the domestic tales of four sisters

“Mommy Pre-K” : Activities for 18 Months & Under

mainphotoOne of my favorite ages is between 12 months and 2 years. Kids at that stage do the goofiest things and begin to comprehend that they ARE funny and they will do whatever they can to make you laugh. What’s funnier than your 12 month old saying “oh gosh…” over and over and over just to make you giggle? Not much, I assure you. (Well, okay, it’s funnier when you hear “Oh geez, dad!” over the monitor when she should be sleeping … Way funnier. Apparently my husband and I say “oh geez” and “oh gosh” a lot … )

However, with 12 months to 2 years comes this very weird developmental phase. They’re bored with a lot of toys that you have from their first year and they’re not quite ready for the next group of toys. I plan on creating a line of toys specifically for this age category and becoming a millionaire. Because truthfully they’re slacking in this area. Another downside to this age is the fussiness that results from, well, boredom. You can only read so many books, sing so many songs, introduce so many new toys before your 14 month old is off chasing dogs and pulling their tails. God bless those labbies.

A few weeks ago I decided it was time to start practicing our colors. I made simple flashcards and we played the “where’s red/blue/green/etc” over and over and over until she got bored/frustrated or I got tired of asking. When I noticed that she had picked all of these colors up in the matter of a week or so I figured it was time to make a leap. So I scoured Pinterest for activities for under 2, but was only able to land on a few as most are geared towards 2 to 3 year olds. (I linked those at the bottom.)

I’m a firm believer that a child can learn at any age. Considering my husband’s main objective in high school was to play football and baseball (and somehow get me to date him) – despite his crazy intelligence – I have to be the one to instill the love of learning. Because he still hates sitting still and having to do paperwork for his job – let alone learning in a classroom. (And because I have a sister who has taught everything from kindergarten to 5th grade I understand how frustrating it can be for educators to have a child come into their classroom way behind the others simply due to limited education at home.)

I set out to come up with some activities geared specifically towards 12 to 18 months. I would say you could definitely stretch these to 24 months, but I don’t think we are going to make it that far. I’m going to have to step up my game here soon and come up with yet another round of activities. The greatest news here is – these activities are inexpensive and they’ll entertain your little dude or lady for a while. Buying you the necessary time to pee without company or put the dishes in the dishwasher without assistance.

Let’s have at it!



Bucket-o-Balls & Muffin Tin:
Hand Eye Coordination
– One to One Correspondence
– Motor Skills
– Pre-Math
– Gross Motor Skills
– Cause & Effect

This is my daughter’s ABSOLUTE FAVORITE. If you don’t do anything from this list but one item – THIS IS THE ONE. From about the point that she was sitting up on her own she has been obsessed with balls. At her 1 year appointment the doctor asked me if she was “making strides towards throwing underhand.” I cracked up laughing and told her that just that morning before we left my child whipped a ball directly at me while shouting “YEAH!” She applauded herself for I dunno … a good throw. She’s mastered overhand throwing and with the introduction of the Bucket-o-Balls she’s now moved on to catching. So I would say this has definitely, definitely helped developmentally.

All you need here is a large bucket/basket that your child can easily access from the sitting position. (Meaning you don’t want the sides too tall.) Fill the bucket with different balls in varying sizes, textures, and colors. Introduce the bucket-o-balls to them by itself. Allow them to investigate and do whatever they want with them. (In the meantime I suggest you DUCK!) After about a week of this introduce a muffin tin. At this age you are well aware that your child has mastered the “dumping” portion of “fill and dump.” Fill the muffin tin with different balls and allow them to dump it. It only took a few days before mine was filling & dumping entirely on her own. Now we are to the point where I tell her to grab the “yellow ball” and she puts a yellow one in. Ultimately you could do 800 different variations of this. And I’m not lying when I say duck. Dodge. Save yourself.

And don’t put a real baseball in your bucket. The bruise on my hip says it all.





Color Flashcards:

This is foundational and I highly recommend that you begin here. As I stated a few weeks ago I made color flashcards and began practicing with my daughter. You’ll notice in the picture that she is chugging her morning milk while doing this activity. I keep a drink near me so that if she gets bored/frustrated I hand her the drink and she refocuses. If she’s not at all into the activity she will just crawl away. Which I don’t deter her from. At this point color flashcards are fun – one trip around. We’ve done them quite a lot the past few weeks and she’s over it. But I don’t want her to lose that information either! So I make sure to go over these at least once every few days.

You might be wondering why I bothered writing the color on the actual card. I wanted her to slowly begin to recognize those letters to that color (sight reading). Since the introduction of these cards I’ve written up flashcards with common names (Auntie, Mom, Daddy, Toby [our black lab], juice, etc.) and have her point to them. She’s not quite there in recognizing all of them, but she’s most certainly close. This is something that is a little ahead of her, but again it’s never too early. It also depends upon your child.



Fabric-Stuffed Wipe Container:
– Small Motor Development
– Sensory/Texture Experience
– Developing Attention Span
– Dexterity

You have that wipes container that you’re sure you could use for something, but not certain for what – am I right? Or maybe you have an extra food storage container hanging around. Overall, you can use those! This has improved my daughter’s dexterity like you would not believe. In a few days she went from shoving a whole fistful of macaroni & cheese into her mouth at dinner to delicately picking them up piece by piece. Sure dinner takes a year and a half now, but it’s fun to see that improvement. Plus the lack of mess is a bonus. 🙂

Simply stuff a container with fabric pieces (I bought a scrap pack from Walmart for around $6) and show the child how to grasp it and pull it out. They may just figure it out on their own, but it always helps to demonstrate. You don’t want the hole to be too large that they can fit their whole hand down and rip them all out at once. Think pincer grasp!

pipecleanersorterCrazy Pipe Cleaner Sorter:
– Learning Colors
– Small Motor Development
– Problem Solving

This is an oatmeal container that I poked a bunch of holes in and stuck some pipe cleaners in. I noticed that it looked like a person with crazy hair, so of course I had to give it a face. 🙂 I ask my daughter to give me a “green one” and she pulls out a green one. Sometimes I just let her remove all of the pipe cleaners without any direction.

As she gets older we will work on sticking the pipe cleaners back in each hole.


pipecleanershapessorterPipe Cleaner Shapes Sorter:
– Shape Recognition
– Color Recognition
– Small Motor Development
– Problem Solving

This I threw together pretty quickly and it’s a big hit. I took pipe cleaners and attached buttons to the end in corresponding colors. I then stuck the pipe cleaners into a strainer. We’re working on our shapes (slowly) but for right now I simply ask her to give me the “red/blue/green/purple/etc one” and she pulls it out. We’ve also started working on sticking them back in on our own. As she develops a little more we’ll begin working on shapes. I figure we’ll tackle one thing at a time. Since colors seem to be our focus right now.



Maybe you don’t have the time or desire to throw together a bunch of things you can always purchase different toys in the store that can help you achieve the same goals.
Shape sorters, blocks, and foam letters & numbers are always great. Danielle gave me an idea that I didn’t even consider – phone & tablet apps. My one year old loves playing with my phone. One day I will have an iPad that I can entertain her with for a few minutes while I put makeup on as well. (Don’t act like you haven’t been there … ) You can find some great educational apps for either your Apple or Droid device. Have any recommendations? Comment below!

Over the next few weeks I am sure I will find a few other developmental activities and I’ll be sure to test them out and share!

Check out these links below that served as my inspiration & have additional ideas!

19 Engaging Activities for 1 Year Olds
15 Independent Activities for 1 Year Olds

Happy Hump Day!




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