Parenting Stories and Tips

Indoor Activities for 1 Year Olds

The beginning of our “Snow Storm” in Vancouver

This week Vancouver was hit with an unexpected snow storm, which is kind of a joke for everyone that live in the colder climate, since it’s only up to 25 cm that is in the forecast, however for Vancouver it’s a pretty big deal, because no one is prepared!

For most years I can count the days that actually snows on one hand, and other years maybe I will need both hands, but it never snow for weeks here. We are blessed with the milder weather, but at the same time when it does snow, the city pretty much shuts down. No one has their snow tire on and cars slid all over the street, and the city have outdated snow removal equipment because it isn’t cost effective to replace them, but most importantly, this mommy didn’t get a snow suit. So although Emilia got to play in the snow while it wasn’t too thick, I decided not to dunk her in thigh high snow with normal pants and rain jackets. As the snow became heavier, we ended up staying indoors most of the time.

This is normally not a problem for me. My child-less self would just brew up some coffee, grab a gaming console and chill the day away, but this year I was reminded by my toddler just how boring it is (for her) to stay inside, as she tore down shoe racks, banged on the fireplace, and flipped over garbage cans in an attempt to tell me she’s done with her toys and doesn’t want to watch TV either. What am I supposed to do, go out and buy stuff? No! Then I might as well take her outside. Life isn’t always so simple, so here are some wonderful activities we can whip up quickly (with minimal clean up!) for those indoor days!

For the purpose of this blog post, I will be focusing on activities that require no specific prep ahead of time, and little to no clean up time. Most of them will only utilize things you most likely have, and will not involve anything being thrown away unnecessarily.

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Art with Boxes: If you have boxes lying around, this is the time to pull them out and have some fun! At one year old most toddlers can’t do anything advanced with them such as building a spaceship or a treehouse, but they can enjoy some fantastic marker and crayon time. Simply place the toddler inside a box of appropriate size, place some washable marker or fat crayons and sit back. Sometimes Emilia like to draw with music on, so that she can wiggle around between masterpieces. Keep in mind skinny crayons are not the best for one year olds, something like Crayola Palm Grasp Crayons would be better.

Pillow Fortress: Do you have pillows or cushions? I’m sure you do. Clear up an area in the middle of the living room and pile those pillows, or make a circle with them and encourage your toddler to climb over them. Emilia loves climbing and also lifting large objects, as toddlers learn to walk they are also eager to try the many things they could not do before when they were crawlers. Climbing over things and lifting objects are among the most popular. I sometimes place an empty bin or box near by too, as most one year olds love either putting things into containers, or removing them from containers, both of which can keep them occupied for a good amount of time.

Ball Throwing: Balls are fascinating to Emilia, although throwing a plastic or rubber ball isn’t always ideal if you are in a condo. And those balls always end up in incredibly hard to find places. During times like these, making them out of newspapers or flyers would be an excellent alternative. One year olds can imitate behaviours, try drawing a bullseye on a wall using washable markers, and encourage your toddler to throw the ball towards the bullseye on the wall for minimum noise. Do test the newspaper for ink rubbing prior and supervise closely to make sure baby do not decide to eat the ball instead.

Baking: No, I don’t mean actually baking with your toddler, a one year old isn’t very good at that yet. However flour doughs from your Sunday baking project could be a very fun and safe toy for our babies, just make sure not to put raw egg or honey in the piece you decide to give to the baby. Do consider putting your toddler in a box so that you don’t end up having to clean dough off from your wall, your floor, or worse, your carpet. Also the parchment paper used in baking is a wonderful toy, since it make a lot of noise, doesn’t have sharp edges like foil, and can be made into different shapes. Emilia loves plastic bags for the sound they make, and parchment paper is a great safe alternative.

Post It Notes: I don’t like wasting perfectly good things, so fridge magnet works too. Things that can be stick up to a wall, removed, rearranged, and re-stick are often very fun. Most of our fridge magnets are generally out of reach, because I don’t want them going missing like Emilia’s unfortunate toys. She’s like a cat in that regard – she like to hide her stuff so that no one else can find them. But today we pulled some larger magnets for her to play with. Even non educational fridge magnets are wonderful to teach shapes and colours, so are coloured post it notes. At one Emilia doesn’t quite understand now to properly stick anything sticky onto surfaces other than her finger, but she is very good at removing them. So the game would be that I would place Post Its on the wall, or magnets on the fridge, and let her remove them, rinse and repeat. As each piece is removed, we review their shape and colour.

Fake Baby Wipe for Pulling: You don’t need a fancy dispenser, a cheap one from Pampers, or even the used up Costco wipe bag or empty Kleenex box would do. Something with the flap that babies can pull things from. Load it with scrap fabric, washcloths, or soft flyer paper, and let baby pull till their heart content. Scrap fabric really work best for this purpose since they pull much more nicely and can be stuffed back super easily.

Clean socks work well too!

Baby Bottle: Extra baby bottle, or water bottles seem to be something every parent has sitting around at home. You can pull out an empty one, preferably clear and see through, and fill it with whatever you have in your kitchen – rice, beans, dried veggies, etc. Things that will make fun sounds when shaken. This is a great sensory activity and introduce sounds that are not as commonly heard in normal toys. Not only that, once you are done, as long as the bottle was clean, you can still use whatever you put inside for dinner. No waste!

Sock Puppet: I don’t know why but Emilia loves socks, she doesn’t like any of her normal puppet toys, but if I have socks on, my feet instantly becomes her new best friend. If you have colourful socks, it’s time to pull them out and have some fun. Anything goes, put them on your hand, on baby’s hand, on their feet, or put up a puppet show with the socks on your feet! It is all dependent on where the little one’s curiosity takes them. For a less involved method, stick some parchment paper in the sock, tie the end, for a unique (and noisy) stuffed best buddy.

ZipLock Sensory Bags: For messy things like rice, or dangerous chocking hazards like grape sized anything, placing them into a Zip Lock bag would be a great idea to avoid mess and minimize danger, while still allowing toddler some exploration. Some supervision is required because at age of one they are pretty strong, and can tear open the weaker bags. Try to use freezer bags if you have them, since sandwich bags are not nearly as strong.

Blankets or Beach Towel Peek A Boo: Emilia loved peek a boo, but not when you put your hands over her eyes. She loved being covered by a big blanket, then peeking her head out. Every kid is different I suppose. However a big blanket or towel could be super useful. Use it to play peek a boo, use it as an obstacle by rolling it up, or throw it over your table to make a cave, and better yet, throw it over a row of dining chair to make a long tunnel. I deeply regretted buying an actual folding kid’s tunnel from IKEA since Emilia prefer our dining chairs and never used the actual tunnel.

What other household objects are your go to on those “trapped indoor” days? Leave a comment and let us know!

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