Baby Playtime Ideas for 16- To 18-Month-Old Toddlers
Toddlerhood continues! It may be hard to believe, but at 16- to 18-months, your little one is now considered a full-blown toddler. With the magical milestone of their first birthday behind you, it’s normal to wonder which activities bolster their blossoming personalities, mobility, and curiosity for their rapidly expanding world. These creative playtime ideas are tailored to support your toddler’s developing cognition, motor skills, and coordination.
Although it can sometimes be wild (and amazing! And daunting! And even a little sad!) to see your baby growing so fast, there are plenty of exciting activities to try as your 16- to 18-month-old becomes more mobile. Here are some of our favorite activities for 16-month-olds, 17-month-olds, and 18-month-olds to help keep your toddler challenged, engaged, and smiling.
Activities for 16-Month-Old
Your adorable little toddler is all about exploration at this stage, meaning the best activities for 16-month-olds will be focused around discovery. They’re more likely to start testing boundaries and searching for unexplored territories. In other words, it’s the perfect time to re-check your home’s toddler-proofing, especially around cabinets and outlets. With that being said, playtime with your 16-month-old can be a blast. Here are a few ideas to help you catch (and maintain) their attention.
Let’s make music
Instruments and noise makers are bound to be a hit with your 16-month-old. Not only are they exciting and stimulating playtime choices, but studies also show that music may play an important role in your little one’s brain development. One of our favorite ways to incorporate music is with baby-safe instruments like egg shakers. Play baby’s favorite tunes and encourage them to play along. And if you need a break from nursery rhymes it’s okay to play your favorite songs, too.
If your 16-month-old tends to get bored easily, it may be time to pull out the big guns: a bubble machine! This easy activity is a great way to keep your restless child entertained, while promoting active playtime as they run and practicing jumping to catch the bubbles. We recommend trying an automatic bubble machine if you need a few minutes need to finish your coffee.
A is for art
Coloring is a fun indoor activity that you and your 16-month-old can enjoy together, rain or shine. It can help stimulate your kiddo’s creativity and support their development of hand-eye coordination, spatial awareness, and color recognition. Easy-grip, egg-shaped crayons can also help your toddler get the most out of their coloring adventures.
How does it feel?
Incorporating sensory activities into your little one’s daily routine is a great way to support their development. One of the simplest and least messy ways to do this is with sensory books (commonly called touch and feel books). Try reading these books to your kiddo daily, such as before naptime or bedtime. Encourage them to turn the pages, feel the exciting textures (like soft, scratchy, or crinkly), and look at all the different colors.
Activities for 17-Month-Old
Around 17-months-old, you may notice your child forming clearer likes and dislikes, from foods to activities, and more. Incorporating a variety of learning activities and puzzles can help them further explore their budding personality at this stage. It’s common for 17-month-olds to be described as “talkative” and “dexterous,” with a rapidly improving vocabulary, better coordination, and stronger fine motor skills. Read on to discover which activities to do with your 17-month-old to help support their development during this month.
Stack it higher and higher
One way to help your 17-month-old work on their motor skills and problem-solving skills is with stackable toys—such as stacking rings, blocks, or cups. These toys are considered a crucial part of your little one’s development, since they may help them conquer the three types of object construction: building, stacking, and nesting (when one object is placed inside another). Use these during bathtime, too!
Budding piano star
Musical toys are likely to be a big hit for toddlers, especially at 17-months-old. Research shows that musical training, even at such a young age, may help promote cognitive development and creative self-expression. Invite your toddler to join you for some fun music time on a toy piano and encourage them by demonstrating a few notes, and allowing them to mimic you until they get the hang of it.
Try table play
Sand tables and water tables can be oh-so-much fun for your little one. These toys can help your kiddo splish and splash, and practice building sand castles—no matter the season. You can choose from any variety of these playtime tables in stores, or even create one at home using DIY methods. The idea is to make their sensory playtime both fun and exciting, while also helping to stimulate creativity, hand-eye coordination, and problem-solving skills.
Babies try bowling
Work on your kiddo’s physical coordination with some toddler-friendly bowling fun! Your always-moving toddler will probably be thrilled to join you in this game, as you show them how to roll a soft ball at some pins. Water bottles make a great impromptu swap for bowling pins.
Let’s do arts and crafts together
There are so many creative ways to spend some arts and crafts time with your curious little one. One of our favorites is sticker time, where your toddler fills a sticker book with all of their favorite colorful stickers. The best part about this activity? It’s completely mess-free! You can also incorporate even more sensory-based experiences into your little one’s arts and crafts routine with some play-doh, chalk, or finger-painting.
Activities for 18-Month-Old
Your little one is now one-and-a-half years-old! You may see “no” becoming your toddler’s favorite word as their confidence, independence, and self-awareness continues to grow. At 18-months-old, it’s common for your toddler to become more confident with stair climbing, identifying body parts, scribbling, and turning corners without falling. Here are a few fun things to do with your 18-month-old that are likely to keep you both smiling.
Catch me if you can
If your toddler is full of energy, try playing a bit of “catch me if you can” to tire them out! This activity is just what it sounds like—it’s all about having fun and chasing your kiddo around. This game is almost like hide-and-seek, but with the hiding spots continuously changing to keep your 18-month-old on their toes. This can help them practice their sound-location coordination and hearing skills. If your toddler gets overly excited, try taking a break and continuing later. Other active games to play with your 18-month-old include games like “Simon Says” and “Freeze!”
Your 18-month-old may not always agree when it’s time to wind down for a nap. Luckily, there are plenty of fun activities for your 18-month-old that can help—while also stimulating their senses and creativity. One way to do this is by building a “secret fort” or pretend tent for them to hide in. You can have your little one help you fill it with their favorite toys and plenty of soft, cozy blankets.
Build an obstacle course
Looking for rainy day activities for your 18-month-old? Arrange a few basic obstacles around your home that your toddler can use as an obstacle course built just for them! This indoor activity for your 18-month-old can be an excellent way for them to practice their motor skills and coordination by jumping in place, squatting, and working their way through obstacles—with your help, of course.
Explore the outdoors
Outdoor activities for your 18-month-old include heading outside for a nature walk with your toddler to help them explore the world through their sense of smell and touch. This can be an excellent sensory activity for your 18-month-old.
DIY ball pit
There’s not much better than a ball pit! As one of the best activities for 18-month-olds, ball pits create an exciting sensory environment that can make indoor playtime extra-fun. To make an at-home ball pit, you’ll need a kiddie pool and plenty of balls to fill it with.
Remember: Take these milestones with a grain of salt, as every baby is unique and develops at their own pace. If you have any questions about the milestones mentioned above, or the best activities for your growing toddler, it’s always best to speak with your pediatrician.
Up next, discover tips on how to deal with mommy guilt.