We all know that toddlers have such a wonder and joy about them as they explore their world! Therefore, it’s important to choose appropriate activities for 18 month old toddlers to keep their brains firing and wanting to absorb everything around them!
There are almost ENDLESS activities for your toddler, but here are my absolute favourites! Split into 4 simple categories:
You will always find something to do with your 18 month old regardless of where you are and what the weather is doing! So let’s get right on into it!
5 Tips To Remember Before Beginning An Activity With Your 18 Month Old
To follow on from what to be aware of when choosing activities for your 18 month old… Here are some basic tips to keep in mind when embarking on activities for your toddler!
- Always participate in the activity with your toddler! Chat to them, prompt them, encourage and praise but DO NOT take over. Let your toddler lead the pace!
- It goes without saying that toddlers can be very moody… so aim to introduce activities into the day when they are well-rested and in a playful mood.
- Playing and interacting with your toddler should be an enjoyable experience for you both. If your toddler is showing resistance to a specific game or activity move on.
- Remember that each baby is unique and you must be patient. If your toddler is taking longer than his peers to grasp a task, don’t panic! They have plenty of time to learn and they will all move at their own individual pace.
- If a certain activity does not appeal to your toddler or they are finding it frustrating, do not persist with it. You can leave it for a while and try again at a later stage or it may be something they just do not enjoy.
How To Choose The Best Activities For 18 Month Old
It is also important to remember that 18 month old toddlers do not like to be bored.
Toddlers of 18 months are on the cusp of wanting to be more independent and defiant… so it is hugely important to keep them on track with regards to structure and routine and teaching them how to share and be kind!
At this stage, you need to choose the correct activities that will complement and stimulate both their physical, mental and social development.
One last thing before we dive into the activities…
“Research demonstrates that developmentally appropriate play with parents and peers is a singular opportunity to promote the social-emotional, cognitive, language, and self-regulation skills that build executive function and a prosocial brain. Furthermore, play supports the formation of the safe, stable, and nurturing relationships with all caregivers that children need to thrive.”American Academy Of Paediatrics
So, with that in mind… Let’s get into the best expert-approved activities for 18 month old toddlers!
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7 Development Activities For 18 Month Old Toddlers
There are loads of specific developmental activities you can introduce to your toddler to promote both gross motor and fine motor skills.
As always they should be fun but they do not have to be complex and can be often spontaneous.
It is useful to have a few indoor and outdoor activities of this kind up your sleeve to keep the curious toddler occupied and also fun for you too. Here are some of my favourites!
1. The Laundry Basket Game
18 month toddlers love to put things in and pull out things from containers and the laundry basket game can keep them occupied for ages! Fill the laundry basket with clothes and then demonstrate to your toddler how to take them out and one at a time and put them back in again.
Benefits & Skills Learnt? Your toddler will learn how to follow instructions from this task in a non-challenging way. This will prove useful when teaching your toddler to tidy up after play later on in life. The language will also be improved by identifying the items of clothing and their colours.
2. Pass The Ball
Ball games are great fun for toddlers and they’re an ideal activity for promoting gross motor skills and hand-eye coordination.
Sit on the floor with legs apart opposite your toddler. You each have a small plastic ball. Ask your toddler to push their ball towards you and as they do, you push yours towards them. Repeat and they will soon understand that as soon as they push their ball you will push your back!
Benefits & Skills Learnt? This teaches your toddler about pre-decided events and cause and effect.
3. Music Time
Music is one of the best activities for 18 month old toddlers as it is something that the whole family can join in with. If you are able to play the guitar, for example, this is an ideal time to play with your toddler. Perfect instruments for your 18 month old are toy drums or xylophone. Then off you go and make as much noise as you like!
Benefits & Skills Learnt? Your toddler will learn basic coordination from this activity as well as music rhythm. They will also learn the enjoyment of a group activity with the family.
4. Shoot The Breeze
A great ball game for gross motor skill development is teaching your toddler to try and get a ball in a bucket. Draw a line with chalk on the floor and get your toddler to stand behind it. Then place a bucket about 3 feet away and ask him to throw the ball into the bucket. This will take several attempts but once achieved will cause great delight.
Benefits & Skills Learnt? This game develops patience, gross motor skills and hand-eye coordination and a great sense of achievement.
5. Seek And Find
This is a great indoor activity for your 18 month old. Ask your toddler to stand in the doorway and let them watch you hide some small toys around the room. Make sure you are in their line of sight so they can see where you are placing the toys. Then ask them to find the hidden toys while you prompt and encourage them.
Benefits & Skills Learnt? This activity encourages memory recall and the praise you give on finding each object teaches gives your toddler a positive reward for a job well done!
Toddlers love to kick a ball around and this can be done both inside and outside with an appropriate ball. It is a great activity to get them moving and they can also have fun kicking the ball to you and you return it.
Benefits & Skills Learnt? With this activity, your toddler will learn cooperation, gross motor skills, coordination. In addition, this activity promotes physical movement, in particular with running and balance.
7. Hide And Seek
Different from seek and find, hide and seek is an age-old game that never fails to grab the attention of this age group and it has the added advantage of being a game you can play both inside and out. Always hide in a place that is easy for your toddler to find, as they may become frustrated or scared if they cannot locate you soon enough.
Benefits & Skills Learnt? This is a great game for developing social bonding and curiosity.
7 Learning Activities For 18 Month Old Toddlers
Now we can move on to activities for your 18 month old that are designed towards basic preschool learning.
Learning through play is the key here. As with older children, your toddler may show signs of being more adept at some skills than others but that is absolutely fine. Encouragement and praise are what is important at this stage in their development.
1. Building Blocks
You can never go wrong with a set of basic building blocks. I prefer wooden blocks as they are weighted and easier to hold than lighter plastic blocks and shapes.
The bright coloured blocks will be an ideal teaching tool for helping you encourage your toddler to learn colours and shapes. You also have the opportunity to praise your toddler’s building abilities and they will delight in knocking down their creation & then building it again!
Benefits & Skills Learnt? Your toddler will learn colour and shape identification as well as fine motor skills. In addition, they will learn simple design concepts and the relevance of size to a structure.
2. Simon Says & Action Songs
This is a great game for 18 month old toddlers as they love to mimic and mime what you do. Firstly, stand opposite your toddler and give the instruction and demonstrate a movement.
Encourage your toddler to copy you. Do this with several different movements showing them how to do it. Once they have got the hang of the game try giving them a movement without demonstration and see if they can follow the verbal instruction alone.
Benefits & Skills Learnt? This is a fun way for your toddler to learn the names of parts of the body and how to follow instructions.
3. Matching Pairs
There are lots of matching pair games on the market and simple ones are ideal first card games for your little one.
Lay a set of cards with simple images such as animals or other recognisable everyday items. Only put out 5 or 6 pairs, to begin with. Give the corresponding cards to your toddler and ask him to place the matching card that he has next to the one you have placed out. Whenever he gets a match make a big thing of praising his success. Repeat!
Benefits & Skills Learnt? The obvious benefit of this game is that they learn to play with you and improve their object and pattern recognition too!
4. Corresponding Colours
This game is similar to the one above but concentrates on learning to match colours. This can be done in several ways such as giving your child a set of balls or blocks of different colours and asking them to put them into buckets of a matching colour.
Give clues if they make a mistake to avoid your toddler becoming frustrated. But, as always make a big thing of praising them when they succeed!
Benefits & Skills Learnt? This game will improve colour recognition and will teach your toddler about grouping.
As your 18 month old now has more dexterity this is an ideal time to introduce counting on fingers. Start with counting from 1-5 to begin with and depending on the toddler’s ability and interest you can push on up to 10.
You can reinforce simple counting by counting feet and hands when putting on socks and gloves, counting steps when climbing stairs and through books aimed at teaching simple counting skills. In fact, the opportunities to introduce counting in a fun way are many and varied!
Benefits & Skills Learnt? By practising counting, you will be encouraging your toddler to learn basic preschool maths and basic number/quantity association.
6. Colouring & Painting
Give them blank pieces of paper to draw on or draw a simple house or face and see if they try to copy. Talk to them about what they are creating and the colours they are using.
If you can supply an upright easel and paints with paints make sure you put it either outside or protect your flooring so that you can let them paint away without you having to be anxious about the mess they might make.
The key to this is just to let them take the lead and have fun.
Benefits & Skills Learnt? These activities will stimulate your toddler’s creative brain and will help to develop hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. It also is another activity in which your toddler can learn colours.
7. Wooden Puzzles
Basic wooden puzzles are also a great opportunity for your toddler to learn through play. They can repeat them again and again and they can range from simple shapes to more complex designs.
The great thing about puzzles is that they can grow with your child. You can introduce them at a year old and then just increase the difficulty as they grow.
Benefits & Skills Learnt? Similar to building blocks, wooden puzzles allow your toddler to learn colours and shapes as well as refine their fine motor skills.
6 Sensory Activities For 18 Month Old Toddlers
Activities that involve the senses are great for stimulating your toddler’s sensory reflexes.
Children under the age of 3 explore their world through their senses so sensory-based activities help your 18 month old interpret the world around them.
Audio games are one way of developing your toddlers listening skills. For example, you can play animal sounds and teach your 18 month old to recognise them and copy the sound.
You can also mimic everyday noises such as cars “Brum Brum!”, clocks “tick-tock!” and microwaves “ping!”.
Benefits & Skills Learnt? These audio games will teach your toddler sound object association and sound recall.
A toddler can now start to differentiate between the feel of things and learn the words to describe them such as soft, hard, prickly, hot and cold. This is an essential sense to develop especially for safety reasons when your child needs to understand the concept of hot being dangerous.
Having pieces of fabric or items of different textures in a box can be a fun way of teaching about the difference in textures too. A soft furry piece of material or a feather that you can hold up to your face is soft. A piece of wood is hard and a brush, for example, is prickly.
Benefits & Skills Learnt? Your toddler will learn new vocabulary to describe the world around them and will learn what is safe and what is not and where to be cautious or embrace.
When it comes to the sense of smell, there are a few ideas that you can implement to help your toddler’s sensory development along.
There are scratch and sniff books available that are ideal for this. However, there are plenty of opportunities during the daily routine to encourage the identification of different smells, whether it be when you are cooking, out for a walk or having a bath and smelling the soap and lotions.
Benefits & Skills Learnt? Encouraging your toddler to explore the world around by being aware of the smells around then develops object smell association.
4. Messy Play
Toddlers love messy play and it should be encouraged as they enjoy exploring with their hands. Just make sure you have protected surrounding surfaces!
- Take some cornflour and add enough water to it so that is runny when poured but becomes hard when pressure is applied. You can add some colouring to this if you wish.
- Finger painting is also great along with handprint painting and on a hot sunny day and you are feeling brave try foot painting. Take part yourself and both have fun!
Benefits & Skills Learnt? Messy play is good for developing creativity and developing the sense of touch and encourages the learning of colours and shapes.
5. Sand & Water Play
If you have the space, a sandpit is a lovely addition to your toddler’s world of play and can keep them happy for ages. Give them different containers to fill and moulds to make shapes with. A little spade and a fork are also good.
Water play can be organized inside the house with a simple bowl, some bubbles and a few containers. Or in the bath! Finally, on a hot summer’s day, there is nothing more fun than a paddling pool or a hosepipe!
Benefits & Skills Learnt? The main benefit for both water and sand play is the freedom that it gives your toddler to explore and understand how these mediums work and react to what they do to them. I cannot emphasise how important these activities are for your toddler!
Yes… It is possible to do some simple cooking with your toddler & an early interest in cooking will be beneficial later on as you encourage them to take part in preparing family meals!
Simple cooking activities for this age group could be making chocolate cornflake cakes and flapjacks. Of course, you will have to do a lot of the work but there is still plenty of opportunities for them to take part, taste and enjoy.
Benefits & Skills Learnt? Cooking teaches your toddler patience while you are waiting for the food to cook, it teaches cooperation and a sense of achievement and sharing.
3 Everyday Activities For 18 Month Old Toddlers
These activities are not what I would call “traditional play”.
They are everyday activities that promote healthy communication, boost toddler development, growth and family connections. The 3 activities listed below should be non-pressurised and be integrated into your everyday.
1. Meal Time Chats
A meal times you can chat about the food, what it tastes like and looks like, and how delicious it is. They might want to share with you and try and feed you which is fine. This activity is teaching your toddler about colours, textures, foods and temperatures.
You can even talk about your day together. What games you played, where you went for a walk, what you learnt together.
Benefits & Skills Learnt? Mealtimes will become a wonderful opportunity to talk to each other as a family as your children grow, so get them used to it from a young age!
2. Getting Dressed
This is another great daily activity for 18 month old toddlers that promotes language.
It is an ideal time to introduce your toddler to new words as you list items of clothing and body parts as you help them dress.
You can also talk about the colours they are wearing or any images that may be on their clothes. You can talk about the weather being cold and wet or hot and sunny.
Benefits & Skills Learnt? You will be encouraging your toddler to learn basic preschool maths by counting their hands and feet when getting dressed and you can teach your toddler about body parts and items of clothing too!
3. Singing Songs & Reading Books
It goes without saying that singing songs and nursery rhymes and reading books are ideal activities for 18 month old toddlers.
The most obvious reason is the promotion of language but also the intimacy of reading a book together is something that this age group will love.
They will love rhymes and songs with actions and will want to perform them again and again and again!
Benefits & Skills Learnt? Book reading is an ideal activity for when you just need to bring the energy levels down at bedtime and singing familiar songs and rhymes can be extremely valuable on a long car journey or while you are stuck in traffic.
I have written another blog post all about my favourite books for toddlers here -> 16 Best Books For 1 Year Old Toddlers To Nurture Their Minds so be sure to check that out too!
I hope you find something here amongst these 18 month old activities to inspire you to make playing with your toddler fun and rewarding.
This is an ideal age to encourage learning through play and your toddler is primed to absorb it all!
REMEMBER: Try not to be overambitious by pressuring your toddler to learn new words, colours or shapes and identify objects. Your toddler still has plenty of time to learn and it is vital to give them that time! Most importantly the activities you do must be fun and not a chore… so play away and rediscover the world through your toddler’s eyes!
If you want some more great outdoor activities for toddlers, then check out this post -> Outdoor Activities For Toddlers
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Paula McLarenPaul Mclaren - Norland Nurse NNEB RSH is the founder of Teething to Tantrums and has been in the child care industry as a Norland Nanny since 1982. Since then, her mission has been to help parents become the best they can possibly be. And each year, she continues to help more families understand their child's development, the trials and joys of parenting and of course, how to care for their little ones.
This free daily routine reveals our simple process to take you from feeling stressed, tired & overwhelmed to a thriving, organized & confident parenting champion.
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