23 Totally Amazing Activities For 18 Month Old Toddlers!

By Paula McLaren •  Updated: 09/12/22 •  5 min read  •  Toddler » Toddler Play

Toddlers love exploring their world so 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 if you split them into 4 simple categories…

… Then you will always find something to do with your 18 month old regardless of where you are and what the weather is doing!

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.

These activities for 18 month old toddlers should be fun but they do not have to be complex.

It is useful to have a few indoor and outdoor activities of this kind up your sleeve to keep a curious toddler occupied and to keep things interesting for you too. Here are some of my favourites:

The Laundry Basket Game
How: Fill a laundry basket with clothes and demonstrate to your toddler how to take them out one at a time and put them back in again. Naming the items as they go.
Why Do I Recommend It?: Children love to put things in and pull out things from containers and the laundry basket game can keep them occupied for ages in a non-challenging or intimidating way!
Skills Developed?: Language Skills
How To Follow Instructions
Fine Motor Skills
Pass The Ball
How: 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.
Why Do I Recommend It?: Ball games are great fun for toddlers and they're an ideal activity for promoting gross motor skills and hand-eye coordination. It's also great fun and can be played regardless of the weather!
Skills Developed?: Cause and Effect
Hand-Eye Coordination
Gross Motor Skills
Music Time
How: Grab a musical instrument (or anything that can make a noise) and make as much noise as you like! Xylophones, toy drums and guitars are all ideal instruments for little hands.
Why Do I Recommend It?: Music is one of the best activities for 18-month-old toddlers as it is something that the whole family can join in with and provides so many incredible developmental opportunities and is pure fun!
Skills Developed?: Basic Coordination
Musical Rhythm
Shoot The Breeze
How: 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 them to throw the ball or bean bag into the bucket. It may take several attempts... but once they get it in, it will cause great delight.
Why Do I Recommend It?: This is such a simple game that can be set up almost anywhere and will win over the hearts of your children instantly. I have yet to come across a child who does not love to throw things into something else!
Skills Developed?: Gross Motor Skills
Hand-Eye Coordination
Patience
Seek And Find
How: 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.
Why Do I Recommend It?: This activity stimulates memory recall and strengthens the bond between you and your little one as you encourage them to explore, find and celebrate finding their toys!
Skills Developed?: Memory Recall
Gross Motor Skills
Footy
How: Find an open space and an age-appropriate ball and encourage your toddler to kick it around, chase it and have fun!
Why Do I Recommend It?: Toddlers love to kick a ball around and this activity can be done both inside and outside depending on the weather. It is a great activity to get them moving and they can also have fun kicking the ball to you so you return it.
Skills Developed?: Coordination and Balance
Gross Motor Skills
Cooperation
Hide And Seek
How: Hide yourself in a variety of places and encourage your child to find you by making sounds and clues. Also, get your child to hide so you can find them!
REMEMBER: 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 quickly.
Why Do I Recommend It?: Different from 'seek and find', hide and seek is an age-old game that never fails to grab the attention of toddlers and it has the added advantage of being a game you can play both inside and out.
Skills Developed?: Social Bonding
Curiosity

7 Learning Activities For 18 Month Old Toddlers

Now we can move onto activities for 18 month old toddlers that are designed for 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.

Building Blocks
How: Give your toddler a selection of different coloured wooden building blocks that they can build with and put in and out of containers and walkers.
Why Do I Recommend It?: Building blocks are another great playing staple that will keep your toddler happy for years to come. Introducing your toddler to wooden building blocks helps with their problem solving and creative skills as they explore what the blocks can create!
Skills Developed?: Fine Motor Skills
Cognitive Development
Creative Thinking
Colour And Shape Recognision
Simon Says & Action Songs
How: Firstly, stand opposite your toddler and give an instruction and demonstrate the 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.
Why Do I Recommend It?: Children love to mimic and mime what you do. This game captures that love and turns it into a fun learning opportunity. I promise this game will provide hours of fun!
Skills Developed?: Learn Parts Of The Body
Coordination
How To Follow Instructions
Matching Pairs
How: Get 5 or 6 pairs of cards with simple images such as animals or other recognisable everyday items on them and lay one of the pair on the table and give the corresponding cards to your toddler and ask him to place the matching card that they have next to the one you have placed out. Whenever they get a match make a big thing of praising their success. Repeat!
Why Do I Recommend It?: There are lots of matching pair games on the market but simple ones like this are ideal first card games for your little one. It's also very cheap to do!
Skills Developed?: Object And Pattern Recognition
Fine Motor Skills
Corresponding Colours
How: Give your child a set of balls or blocks of different colours and ask 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!
Why Do I Recommend It?: Similar to the activity above, learning to match colours is a simple yet highly effective task for teaching your child new skills and words. It will also keep them entertained time and time again!
Skills Developed?: Colour Recognition
Grouping
Fine Motor Skills
Language Development
1-2-3!
How: Start by counting from 1-5 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.
Why Do I Recommend It?: As your 18 month old now has more dexterity this is an ideal time to introduce counting on fingers. It's a valuable lifelong skill and the opportunities to introduce counting in a fun way are many and varied!
Skills Developed?: Basic Preschool Math
Basic Number and Quantity Association
Fine Motor Skills
Colouring & Painting
How: Give your child blank pieces of paper to draw on. Talk to them about what they are creating and what colours they are using.
If you can... supply an upright easel and paints and 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!
Why Do I Recommend It?: This game is all about creativity, imagination and fun. Children love to paint and draw and providing a safe place to do this without worrying about the mess will make it enjoyable for the whole family.
Skills Developed?: Fine Motor Skills
Hand-Eye Coordination
Colour Recognition
Creativity
Puzzling Puzzles
How: Have a few simple wooden puzzles for your toddler to practise playing with. Wooden puzzles with brightly coloured shapes are ideal.
Why Do I Recommend It?: Simple wooden puzzles are the perfect activities for toddlers. They improve fine motor skills and help with learning colours and shapes as well as being the perfect toy to grow with your child's ability level.
Skills Developed?: Fine Motor Skills
Cognitive Skills
Colour & Shape Recognition

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 for 18 month old toddlers will help them interpret the world they live in!

Messy Play
How: Take some cornflour and add enough water and food colouring to it so that is runny when poured but becomes hard when pressure is applied.
Finger and foot painting are also great activities to do on a hot sunny day and if you are feeling brave... take part yourself and both have fun!
Why Do I Recommend It?: Toddlers love messy play and it's a love that should be explored in a fun way. By getting messy, your child has the freedom to create whatever their heart desires which is very beneficial for their development!
Skills Developed?: Creativity
Develops Sense Of Touch
Colour and Shape Recognition
Sand & Water Play
How: 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! Just let them go for it!
Why Do I Recommend It?: The main benefit of 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!
Skills Developed?: Gross Motor Skills
Creativity
Imagination

REMEMBER: Always supervise your children around water, no matter how shallow.

Smelling Games
How: 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.
Why Do I Recommend It?: Encouraging your toddler to explore the world around by being aware of the smells around then develops object smell association and is a vital skill to help children understand the difference between good and bad smells.
Skills Developed?: Object Smell Association
Observation Skills
Listening Games
How: Play animal sounds and teach your 18 month old to recognise and copy them.
You can also mimic everyday noises such as cars going "Brum Brum!", clocks going "Tick-Tock!" and microwaves that go "Ping!".
Why Do I Recommend It?: Audio games are one of the simplest and easiest ways to develop your toddler's listening skills. With no kit required except a bit of creativity, you and your toddler can have fun with thousands of sounds!
Skills Developed?: Sound Object Association
Sound Recall
Touch And Feel
How: Having pieces of fabric or items of different textures in a box can be a fun way of teaching about the difference in textures. 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.
Why Do I Recommend It?: 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!
Skills Developed?: Language Skills
Awareness
Fine Motor Skills
Cooking Together
How: 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 your 18 month old to take part, taste and enjoy!
Why Do I Recommend It?: 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!
Skills Developed?: Patience
Fine Motor Skills
Cooperation
Sense Of Achievement

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 your toddler’s development, and grow their family connections.

The 3 activities listed below should be non-pressurised and be integrated into your everyday lives.

Meal Time Chats
How: At meal times chat about the food, what it tastes like and looks like, and how delicious it is. They might want to share their food with you and try and feed you some which is fine!
You can even talk about your day together. What games you played, where you went for a walk, and what you learnt together.
Why Do I Recommend It?: Talking about the little things in life is the key to maininting healthy and open communication for years to come. Laying the foundation for these chats at mealtimes is the perfect place to start.
Skills Developed?: Language Skills
Emotional Development
Social Skills
Getting Dressed
How: 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 too!
Why Do I Recommend It?: 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 which are all important skills to learn.
Skills Developed?: Language Skills
Cooperation & Social Skills
Singing Songs & Reading Books
How: Before bed, cuddle up to read a story or two together.
And throughout the day sing songs about anything and everything! Nursery rhymes and random tunes are great places to start.
Why Do I Recommend It?: 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.
Skills Developed?: Language Skills
Imagination Skills
Fine Motor Skills

TOP TIP: Here is a comprehensive list of my favourite books for toddlers to help you fill out their library!

Before Beginning An Activity With Your 18 Month Old

Here are some basic tips to keep in mind when embarking on activities with your toddler! 

  1. 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!
  2. It goes without saying that toddlers can be very moody if they’re tired… so aim to introduce activities into the day when they are well-rested and in a playful mood.
  3. 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. 
  4. 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.
  5. Do not persist with a certain activity if it does not appeal to your toddler or if they are finding it frustrating. 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.

“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

Put simply…

Choose activities that are engaging, fun, creative and stimulating to ensure your little one gets the most out of every play opportunity!

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Paula McLaren

Paula McLaren - Norland Nurse NNEB RSH is the founder of Teething to Tantrums and has been in the childcare 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.

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