child play, baby activity, blowing bubbles

Activity ideas for 12-24-month-olds

The period beginning around your child’s first birthday and lasting through to the time they turn two really marks their transition into toddlerhood. During this phase, your child is developing at an astonishing rate and as they interact with you and the world around them, they will develop new skills and abilities. As such, it is important that you keep your child stimulated during this period of formative growth by providing a range of activities that will stimulate and enable progression.

Activities to aid your child’s development at 12-24 months

You are still very much the centre of your child’s universe from 12 to 24 months. However, by this time your baby’s brain and range of lived experiences are expanding day by day, so boredom may become a factor if you do not vary day-to-day play and activities.

For example, you could be forgiven for experiencing a small pang of grief when your baby is no longer interested in playing peekaboo, but there are lots of new, different games and activities that you can play with a one-year-old to keep them curious, busy and stimulated.

Activity ideas from one to two years

Whether you are looking to encourage fine motor development, gross motor development, language development or social development, there is a virtually endless range of activities you can perform with your 12-24-month-old, including the following:

  • Blowing bubbles: babies and young children love blowing bubbles, chasing bubbles and generally any sort of bubble fun. You could start by blowing the bubbles yourself and, as your child develops their fine motor skills, letting them blow the bubbles themselves.
  • Block building: although your child might not quite be at the level of the master builder, they will have enough cognitive and motor skills enough to build with you. From straightforward towers to simple little homes for toys, there is so much fun to be had with blocks. Concentration and hand-eye coordination will improve and, as towers rise and fall, so will their understanding of cause and effect.
  • Toy bath time: under your close and safe supervision, your baby can have endless fun with water. While taking a favourite toy into the bath may not always be suitable, providing simple plastic or sponge items that can hold and release water will create more learning opportunities for cause and effect. Learning which toys sink and float is another great idea and introducing toy animals that live in water will provide a real-life learning experience of association.
  • Sort toys by colour and size: whether you are playing with your child’s toy trains, cars, dolls or blocks, you can play at sorting them into different groups based on colour or size. Not only will this help your baby’s general cognitive development, it is also a great way to develop language and organisation skills.
  • Animal roleplay: there can hardly be a child who has ever lived who has not had a near-obsessive fascination with animal life. You can tap into this fascination with a spot of animal roleplay; from roaring like a lion, to snorting like a pig and clucking like a chicken. Not only is this enormous fun for both of you, but it is also educational, helping your child to learn the sounds, names and habits of any animal you choose. You can also incorporate animal puppets and animal soft toys into your play.
  • Reading and picture books: as always, there is no better activity for your child’s development than reading. You can continue reading a story as part of your child’s bedtime routine for as long as they enjoy it. Encourage your child to finish the lines in stories they know well – and there’s always an opportunity to try out your animal role play if any of the book characters are animals.
  • Ball games: like all sporting games, ball play encourages gross motor development but it is also fun and can incorporate lots of useful sharing and social skills. For example, rolling a ball backward and forward between you and your child helps them to play cooperatively. You can underpin this cooperative aspect of play by saying things such as “here it comes”, “my turn” and “your turn” which also encourages linguistic development.
  • Snap: you can play at snap using almost any object, from matching blocks to matching socks or specially designed toddler snap cards. This may seem like a simple game but will be fun and just the right level of challenge for your toddler.
  • Organise a playdate: your child will begin to learn social skills, including empathy and sharing if they are given the chance to interact with other children. Even if your child doesn’t have siblings or cousins, plenty of playdate opportunities can be found at playgrounds and playgroups.
  • Playdough: if your child is playing under your close supervision, now is a great time to introduce the tactile, sensory and creative delights of playdough. There is nothing quite like moulding, rolling, kneading, cutting and shaping playdough to create objects that can then be incorporated into all manner of play. Look out for handy recipes online to make your own version of the shop-bought dough.
  • Crayons: making marks on paper with crayons is a creative way to spend a rainy afternoon. Children at this age may not be able to write or draw yet, but they will be developing their fine motor skills. At this stage, they may well use both hands as they often don’t develop a dominant hand until they are 36 months or later. (1)
  • Telephone play: if you are anything like your average 21st-century parent, you will spend an awful lot of time on your phone and your child will want nothing more than to mimic you. Fortunately, this is an opportunity to play and to stimulate their social and language development. You don’t even have to use a real phone; whatever you choose to use you can conduct all manner of interesting and imaginative telephone conversations.
  • Helping with chores: no, we’re not suggesting you engage your baby in child labour, but that your child may actually want to help you with the housework, even if it is for just a fleeting period in life. If you give your child a cloth, duster or dustpan and brush while you are doing the chores, it will help them develop motor skills while also giving an enormous sense of pride in being helpful in with an important adult task.
  • Pretend cooking: whether you are using playdough, a play kitchen, or real-life plastic crockery and cutlery to mix ingredients, real or pretend, there are hours of fun to be had playing food and cooking-related games. And don’t forget to pretend-eat the products of your labours. Tea parties, pizza parties and all manner of food-related games can be great fun for older babies who are discovering the foods they like and don’t like at this time.

So much to explore

The above activities are only a guide. There is so much you and your child will discover for yourselves, while family and friends will doubtless help by giving you useful tips and ideas.

Whatever you do, be sure to have fun and enjoy every precious moment!