So you've just had your Cake Smash photoshoot with us & between their new found ability to walk and constantly improving language skills, your 1-year-old is so much fun to spend time with—which is important, because your interactions with them are essential to their development.
But there's no need to pull out a mountain of toys with all the bells and whistles—simple activities work well. "I can sit down with a child with one block and come up with 100 different activities because it's all about being playful and interacting with them," explains Roni Cohen Leiderman, PhD.
Not sure where to start? We rounded up several development-promoting activities that are fun and easy.
1. LITTLE DRUMMERS
Materials needed: Rattle, spoons, pots and pans, bells, cymbals, drums
What to do: Make music using percussion instruments. "Find fun tunes to play that have a rousing beat," suggests Dr. Myers. "Play along with her as well as encouraging her to play by herself."
Skills learned: Coordination, listening skills, and musical exploration
2. PLAYING HOUSE
Materials needed: Large cardboard box or store-bought play tunnel or playhouse
What to do: Create a fort out of a cardboard box, play tunnel, or playhouse. Include an entrance and an exit, and encourage your child to go in and out. (You might need to show him at first.) Up the entertainment factor with some pretend play, like knocking on the door or ringing the doorbell, and asking if anyone is home, Dr. Myers suggests.
Skills learned: Social skills, gross motor skills and exploring their environment
3. TELEPHONE CALL
Materials needed: Toy telephone or old phone
What to do: Hand a phone to your child and keep one for yourself. Pretend to make calls, and hold conversations with each other or imaginary people. Use funny voices, and create silly characters on the other line.
Variations: Some play telephones allow you to record your and your child's voices and play them back, which can enhance the fun.
Skills learned: Language and social development
4.. SPOT THE DOT
Materials needed: Lipstick
What to do: Put a dot of red lipstick on your toddler's face, and distract her for a few minutes before putting her in front of a mirror. If your child reacts to her image by touching her nose or trying to wipe off the mark, it indicates she realizes there is something out of the ordinary in her reflection. "Children when they are very young don't have a sense of self, but at this age it's clear to them who they are when they look in the mirror," Dr. Leiderman says. But don't worry if she doesn't react yet—she will soon!
Variation: Put a silly hat on your child's head and watch her take it off.
Skills learned: Self-awareness and identity
10. CRUMB WRITING
Materials needed: Baby rice cereal or finely crumbed crackers, cookie sheet
What to do: Spread the rice cereal or crumbled crackers on the cookie sheet, and show him how to use a finger to "write" in the crumbs. "This gives [children] the opportunity to imitate the adults and older siblings in their lives, which is a major meaningful activity of early childhood," says Rachel Coley, occupational therapist, author of Simple Play: Easy Fun For Babies.
Skills learned: Early handwriting skills, understanding cause and effect.