7 Fun Activities for 12-Month-Olds

If you’ve got a 12-month-old at home, you may be looking for some new activities to support their curious minds and rapid development. Here are 7 easy activities you can do with your 1-year-old to keep them busy and promote their speech and language development. Many toddlers start saying their first words at around 12 months, so it’s the perfect time to focus on communication skills!

1. What’s in the box?

For this indoor activity, grab a box or container with a lid and place some items inside. Make sure there are no small pieces that could pose a choking hazard. Try things like blocks, a brush, a shoe, a ball, or a spoon. Let your toddler hold the container and shake it, listening for what’s inside. 

When they get curious, open the box and let them take an item out. Show them what to do with the item–rolling the ball back and forth, or pretending to eat with the spoon. Name the item and let them watch how your mouth moves to say the word. 

Try emphasizing sounds in the words as well. If it’s a brush, say “b-b-b…brush!” Your 1-year-old will love listening to all these new sounds and will be encouraged to imitate you and start saying them as well.

As some extra practice, add objects you’d like your toddler to learn to say. If there’s a snack they love and you want them to be able to ask for it, try putting that snack in the box. 

2. Bathtime play

Need an easy indoor activity to do with your toddler to break up the day? Why not let them take a midday bath! Sure, they may not need it, but they’ll have fun splashing in the water and playing with bath toys. You can even add bubble bath or turn some music on to make bathtime extra fun. 

While your little one is playing in the tub, sing songs together and practice hand motions. Think “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” or “The Wheels on the Bus.” Did you know that imitating gestures with songs is an important skill that supports imitating words? A baby in the bathtub is a great captive audience, so you may as well get some fun practice in! 

3. No-mess finger painting 

Have you ever wanted to let your baby paint without having a huge mess to clean up? Try this activity! 

Put a piece of paper and some nontoxic children’s paint inside a large ziploc bag. Seal the bag, then watch your toddler explore the paint from the outside of the bag–smashing it around and creating their very own masterpiece. They’ll have a blast watching the paint move around.

While they’re “painting,” you can focus on these communication skills:

  • Practice related words like naming the colors and emphasizing sounds (b-b-blue, p-p-pink)

  • Try action words like “smash” or “press”

  • Talk about “hands” and “fingers” to practice naming body parts.

4. Toy wash 

For another fun water activity, grab two basins of water, a towel, a clean dish brush or washcloth, and dishwashing soap. Put a little bit of soap in one basin of water to make it soapy. Keep the other basin filled with just water. (Remember, always monitor children when they’re around water.)

Now, let your child give their toys a bath! They can scrub and clean their toys, then dry them off. They’ll be entertained and so proud of what they did!

Together you can practice words like “wet” and “dry” or “clean” and "dirty." A fun hands-on experience like this will help your 1-year-old better understand these concepts. 

5. Reading together

Reading with your toddler is just about the perfect activity. Did you know that a study revealed that when parents read just one book a day to their child, by the time that child enters kindergarten, they’ve heard a total of 1.4 million more words than children who aren’t read to?

Reading promotes strong language abilities. And of course, it’s a special chance for the two of you to bond.

For extra language stimulation, try reading books face-to-face with your toddler.

As you read with your toddler, point to the pictures and encourage them to look. Over time they’ll eventually learn the names of the items you’re talking about. “First word” books and books with big pictures are great options. Board books are always a winner, too. Check out this quick video, where one of our speech therapists demonstrates a few reading tips using the classic book Where’s Spot?

For extra language stimulation, try reading books face-to-face with your toddler. This way your child can watch your mouth as you read, which helps them learn how to make speech sounds.

6. Spray bottle fun

Toddlers love to do what we do, so create a fun “cleaning” activity for them. They’ll feel like they’re doing chores just like the grownups.

Grab an empty spray bottle and fill it with water. Let your toddler spray toys, their high chair, pots and pans–anything that could use some “cleaning.” Give them a washcloth and let them wipe down the items as they pretend to clean. (You may want to put some towels down so the floor doesn’t get slippery, or do this activity outside!)

As your toddler works, practice words like “wet” and “dry” or “clean” and “dirty.” You can also model action words like “I spray” or “I wipe!” 

There may be times when your child needs help with this activity. That’s a great communication opportunity! When you can tell they need help, model the word or sign for “help” to see if they can imitate you. 

7. Laundry basketball

You don’t need fancy toys to entertain your 12-month-old. Get a laundry basket and a ball, and take turns tossing the ball in the basket. Voila! You’ve got an indoor basketball game.

This is a great way to practice turn-taking, which is a skill that’s related to communication growth. Here’s how to do it. Toss the ball in and say “Yay!” while your toddler watches. Then give them a turn. When they throw the ball, say “Yay!” and cheer and clap for them. You can practice words like “throw, “toss,” and “my turn.”

Not only will these activities keep your 1-year-old entertained, they’ll be growing their speech and language skills at the same time. There’s nothing better than helping your child develop and having fun while you do it!

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