Sensory Activities For 1 Year Olds

By Lynn •  Updated: 10/30/23 •  11 min read
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Do you find yourself desperate for fun activities you can do with your 1-year-old at home? Not anymore! In today’s post, we’ve set out to uncover some of the best sensory activities for 1-year-olds that can be set up right at home. Using familiar supplies that you probably have lying around the house, you can quickly turn a boring day into loads of fun for both you and your tiny tot. 

And the best part? Many of these activities will work to stimulate your child’s mind so that they are doing more than just playing…they’re learning too!

Want to know more? Let’s go!

How Do You Keep a 1 Year Old Stimulated?

Keeping a baby or toddler of any age stimulated can be tricky for a multitude of reasons. Finding the best age appropriate toys for 6 month old to 1 year and the best activity mat and baby gym for infants development helps, but sometimes, you just want to pull out something that is fast, fun, creative, and free.

We get it!

To add to the frustration, many early one-year-old toddlers aren’t yet walking, making traditional types of play difficult to engage in. Moreover, one-year-old children are often still very much into “mouthing” objects, meaning that many of the fun D.I.Y. activities you see on Pinterest for toddlers still aren’t fair game for your little one yet. 

So, what’s left to do?

First of all, we hear you. Finding activities that are safe and entertaining for your little one can be difficult, but take heart! It can be done. With a little bit of planning, preparation, and creativity, you too can present your 1-year-old child with some seriously cool activities to keep your little one entertained. 

Playing with some water

What Is Sensory Play 1 Year Old?

Sensory play is often defined as activities that involve… well… the senses. 

By involving your child’s senses (smell, taste, touch, sight, sound) in planned activities, you are engaging your child’s sense of wonder and curiosity about the world around them.

Sensory play can also be thought of in terms of gross motor activities that involve body movements and balance. These types of sensory activities are physical and perfect for young tots as they develop common gross motor skills such as walking, kicking, running, throwing, and jumping.

Sensory Bin Ideas For 1 Year Old

A sensory bin is a term coined to describe tubs that are filled with a variety of mediums that invite your child to safely engage and use their senses to explore whatever fills the bin. 

These types of activities are great for bolstering your child’s imagination and often incidentally teach your child many facets of science. Your child can explore concepts like sinking, floating, gravity, and so much more when exploring the sensory bins you’ve designed for them. 

When creating a sensory bin for your 1-year-old, bear in mind that your child is likely to still put things in their mouths that you wish they wouldn’t. Because of this, adult supervision is always a must when your baby or toddler is engaging in sensory activities. Remember to always refrain from putting any excessively small items in your child’s sensory bin. 

Items to avoid putting in a one-year-old sensory bin include anything that is less than 1.25 inches in diameter and 2.25 inches in length

toddler girl playing with paint

DIY Sensory Activities For 1 Year Olds

The following sensory activities are great ideas to get you started on your journey to creating meaningful and oh-so-fun activities for your one-year-old. Feel free to customize each activity to your liking, just remember to keep safety first! 

  • Foam Bubbles – Got a blender? If so, put it to good use. Try adding 1 part water to 2 parts bubble bath to your blender and blend until you get thick, fluffy, whipped bubbles. Want to add color? Just add a few drops of food coloring to the water beforehand. Add a few toddler-friendly toys to the foam and you’ve got an activity that your one-year-old is sure to love! 
  • Painting With Ice – Grab an ice cube tray and fill it with some colored water (you can use food coloring or non-toxic paint to color the water). Place popsicle sticks in each ice cube cell and freeze until hard. Allow your child to paint with these colorful hand-held cubes of ice on white paper. 
  • Painting On Ice – Fill a basin with ice cubes and pour non-toxic paint on top. Give your one-year-old a chubby paintbrush and allow them to “paint” the ice. Note: Supervise closely so that your child doesn’t end up putting the paint in his or her mouth. 
  • Melting Ice – Place large pom-poms, figurines, or even blueberries into an ice cube tray. Fill the tray with water and freeze as usual. Dump the ice into a large basin and give your toddlers a few scoops. Watch as your toddler plays and lights up as the ice eventually melts to reveal what’s hidden inside!
  • Ice Transfer – Fill an ice cube tray with water and freeze as normal. Then, add the ice cubes to colored water. Give your child a few bowls and scoops and watch as your child transfers the ice from bowl to bowl. 
  • Painting Foil – Grab some foil, some paint, and a few paintbrushes, and let your one-year-old have at it! This could get messy but the payoff will likely be worth it. 
  • Painting With Water – Don’t want the mess or the risk of your toddler eating the paint? No problem! Try having your toddler paint on colored construction paper with water instead! 
  • Painting With Food (Yes, Really) – Grab some colored yogurt or applesauce and allow your one-year-old to “paint” their high-chair tray with it. 
  • Painting With Q-Tips – If you have blue or black construction paper and white paint, you can use q-tips as your paintbrush to create a snowscape or a starry night sky.
  • Sand Bins – Use Kinetic Sand or real sand to keep your toddler entertained. Simply dump the sand into a bowl and a few shovels, scoops, and toys. You can even try adding flat magnets as these are easy to “hide” in the sand; trust us, your toddler will be delighted to “find” them! 
  • Jumbo Pasta Bins – Dry jumbo pasta shells are preferred to use in sensory bins with toddlers this age over small noodle shapes. Simply dump the dry pasta into a basin and allow your child to dig in. Just be sure to watch for any crushed dry noodles as this could cause injury. 
  • Paper Roll Chutes – The next time you’ve got an empty toilet paper or paper towel roll, be sure to save it! Tape these paper rolls onto the wall at a slight angle and give your baby some pom poms to toss in them. They’ll love seeing the poms come out on the other side! 
  • Sensory Bottles – Grab an empty water bottle and fill it up with water. Add glitter, feather, googly eyes, oil, colored-dye, pom-poms… the sky’s the limit! Listen to your toddler squeal with delight as they turn and tilt the water bottle to see what’s moving inside
  • No Mess Paint – If you want your toddler to experience paint but don’t want the mess it brings, try adding a few drops of paint to a freezer bag and taping the bag to a hard, un-carpeted floor. Allow your toddler to slosh and squish the paint around to make their own creation, mess-free! 
  • Balls in a Pool – Grab a baby pool, fill it up with water, and add a few ball pit balls. This is perfect for a hot summer day! Note: This also works inside; just leave the pool empty and fill it up with dry ball pit balls instead! 
  • Duckies in a Pool – Grab a pack of rubber ducks, fill a basin with water-colored blue, and allow your toddler to play with duckies swimming in a pond. Genius! 
  • Floating Pom-Poms – Dump jumbo-colored pom-poms into colored (or uncolored) water and watch the magic happen! Give your toddler some cups and spoons and pretend they are mixing a special “soup”.
  • Oatmeal Bins – Oatmeal won’t harm your baby if ingested and a very large canister can be bought for a small price. Dump oats into a large bowl and add whatever you want to it. You can also try adding a little water to the mix… but do so at your own risk. Things could get a little messy! 
  • Coloring Boxes – Throw your toddler in a large box (no, really) and give them a few non-toxic markers or crayons. Allow your child to “decorate” the box however they see fit! 
  • Stacking Cups – Although seemingly mundane, your toddler will likely get a kick out of stacking styrofoam or plastic cups up and knocking them back down.
  • Homemade Playdough – Give homemade playdough a go rather than buying it in the grocery store. Homemade playdough is generally made with all-natural ingredients, so if your baby ends up eating a little of it, it won’t be the end of the world. 

Montessori Sensory Activities For 1 Year Old

There are many elements that make Montessori unique and beneficial for children. One of those elements is the use of the senses and the natural world to engage children in a way that doesn’t involve artificiality, television, or flashing lights (commonly seen on most toys today). Because of this, most sensory activities can easily fall into the category of Montessori, especially if they involve natural elements from daily life or nature. 

Check out the following Montessori sensory activities your child can engage in: 

Activities For 1 Year Old Baby at Home

What Activities Should a 1 Year Old Be Doing?

A one-year-old doesn’t have to be entertained constantly. You can keep him or her close by and even involve your child in what you are doing provided that it is safe. 

Allow your child to help you bake, brush his or her teeth, help get themselves dressed, help clean up, and go up and downstairs (with assistance). 

Moreover, you can set your one-year-old up with any of the aforementioned sensory activities to get his or her mind stimulated. Remember, children often learn as they play. Thus, sensory activities are a great place to start to get your child’s wheels turning. 

Stay at Home Mom Activities For 1 Year Old

Physical Activities For 1 Year Olds

One-year-olds love to be active, even before they learn to walk! Take your one-year-old to a park or invest in a ball pit or indoor tunnel. Build a fort, play hide-and-seek, walk (or crawl) up and down a small hill, take a walk in nature, or allow your toddler to free fall into a sea of fluffy pillows. The choice is yours! Just be sure to supervise your child’s physical activities at all times…children this age are still quite wobbly on their feet! 

Educational Activities For 1 Year Olds

Aside from sensory play, one of the best things you can do for your one-year-old educationally is to allow them to explore books. 

Board books with flaps tend to be the most engaging. However, you may also consider purchasing picture books and reading them aloud to your child. Choose books with vivid illustrations and simplistic text to captivate your little bookworm at a very early age. 

By reading to your child, you expose him or her to a vast expanse of vocabulary words and terms and enable them to connect illustration and text. It will also likely improve speech and language skills for the chatty months ahead! 

girl wearing white sleeveless dress beside balloons

Sensory Activities For 1-Year-Olds Are Sure to Please!

Take it from us, your one-year-old is likely to adore any sensory activity you put in front of them. Just be sure to check for safety when setting up your activity. Also, be sure to supervise your child at all times as they play.

Sensory activities are wonderful additions to your toddler’s daily routine. Many of them probably cost less than your daily coffee. We sincerely hope you and your kiddo have a blast!


Lynn is a freelance writer, a wife, and a mother of two beautiful kids. Lynn started Infant Empire with the aim of making parenting easier for fellow mums and dads. She believes the parenting tips provided here will be of great help to all parents.

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