7 Fun Activities for 18-Month-Olds

Your 18-month-old progressed from baby to toddler pretty quickly, didn’t they? Time sure does fly, even though some days may feel neverending (!). Toddlers are bundles of energy, and they're constantly exploring and moving. So it can feel challenging to find new activities to keep them busy and entertained. 

That’s why our speech therapists put together this list of top activities to do with an 18-month-old at home. These indoor and outdoor activities are easy to do, don’t require many supplies, and best of all, they’re fun! 

As a bonus, doing these activities with your toddler can promote their speech and language skills. Play is a big part of how children learn to talk and communicate. When you play with your 18-month-old, there are lots of chances to model, or demonstrate, language for them and prompt them to respond. Keep reading to learn 7 ways to do just that. 

1 Popsicle baths  

This is an all-around favorite activity that can be done indoors or out. With this activity, your toddler gets a yummy treat, and you have minimal cleanup! Here’s how you do it.

Let your 18-month-old play in the bathtub, or in a small kiddie pool if it’s summer and you’re heading outdoors. Give your child a popsicle and… voila! You’ve got a satisfied toddler who’s just one spray away from getting all that sticky fruit juice off when they’re done.

Remember, kids need constant adult supervision when they’re in the water. So be sure to have the popsicle ready to hand over before your child gets in the tub or pool.

As your child is eating their popsicle, you can practice naming colors. Try saying phrases like, “Your popsicle is pink! Mine is blue!” This is a natural opportunity to practice the concepts of “yours” and “mine,” too.

2 Bowling 

Grab some plastic cups and a plastic or soft ball. Line the cups up and let your toddler roll the ball to knock them down.

You can support your toddler’s speech and language skills by modeling words like:

  • Verbs, such as “roll” and “knock over”

  • Item names, such as “ball” and “cups”

  • Exclamatory words like “Yay!” and “Wow!”  

3 Car tunnels

All you’ll need is some paper, tape, and toy cars, trucks, or trains. Bend or fold the paper in half so it makes an arched or pointed shape, then tape the sides of the paper to the floor to make a tunnel. Now drive the cars through!

Here are some words you can teach your toddler during this activity:

  • Spatial concepts, like “under” and “through”

  • Item names (and sounds), such as “car – beep beep” and “train – choo choo!”

  • Descriptive words, like “fast/slow” and “big/little”

Pretend to drive to your favorite places, like the park or the library. The possibilities are endless with this one!

4 Obstacle course 

If your toddler is a wiggly one who likes to be on the move, try building an obstacle course! Hop over pillows, crawl under blankets, and drop items in baskets. If you have an indoor slide or trampoline, now is the perfect time to get it out.

As your child navigates the obstacle course, try narrating what they’re doing, such as “You are jumping!” Practice following simple directions, like “Spin around” or “Give me a high five!”

5 Sensory play 

You might want a towel for this sensory activity, or you can try it outside on a warm day. Give your child bowls, pots, or cups with some ice cubes and a spoon or tongs. Let them scoop the ice and move it from one container to another. You can also try this activity with dry beans, noodles, or oats. 

Sensory activities offer many benefits. They allow your toddler to freely explore and investigate their world. Sensory activities also help your 18-month-old develop their motor skills and the ability to focus. Support their speech and language development while they explore by modeling language for them:

  • Use describing words, like “hot/cold,” “wet/dry,” and “soft/hard.”

  • Use verbs, such as “melt” and “scoop.”

6 Pretend play 

Use farm animals and a barn to practice a bunch of speech and language skills. Label the animals (and their sounds), like “Cow says moo” and “Horse – neigh!” Talk about putting the animals “in” the barn or taking them “out.” Maybe the piggy is hungry (“Time to eat – yum!”) or sleepy (“Shhh, goodnight pig”). Follow your child’s lead and have fun! 

Bonus tip: Try keeping the animals in a clear bag or bin. Encourage your child to communicate with you, with either words or gestures, to show you which animal they want next.

7 Curl up with a book 

The importance of reading to your toddler can never be overstated. Books are an easy (and fun!) way to work on your 18-month-old’s language development. Children of all ages learn language by listening to others. And what’s a better way to do that than by cuddling up with a book?

When reading with your toddler, point to the page to show what you’re talking about. Discuss the story out loud so they get good exposure to vocabulary words and hear how we structure our language. Try these tips with any of these favorite books for 18-month-olds! 

Bonus tip: Check out this Instagram post! One of our speech therapists shows you how to read Where’s Spot in a way that boosts your child’s language development.

How many toys does a toddler need?

Don’t worry about buying a lot of toys for your 18-month-old. When it comes to the number of toys a toddler should have, less is more. Research shows that fewer toys in a child’s environment can lead to better attention, more creativity, and overall higher-quality play.

Remember, as your toddler’s parent or caregiver, you are in the best position to support their speech and language development. In fact, research has shown that children learn language best from the people they love most. Happy playing! 

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