How to Keep a One Year Old Busy! GUARANTEED!

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 activities that actually entertain a one year old at home.

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Entertain a One Year Old at Home with Poke-a-Dot Books

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 these books like the Karen Katz lift the flap books she occasionally loves a little too enthusiastically, ripping the flaps off in the process.

Bath Time

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, let 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!

Related Post: Water Play for Toddlers Using Recycled Materials

Toddler 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 will keep your one year old busy for a long time, and 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.

card being dropped through a slit in a butter container lid

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!

Related Post: Entertain on the Go with Fun & Easy Toddler Busy Bags

A Balloon on a String

I found this one purely by accident, but when I did I was thrilled with this at home one year old activity. 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 a game into an independent one year old activity with some light supervision (increased to heavy supervision with the addition of my other kids!)

Find the Animal One Year Old Activity Idea

We’ve never been much of a “flash-card” family, but when my friend told us a game she plays to keep her one year old busy, 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!

How to Get a One Year Old to Play Independently?

Trying to figure out how to get your one year old to play independently? It may seem like a lofty goal, but there are lots of activities for one year olds to do alone (with a little adult supervision for safety, of course).


Figuring out how to entertain a one year old at home certainly isn’t the easiest thing in the world, but with a little creativity (and a few of these ideas!) you’ll be learning how to keep a one year old busy in no time. And maybe-just maybe- drinking that hot cup of coffee in peace, for once.

What keeps your one year old busy? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Looking for more ideas on how to keep your toddler entertained? Head here next-

2 thoughts on “How to Keep a One Year Old Busy! GUARANTEED!”

  1. THANK YOU!! I’m a first time mama who works from home and have been trying to get creative on how to keep my 1 year old busy. Definitely trying some of these!!!

    • We are right there with you. Sometimes you need a quick activity to buy yourself some time. After all, mamas have deadlines too!

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