Ah, one year olds. All the moxie of a full-grown toddler, but none of the interest in Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. And while the real fun and games of toddlerhood seem to hit around two, our kids definitely grow out of the “baby” stage well before then. We’re left with this not-so-fun in between time where our kids are more active than babies, but cannot yet be bribed. Worse still, they often will refuse to sit through a 21 minute episode of something bright and cartoony so we can just make dinner already! It’s not like I don’t love sitting with my one year old and playing Pat-a-Cake until my hands are raw, but sometimes I just have to get something done. And if I could find a way to entertain my toddler while they’re sitting next to me also doing something she enjoys, then hurray for us both!
Here are some things I’ve found that actually entertain a one year old.
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These are my absolute favorite books for entertaining my one year old. (And fun fact: My 3 and 5 year olds still love them, so they’re a book with some SERIOUS staying power!) They’re wonderfully interactive books that make enough noise to entertain the heck out of a toddler, but not so much that they make Mommy crazy (I’m looking at you Thomas the Train sound book). And there are a TON of them, so if your little one likes to mix it up you have a ton of options. My kids love them all, from classics like 10 Little Monkeys, to all of their interests: Dinosaurs A-Z for Cole, Goodnight Animals for Izzie, and Who’s in the Ocean for Evie.
Bonus points because she can’t destroy it like the Karen Katz lift the flap books she occasionally loves a little too enthusiastically, ripping the flaps off in the process.
If you are using the bath purely for hygienic reasons, you are doing it all wrong. My one year old will happily play in the bath for a decent chunk of time while I get stuff done. Don’t worry, I don’t leave her alone in there, but I can absolutely bring my laptop in and get some work done while she plays. There’s always a risk of being too close to the “Splash Zone” so if you’re afraid of water, consider letting your little one play in the bath without water. Yes, without water. It’s a pretty fun option around here – and significantly less chance for slipping and splashing!
Card Drop Activity
Kids love this never-ending game of dropping cards into a container. And I love how much I can get done while the baby plays. This one is a favorite for when I’m trying to make dinner, do dishes, or basically anything where I need her to leave me alone. The prep on this is super easy, as you just take an oatmeal container (or basically any old container will do!) and cut a slit in the lid. Hand your kid a deck of cards and they will sit there and patiently drop card after card after card in.
Don’t have any empty containers sitting around? No problem! There are a ton of cute toys that give kids the same thrill of dropping something into something else (lest we forget how basic these babies are!) These options have the added bonus of teaching your kid’s something! Whether they’re learning counting from this chicken, colors from this cow, or numbers and colors from this Pig E Bank they’ll be entertained and educated!
A Balloon on a String
I found this one purely by accident, but when I did I was thrilled. One of my son’s birthday gifts recently had a balloon tied to it and when the bag was placed on the floor it was the perfect height for my daughter to play with. She batted it around with her hands, with a paper towel roll, and had a blast watching the balloon sway around. My kids love hitting a ball, but then someone always has to run and get it and usually I need to be a pretty active participant. This was a great way to turn that into a solo activity with some light supervision (increased to heavy supervision with the addition of my other kids!)
Find the Animal!
We’ve never been much of a “flash-card” family, but when my friend told us a game she plays with her one year old, I knew we’d finally found where flash cards fit in our family! Cooking is always an especially challenging time with my one year old. She’s too little to participate as much as she’d like but also doesn’t want to leave me alone. So I had to find something that had minimal interaction with me, but that she would feel like was a game we were playing together.
So now, as I make dinner, I’ll spread out a bunch of flash cards – animals, colors, whatever she’s into – and call out cards for her to find. Then she brings them to me and she thinks we played together, while I think I finally got to make a meal without worrying about chopping off her tiny finger. Win, win!!
If you’re making something sticky or icky (like have hands full of raw chicken) get a bucket or shoebox with a slit in it for your kid to drop the cards into!
Looking for more activities to entertain your one year old? We LOVE these Activity Plans from Hands on as We Grow. They are full of activities that are appropriate for your one year old, and they even walk you through finding the extra 15 minutes to make time for play! Check them out here and grab yours here!