • Exploring containers and other household items: taking lids on and off plastic containers, screwing and unscrewing tops off bottles, zipping and unzipping…

1 year old fine motor development activities

Here are some 1 year old development activities that’ll facilitate important fine motor skills.  Most are simple to set-up and minimal mess too.  

For supplies and materials for these activities, check out our recommended product list.

14. Toddler Tinker Tray 

Tinker trays require constant parent supervision but are so beneficial to your child’s fine motor development. Tinkering with smaller items refines your child’s smaller muscles in their hands and wrists. 

For this toddler tinker tray, simply provide a compartmentalized tray filled with items of varying textures and colors in each compartment. Theming the tray, as pictured, is optional. 

Ideas of materials to add to the tray are clothespins, craft poms, natural materials (rocks, sticks), scraps of ribbon or paper, pipe cleaners etc.  Add any other items and materials you have to hand that’ll be interesting and safe for your 1 year old to explore. 

You could also pair this tinker tray with play dough or sand to extend play.

15. Dyed Spaghetti Sensory Bin 

Who knew that colorful spaghetti could provide such a fun development activity for your 1 year old?

You can facilitate play with this exciting new texture in a variety of ways. The most popular way is to put it in a sensory bin or use a sensory table. Your child’s fine motor skills will be strengthened as they manipulate the slippery spaghetti. 

They’ll love squishing, pulling, mixing it as they play.  And they’re sure to want to try tasting it too!  But don’t worry, it’s taste-safe. 

The tutorial from Two Pink Peonies will show you how to dye spaghetti for the sensory bin. 

16. Playing with Sponges and Water

This is such a fun activity for a hot summer day! Your child will surely enjoy playing with sponges and water.  Squeezing the sponges will help develop strength in their fingers.

They’ll also enjoy watching how the water drips off, dropping them, throwing them…the possibilities are endless.

Simply provide them with a sensory bin or baby pool with a small amount of water outside or try this at bathtime.  Let your 1 year old explore and play however they desire.

17. Finger paint on a coffee filter

A coffee filter, some non-toxic paint and your 1 year olds fingers are the main ingrediennts for this adorable keepsake. 

Once it dries, pinch the coffee filter in the middle, fasten a pipe cleaner around the middle, and leave a little extra pipe cleaner sticking up on top to create antennas. Now, you have made a butterfly. These will look really pretty hung on a window, with the sunlight peaking through.

Check out the tutorial from Honey and Lime for step-by-step photos.

18. Playing with Edible Playdough

From fine motor skill development to the therapeutic aspects, playing with playdough has so many incredible benefits for young children. It’s an ideal development activity for 1 year olds. 

However, store-bought playdough is normally not safe to eat and therefore a no-go for young toddlers that love to explore materials in their mouth.  So try this edible playdough and take the worry out of play. 

You’ll only need two ingredients: store-bought frosting (1 part) and powdered sugar (2.5 parts).  1 cup of frosting and 2.5 cups of powdered sugar will give you a good amount.  You can either buy pre-colored frosting or add food coloring to white frosting.

Pair the playdough with tools for your 1 year old to explore or simply let them enjoy squishing, smushing, molding and, no doubt, eating this new material!

19. Cheerios Fine Motor Snack Activity

Simply provide your child with Cheerios and a wooden skewer for this simple stacking development activity.

Show your child how to successfully string the Cheerios one by one and they’ll be sure to take your lead. 

20. Frozen Shaving Cream Sensory Play 

For this frozen shaving cream activity by Learn Play Imagine, you’ll need shaving cream, liquid washable paint or food coloring, glitter, water, an ice cube tray (or ice cubes from your ice maker), and a tub to contain the mess.

As your child watches the ice melt throughout the activity, they will deepen their understanding of cause-and-effect and problem-solving.  

Furthermore, they’ll develop their fine motor skills as they use their fingers to play in and manipulate the shaving cream. This will strengthen the small muscles in their fingers and hands which is imperative for fine motor development.


21. Oats Sensory Bin 

This oats sensory bin is an easy development activity to prepare and facilitate for your 1 year old. It’s a good example of dry messy play and it’s great for open-ended play. 

Simply provide the materials and let them experiment and explore as they wish. 

Adding an egg carton and spoon will make it fun for your child to scoop and pour, refining their hand and wrist muscles in the process.  But you can also add in other materials, containers and tools to extend the fun.

A favorite in our house is an old muffin tin! It never seems to get boring and is constantly brought out for all sorts of play and activities. It’d work really well in addition or in place of the egg box.

22. Edible Yogurt Finger Paint 

Finger painting is a fun, if not messy, activity to facilitate.  For this edible yogurt finger paint all you need is yogurt and food coloring. That’s it!

The vibrancy of the paint color will depend on how many drops of coloring you add. 

You could also involve your child in stirring in the colors to create the paint. They’ll love watching the colors emerge.

You can do this activity with your child in their high chair to try and contain the mess, but be prepared for a bit of clean up.

Don your 1 year old in some old clothes or cover them up well in a painting jacket and have plenty of warm soapy water ready for clean up.  

23. Playing with Clothespins

Pictured is a dinosaur-matching clothespin activity but you can simplify this for a 1 year old. They’ll be engaged and entertained simply by attempting to clip a clothespin onto a piece of stiff cardstock.

This’ll be excellent for your child’s cognitive growth as well as their fine motor skill development. As they press and clamp down on the clothespins, the muscles in their hands and wrists become stronger.

Once they’re a little older you can revisit this fun development activity to include the color matching element.

24. Toy Character Rescue 

This rescue activity is so simple and fun for all ages. Simply attach figurines or toy animals to the side of the fridge with masking/painters tape, as pictured. You could also use a tabletop, the high chair tray or a dry-erase board to tape the toys to.

Your child will enjoy “rescuing” each one by peeling off strips of tape, one by one.

25. Exploring Sensory Bags 

Sensory bags provide your child with hands-on sensory exploration in a mess-free way. 

To make one, simply fill an empty bottle or resealable plastic bag with water or a thicker liquid such as hair gel or paint, and add interesting items for your child to explore. 

Water beads, unsafe for a young toddler, also work really well in a sensory bag.  The one pictured kept my nearly 1 year old entertained at the high chair while I cleaned up the kitchen one day. 

It made for a lovely simple Easter-themed sensory activity – see how they look a little like Easter eggs?! 

26. Spaghetti threading

Look at the concentration on my daughters face! She really enjoyed this simple development activity and it kept her busy for quite some time.

In the process she was really having to work hard to get the uncooked spaghetti through the colander holes.  A good test of concentration, perseverance, coordination and fine motor movement.

playing with DIY twist top board

27. Twist-top boards

If your 1 year old loves to explore with bottles and bottle tops they’re going to love this homemade twist-top board. It’s a great way to upcycle all those squeeze pouch lids but you can use any plastic bottles or cartons with a screw lid.

All you need is a hot glue-gun and an old chopping board or piece of wood.

For more sensory activities and simple crafts to aid fine motor development try:


Gross motor skills refer to the ability to control large muscles and movements, such as crawling, walking, and jumping. At a year old, physical development is booming!

1 year olds are normally proficient crawlers. In addition, you may observe the following new skills:

  • Pulling up to stand using furniture or other objects for support
  • Taking their first steps – although waiting several months after their first birthday for this milestone is not uncommon
  • Climbing, for example, experimenting with navigating up and down stairs, onto the sofa etc
  • Attempting to jump by bouncing up and down 
  • Throwing, or attempting to throw, a ball

Indoor physical activities for 1 year olds

Your 1 year old needs a safe and stimulating environment that encourages movement and exploration. Plus, they also need to get their energy out!

But what if it’s raining or too cold for outdoor play? Here are some indoor physical activities for 1 year olds.

For supplies and materials for these activities, check out our recommended product list.

26. DIY Ball Drop Box

All you’ll need for this DIY ball drop activity is a cardboard box and play balls. Save a diaper box or large cardboard box and cut out a few holes on the top. Then cut a slot at the bottom. 

Your child will love feeding the balls through the holes, watching them fall and collecting them at the bottom to start all over again. It’s a wonderfully entertaining 1 year old development activity that’ll get your child moving their body in a variety of ways.


27. Sweep Up the Leaves  

You can alter or cater this leaf-sweeping activity’s theme to your child’s current interests or any season or holiday that’s upcoming.

Spread some faux leaves or seasonal faux flowers/shrubbery on the floor and provide your 1  year old with a child-size broom,  If they’ve seen you sweeping the kitchen floor a thousand times (which they probably will have) they’re sure to know what to do!

Their balance capability will be tested and strengthened through this simple activity for babies and young toddlers. 

28. Walk Like An Animal Game

Here’s a fun and fairly self-explanatory physical development activity for 1 year olds.  In this animal walking game, your child will enjoy experimenting with many exciting movements such as hopping like a frog, slithering like a snake, swinging like a monkey, and more! 

You can print off pictures of animals or find them in a book to refer to. Or simply just talk about the animals and demonstrate their movements.  A few animal sounds would make it fun too!

29. Play With A Cardboard Box

A cardboard box can provide endless play opportunities for your 1 year old.  What am I saying?! My 6 year old still loves a good bit of cardboard box play (that’s her pictured many moons ago).

They’re great for getting young children moving.  Cut doors and windows and let them crawl through it, peer through the windows, take their toys in, play peekaboo and so on. This is a fantastic physical activity for 1 year olds that can entertain for ages for several days in a row.  

You can also encourage them to draw on it with crayons or decorate it with stickers, advancing their fine motor skills too.

30. Play Silks

Play silks (also known as dance scarves) are so versatile for play. Your child can simply play and move with them however they desire. Play silks are a great addition to a young kids birthday party

They’re also a worthy investment for the toddler and preschooler years ahead as they can incorporate them into all sorts of pretend play scenarios.

Playing with the ball wall & Indoor gross motor activities for toddlers

31. Ball Wall

Here’s another fun physical activity for 1 year olds that’ll make them reach up onto tippy toes, testing their balance and gross motor coordination. 

Stick plastic balls to the wall, by using painters tape folded over onto itself to create a sticky loop.  Stick them just in reach, to ensure your young toddler is has to really stretch to get them down.

You could extend this activity by placing a bucket or basket the other side of the room for your 1 year old to put the ball in. But they’ll probably be more interested in grabbing them and throwing them down – least that’s what mine did!

32. Action Songs

Action songs are a fun way to promote physical development in 1 year olds.  They may have to clap, attempt to jump, touch their toes, spin and more. 

These actions help improve physical skills, coordination, and balance. 

In addition, through repetitive words and actions, your 1 year old will be learning new words and concepts, improving their memory and attention skills,

33. Texture Walk or Crawl

Provide multiple different textures and materials for your child to safely walk on and experience.

Bubble wrap and corrugated cardboard (pictured) are good places to start, but you could make it even more interesting with messier textures, like shaving cream or small bins filled with oats or uncooked rice to stomp in.

Outdoor physical activities for 1 year olds

Playing outside means fresh air, more space and less worry about getting the house messy! It’s also perfect to develop important gross motor skills.

Try these outdoor physical activities with your 1 year old in the warm and/or drier months.

34. Playing with Bubbles

Playing with bubbles is such an exciting favorite childhood pastime.   Your 1 year old will love following the bubbles and trying to pop them.  

35. Play with a Ball

There are many open-ended ways to play with a ball.  This 1 year old development activity is simple, just let your little one take the lead. Demonstrate how to kick the ball and your little one is sure to copy and then try their own thing.  

You could also try some gentle throw and catch between the two of you or encourage your 1 year old to throw into a cardboard box or bucket. 

To avoid having to go too far to fetch the ball (lovely bouncy ones tend to go a long way when thrown!) make some homemade balls out of scrunched up newspaper.

36. Play in the sprinkler

Summertime is perfect for sprinkler fun.  Crawling and walking through the sprinkler will help strengthen balance and coordination while they cool off on a hot day.

If they want to try and avoid getting wet, they’ll have to figure that out, putting their problem-solving skills to the test.


37. DIY Washable Sidewalk Chalk Paint    

Painting and exploring with homemade sidewalk chalk paint will be a fun 1 year old development activity to try outside. Don’t worry the chalk paint is easy to clean off the driveway. 

To make it you need cornstarch, baking soda, water, food coloring, squeeze bottles, and a whisk.  Mix it up and get painting.  Check the full tutorial from Parenting Chaos here.   

38. Outdoor Stepping Stones 

Outdoor stepping stones are a great resource for strengthening a child’s gross motor skills. They also allow such open-ended play so can be played with in a variety of ways.  As your 1 year old grows and develops there will be no end of play possibilities with a simple set of stepping stones as pictured.

Rather than buy a set you can of course use some paving slabs.  Clip together foam play tiles or mats also work well. 

Simply place the stepping stones around the garden and demonstrate to your young toddler how to step from one to the other. 1 year olds that have only just started walking are sure to need a helping hand.  They’ll probably be content stepping on and off a single one.

More outdoor toy recommendations for 1 year olds here.

39. Giant Tape Resist Art 

Here’s a resist art activity perfect for outside. Tape a large sheet of cardboard to a fence outside or to the floor.  Then, with painters/masking tape create shapes over the cardboard.

Now it’s time for your 1 year old to apply paint to the cardboard however they like. Fingers and hands may be preferable to a paintbrush, let them decide.

Maneuvering around to apply the paint will help develop coordination and balance, as well as their fine motor skills. The bigger the canvas, the more they’ll be working physically. 

Try to cover the entire piece of cardboard with paint for maximum affect.  When done, allow the paint to dry and slowly remove the tape to reveal the pattern!

40. Block Kiddie Pool 

Simply add toy bricks to a shallow tray or paddling pool and allow your 1 year old to play and experiment.  Their gross motor skills will be strengthened as they maneuver in and around the kiddie pool and play with the toys.

This is another fun 1 year old development activity for a hot summer’s day! But you could also try this in the cooler months indoors in the bath.


The ability to interact with others is booming at the 1 year mark. Every day is a new adventure and it’s like you’re meeting your child anew each day as they gain more skills and communication ability.

Your young toddler will also be rapidly gaining emotional intelligence, which will assist them in peer interactions.  It is so lovely to watch.  There’s nothing sweeter than your 1 year old recognizing when another child is hurt and needs help.  

What language skills should a 1 year old have?

A 1 year old should have started to develop basic language skills and be able to:

  • recognize and respond to their name, turning towards the sound when it’s called
  • communicate using sounds, made-up words and gestures
  • say a few simple words, probably nouns, such as “Mama” or “shoe”
  • understand simple words allowing them to follow simple instructions

Social & language development activities for 1 year olds

Here are some 1 year old development activities that’ll help language and social skills.  Plenty of other skills will be strengthened too. 

41. Car Wash Sensory Bin

This engaging car wash sensory bin will spark many new thought patterns and stimulate learning within your child and amongst their peers. It’s a collaborative bin, as children can work and communicate together to clean the cars.

All you’ll need is a tub or bin, water, dish soap, and toy cars. You can also add sponges, brushes, rags, or any other tools that would extend their learning.

As they play in this bin, be sure to introduce new vocabulary to them such as “vehicle” and “wheel.”

42. Flower Soup

This activity is a good way for your child to experiment with flowers, participate in dramatic play, and make connections to real-life concepts. The main items you’ll need for this activity are water and flowers/flower petals (faux or real). 

Tools such as little cups, a watering can, wooden spoons, kitchen utensils, and a funnel are great additions to this activity. You could also add glitter to the water for a bit of sparkle!

43. Nursery Rhymes & Songs

Some of the simplest language development activities for infants are the most obvious: nursery rhymes and songs. Ones with motions or fingerplays are especially fun.

These simple musical activities will help grow your little one’s vocabulary as they hear new words and sounds. They’ll also help develop a 1 year old’s cognitive skills of memory and making connections.

44. Following Simple Instructions

At the age of 1, a child’s comprehension skills are rapidly growing.  To help this development, give them simple instructions that you know they’re capable of following.  E.g. go and get your shoes.

Assist and help them to understand if necessary. This will improve their listening skills and help expand their vocabularly.

45. Dino Foam Play

This dino foam play activity offers plenty of opportunity for your 1 year old to hear and learn new vocabulary.  There are plenty of interesting dinosaur names for you to introduce them to. 

There’s no need for your little one to attempt to say the word, the most important thing is for them simply to hear new words.

All you’ll need are dinosaur toys, a tub, and soapy water. Simply add soap to water and create the foam by whisking it together with an electric or manual hand mixer.

46. Chat on the phone

1 year olds love to mimic the actions of others around them.  As they see us on the phone, they’re sure to love pretending to chat on their own toy phone. Or an old phone you have lying around.

All 4 of mine have always loved engaging in this form of dramatic play.  In addition to helping with language development, it will help their cognitive abilities of memory skills and making connections.

47. Narrate a Noisy Ball Drop 

All you need for this noisy ball drop is masking tape, balls or blocks and cardboard tubes of various sizes. So don’t throw away any empty toilet paper, paper towel or gift wrap rolls! 

(Cardboard tubes are great for crafts too.)

Tape the tubes to a wall at your child’s level, similiar to those in the picture. You can place different types of containe underneath. A metal tin will make quite a different sound to a plastic tub when a ball drops in which will add to the fun.

As your child plays and experiements make verbal observations and narrate what’s happening in simple terms: “you put the ball down the tube and it fell in the metal tin”.

This will help your little one learn simple words such as “in”, “ball” and “down.”  Use colored balls or blocks and you can introduce colors too.

You can also give them simple instructions to follow: “put the block in this one” as you point to one of the tubes.

This is such a fun 1 year old development activity that will help language development while also also working on gross motor skills and hand-eye coordination. 


48. Wash the Toys 

You can do this simple 1 year old development activity in a sensory bin outside or try it in the bathtub during bathtime. Be sure to provide soap, any toys that can get wet, and brushes/sponges for your child to wash the toys with.

Simply narrating what your young toddler is doing will help build their vocab.  This one also works well for your child to do with other kids or siblings which’ll help them learn to work collaboratively.


49. Jello Alphabet Sensory Bin

Sensory play introduces many opportunities for language development, collaboration and social interaction. In the Kids’ Kitchen has a tutorial complete with photos to help you create this Jello alphabet sensory bin

You only need a few items for this 1-year-old developmental activity: two packets of Jello and some alphabet letter toys. Once you’ve prepared the bin, allow your child to explore the letters within the Jello.

This actvity will be good to repeat throughout the toddler years and once they start learning the sounds the different letters make.

Want to try some festive crafts & activities with your young toddler?


After your child’s first birthday, you will begin to notice their growing desire to accomplish tasks on their own.  Here are some self-help skills you can expect to see at this age:

  • Feeding: hold and navigate feeding utensils and feed themselves, drink from regular cup with assistance
  • Hygiene:try to wipe their own mouth or nose with a tissue or cloth
  • Dressing: help the process of getting dressed by extending arms and legs as you put clothes on, try to put on shoes and hats independently
  • May show signs of readiness for potty training by telling you when they have a dirty diaper 

1 year old self-help development activities

Contrary to what may be believed, young toddlers are capable of completing simple chores and tasks around the house.  They’re capable of way more than we even realize.   And what’s more, they want to be helfpul!

Enjoy this enthusiasm! It won’t last forever… 

Try these simple 1 year old development activities to teach them simple and useful tasks in a fun way.  Although they may need assistance to complete the task correctly, it’ll keep them engaged and occupied.  It’s also a lovely way to interact with your 1 year old.

For supplies and materials for these activities, check out our recommended product list.

50.Washing tables 

Washing and cleaning something is an easy chore for your child to participate in at this age. It teaches your child the importance of keeping their environment clean as well as how to clean.

You’ll probably find your little one has already attempted to copy you cleaning. 

My 1 year old twins regularly try to grab the sponge off me as I’m cleaning up their high chairs (and a good portion of the floor below!).  So I hand them their own sponge to join in too.

You can also provide them with a spray bottle of water and rag or cloth.  They’ll love using, or trying to use, the spray bottle which will be good to develop their hand and finger muscles too.

Eventually, as they get older, you can expand this to include wiping down the table, cleaning up their spills, and more.

51. Cutting up bananas

Okay, a “toddler-safe knife” sounds like an oxymoron, but I promise it does exist! You need a lightweight, plastic, serrated nylon knife, like this. This won’t be sharp enough to cause significant injury, and is perfectly adequate to slice bananas and other soft foods.

Working on early slicing skills – with plenty of parental supervision – will strengthen your child’s hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills.  At the same time they’re increasing their self-sufficiency.  They’ll be so pleased with their achievement!

You could also try a child-safe chopper.

52. Breaking spaghetti

Here’s another fun 1 year old development activity that will provide a little bit of help as you prep the dinner.  Snapping spaghetti is such a fun task – my now 6 year old loves this task and has done since a young toddler (as pictured).

You may find some of the spaghetti ends up on the floor but a bit of tidy up is well worth it for the fun and skill development it offers.  I simply scoop it up and, as long as the floor’s relatively clean, I chuck it in the pot with the rest.

53. Doing the washing up

Your 1 year old will love this activity – whether it’ll be any help to you or not will remain to be seen! Obviously, ensure items to clean are both safe for your toddler to handle and not too precious.  Plastic toddler cutlery and crockery are ideal. 

54. Helping at the Kitchen Counter with a Toddler Tower 

Several of the self-help development activities for 1 year olds mentioned above can take place at your child’s high chair or a toddler table.  However, a toddler tower is another option.  This will allow your child to stand at the height of the kitchen counter safely and unaided.

For a wobbly 1 year old, this will be a worthy investment and one that’ll last several years as you’re toddlers skills and ability to help in the kitchen increases.  An older toddler will be able to use it independently too, climbing up and into it.

Using one will mean your toddler can get involved in all sorts of other tasks safely.  From placing chopped up veggies into the sauce pan, to helping to make simple cookies and assembling their own plate at mealtimes.

Working in the kitchen together will not only help develop self-help, gross and fine motor skills, it’s a lovely way to build that bond with your toddler.


55. Playing with a Latch Board 

Engaging with a latch board or similar busy board creates many opportunities for child-led exploration while building important self-help skills. 

My 1 year old twins (pictured) love their Melissa & Doug latch board! They spend several happy minutes exploring the different catches and fastenings determined to figure out how to open and shut or undo and lock them.

This Montessori busy board also looks lovely. As well as latches it has several other fun and useful 1 year old developmental activities that’ll help them with existing and new emerging life skills. 

It’ll last through the toddler years and will be great to keep busy hands occupied when sitting in waiting rooms or on long car or plane journeys.

56. Putting boots on and taking them off

Learning how to put their own boots on is a major self-help skills milestone! Not only will it make your life easier, but it’s also a great activity to strengthen their problem-solving skills and increase their independence.

Allow your 1 year old free reign of their boots and shoes, when you’re not rushing out the door.  Include some bigger sizes if you have them to hand.  They’ll be content to explore and try to put different pairs on,

57. Put toys away

When a child learns how to clean up after themselves, they’re able to work on and refine their memory skills, which is a major aspect of cognitive development.

You’lll have to demonstrate how to clean up for them in the beginning but, over time, they will begin to grasp it and do it themselves!


Your 1 year old’s development is constantly evolving, and it’s such a joy as a parent to watch. Many areas of their development are expanding simultaneously which is why it’s so important to have 1 year old development activities on hand.

We hope this list serves as a helpful resource for streamlining your child’s developmental play!

Here are some more crafts and activities to bookmark for later:



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A little about me

Mom of 4 kids, baby sleep expert plus home organisation and kids activities and crafts

Hi, I'm Sarah

Mom of four outrageously gorgeous Littles.  Yup, four!  The twins are now two and that title still brings me out in a cold sweat… Yet I’m just as determined to give them the best without losing my mind.  I reckon it’s possible!  Most days.  

I love a challenge and have to find out they ‘why’, ‘what’ or ‘how to’  –  there are rather a lot of these when it comes to kids… 

I also love, love, love things to be neat and tidy and just so.   The Littles normally have other ideas!  

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