These are all tried and true things that I do with my 1-year-old daughter. These are all things that can be done in an apartment with your toddler also, because we don’t have much outdoor space.
If they’re learning to walk still; or if they are already walking (each in their own time, no worries mama!), go on walks or chase them around the house.
Little People sets, baby dolls, and animal toys. Lily loves dogs and so grandma has bought her a dog that wags its tail and barks, and she loves to play with it. She has another one on a string that she pulls around the house.
Some of our favorites are lift the flap books, ones with animals so we can make the noises, and Baby Disney books where she recognizes the characters. We also like to visit the library to try out new books and bilingual books. If she loves a certain book I’ll buy it later.
When my daughter gets bored with her toys, I tidy them up and put them away, which usually results in her finding a toy to play with, or playing the clean-it-up game with Mommy. Click to see my post about cleaning to re-interest your baby. My daughter also likes to help me clean with a wet paper towel – we wipe up spots on the floor and walls.
Color or paint.
We have these crayons that she enjoys stacking more than coloring with so far. I also have nontoxic finger paints that we play with, though she’s not a big fan of finger painting so I need to buy some brushes and see if that’s more to her liking. Pinterest also has lots of recipes for safe-to-eat paint and safe-to-eat play dough (Lily’s not a fan of the play dough, I’m not sure why).
Help Cook and Help do Laundry.
Lily loves mixing in bowls in the kitchen and taking her own bowls to her high chair. Lily also loves going to the laundry room in our apartment building with me. The keys and coin purse are her responsibilities to carry down, and then I set her on top of the dryer. While I load clothes, she places the quarters in the slots for me. We had a few near catches with putting them in her mouth, but she didn’t like losing the coin purse so she hasn’t done it in a while.
Water Table and Water Play.
Lily loves the water table at her friend’s house; it entertained them for two hours! At home, we play with water in the bathtub, and I even put water-filled tupperwares outside in our driveway.
Stickers or Reusable Sticker Pads
Lily enjoys putting stickers on paper and once my stash of old/free stickers runs out, I plan on buying these reusable sticker pads. I have seen several moms recommend them and I don’t want to spend money on stickers that will be used once.
Go on Walks Outside.
In a pushcar, in the stroller, or if your one-year-old is walking, they can walk with you. My daughter loves leaves and flowers so we point them out to her and describe what we walk past. If she’s walking she’ll often pick up a leaf and hold onto it the whole time we’re outside.
It’s a win-win. Who doesn’t love to see a baby? And then you can get a small break from entertaining your child too.
Visit Fun Places.
This is especially great because typically babies are free! We like to visit the Los Angeles Zoo (she’s free!), the Aquarium (she’s free!), the park (free!), library storytime (free!), music class, and other activities.
Visit Mommy and Me groups.
My church has an unofficial playdate group that meets weekly, the library storytime generally ends with playtime and is a great way to meet other moms and babies, and our city’s adult school offers Mommy and Me classes. We also take a mommy and me music class through Ladybug Music. These groups are a great place to have adult conversation with other parents going through similar things, and to get your little one used to other little ones, and make friends. Every parent needs at least one other parent friend who can understand their life.
Songs that clap, have actions, and/or hand motions, are great. Right now she’s very entertained by Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes. There are lots of nursery rhymes and hand motion songs that you can look up on youtube or spotify. I grew up on WeeSing CDs and have saved a few of them onto my Spotify playlist to play for Lily.