10 Best Montessori Activities for 1 Year Olds

Babies who have just turned 12 months old are extremely busy! They are just learning how to walk or preparing themselves for it, additionally, they are starting to understand the world around them a little bit more. There are a variety of Montessori activities that can help 1-year-olds develop their new skills.

Here are 10 of the best Montessori activities for 1-Year-Olds: 

1. Water Play 

Water play is a fun, simple to set up, developmentally beneficial activity for 1-year-olds. All you need is a high-lipped container or tray and items from your kitchen. 

For this activity, fill the container with water and add items such as a cup, measuring spoons, and a sponge. Including fresh fruit and vegetables for them to practice washing will make this activity a Practical Life one. Another variation of water play is washing dirty animals. 

For this variation, you cover plastic animals in a cocoa powder and water mixture to mimic mud (you can use mud if you prefer). You then provide one tub of clean water and a tub of soapy water, along with a scrubbing brush. The aim is for the toddler to wash the dirty farm animals in soapy water and rinse them in clean water. 

Water play activities can promote various areas of development for infants aged 12 months. The Montessori approach emphasizes sensory-motor experiences as a foundation for learning. Water play provides a rich array of sensory experiences that can help foster cognitive, physical, and social-emotional development. 

Water play activities help to develop fine and gross motor skills. Pouring water from one container to another requires using the hands, and fine motor skills. Splashing and playing in the water helps to develop gross motor skills.

2. Matching Lids to Containers 

Matching lids to containers is a simple activity that uses items you already have in the house. This activity is a great introduction to problem-solving while helping with size and shape recognition.  

For this activity, you will need two or three empty containers and their accompanying lids. (Quantity can be increased to make it more challenging as the child gets older). Put the containers and their lids on a tray (or mat if you do not have a tray), so the toddler can try to replace the lids. Later, you can introduce containers of varying sizes. 

This simple activity helps with fine motor development. The act of grasping and manipulating the lids and containers requires toddlers to use the small muscles in their hands, which helps to strengthen and coordinate them. This is important for later activities such as writing and other tasks that require fine motor control.

Secondly, the activity helps with their cognitive development. As babies match the lids to the containers, they develop their ability to identify and match similar objects. This is an early step in developing their ability to understand and organize information, which is essential for later learning.

Thirdly, the activity helps with their problem-solving abilities. As babies experiment with different lids and containers, they learn to understand cause and effect and develop the ability to find solutions to problems.

3. Sensory Play 

Sensory play is a key component of the Montessori method of education, and it is particularly beneficial for 12-month-old babies. It is a part of the Sensorial curriculum and helps children to develop language skills. In addition, sensory play lays the foundation for mathematics and science.

Sensory play for 12-month-old infants is simple to set up using items ranging in shapes, sizes, sounds, and textures from your home, garden, or environment. 

You will need a sensory table or a large container to set up a sensory activity. Next, you can theme your sensory bin to align with a holiday, season, or activity. Pinterest has hundreds of sensory tray and table ideas for you to choose from.

sensory bin with wooden trees

Once you have decided on a theme (this can be as simple as the beach or an upcoming holiday), you need to choose a filler for the sensory bin. A filler can be anything from sand to rice.

Depending on your chosen theme, the objects you put in the bin vary drastically. If you do not want to have a theme, just add a few tools that the toddler can use to manipulate the filling such as scoops and brushes. 

Sensory play not only helps infants develop their fine and gross motor skills but also promotes a love of learning in children. When babies are exposed to various sensory experiences, they become curious and engaged, setting the stage for a lifetime of learning. 

4. Exploring the House 

Twelve months old is when children start noticing more about their environment, and how they can move it in. Some children by this age may be able to walk or are just around the corner from being able to walk. 

This period is one of exploration, but when your baby starts to understand what it is, you are saying to them. So, it is the perfect time for them to begin exploring their home. All you need to do for this activity is ensure the home environment is safe for exploration. 

A benefit of exploring the house is that it helps to stimulate a baby’s senses. As they touch, taste, and see different objects, they learn about the world around them while developing their sense of curiosity. This is important for developing cognitive skills, such as problem-solving and memory.

5. Handwashing 

First and foremost, hand washing helps to promote cleanliness and hygiene. Additionally, handwashing is a Practical Life activity that can be introduced when an infant turns 12 months old. 

You only need a sink, soup, and a towel for this activity. If you prefer you can use a bowl and a jug of water instead of a sink. As the child progresses you can introduce a nail scrubber and lotion. This activity is an important step towards independence and gives infants a sense of purpose and accomplishment. 

To start you can model handwashing to the toddler, and then let them try it. They will not get it right initially, but they will have a great time playing with the soap and water. 

one year old washing hands

In addition, handwashing helps to develop fine motor skills. The act of lathering soap, rubbing hands together, and rinsing off the suds all require the use of small muscle movements in the hands and fingers. These small movements can help to strengthen the muscles in the hands and fingers, which is important for overall hand-eye coordination and dexterity.

Handwashing can also be a sensory experience for babies. The sensation of water on their hands, the smell of soap, and the feeling of bubbles can all excite and stimulate babies. This can help to promote cognitive development and exploration as babies learn to explore and understand the world around them. 

6. Helping Around the House 

As infants become more mobile, they also become more interested in what is happening around them. 12 months old is a great time to let your child help around the house. You mustn’t let them help with a task that is too complex, as this will frustrate them. 

Helping around the house is a way for children to learn more about their environment, culture, and role within the family. This activity allows babies to begin to develop their independence and sense of control over their environment.

one-year-old activity helping with cleaning

Examples of household activities you can involve a 12-month-old toddler in are: 

  • Unloading the dishwasher (no sharp knives) 
  • Putting clothes in the washing machine 
  • Placing clothes on the washing line or clothes horse
  • Wiping wooden furniture with a cloth 
  • Tidying away toys 

Allowing children as young as 12 months old to help around the house teaches them responsibility, and how to care for themselves and their environment while involving them in family life. 

7. Scooping 

Scooping is an activity found in every early-learning Montessori environment. This activity is a simple yet powerful tool for developing a wide range of skills in 12-month-old babies. Scooping activities are simple to set up and don’t require special Montessori materials. 

To set up a scooping activity you will need: 

  • A tray 
  • Two bowls 
  • A scoop 
  • Non-perishable food items (such as chickpeas, rice, or pasta), or ping pong balls 

For this activity fill one of the bowls until it is half full, with non-perishable food items or ping pong balls. Using one of the scoops, transfer the items from left to right, showing the toddler the aim of the activity. 

Scooping helps toddlers develop fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and concentration skills. 

8. Finger Painting 

The Montessori method emphasizes hands-on multi-sensory experiences to aid in learning and development. One of the easiest and best activities to embody this is finger painting. 

All you need for this activity is a sheet of paper, a tray to contain the mess, water to clean little fingers, and non-toxic finger paints.  

Toddlers benefit from finger painting because it develops their fine motor skills and dexterity. Finger painting allows babies to explore and experiment with different textures and colors. This helps to develop their sense of curiosity and creativity, which are important for cognitive development.

Not only is finger painting a fun activity, but it also helps toddlers to develop their emotional intelligence and self-awareness. Through finger painting, toddlers learn how to express themselves and their emotions. Check out our full article for more information on art in Montessori.

9. Object Permanence Box With Tray 

Object permanence is the understanding that objects continue to exist even when they can no longer be seen or heard. The Object Permanence Box with Tray is a Montessori activity designed to help babies develop this understanding. 

The material comes with a ball that the toddler places into a hole on top of the box. The ball briefly disappears before reappearing in the tray.  

Montessori object permanence box
Montessori Object Permanence Box from Amazon

As children reach the 1-year mark, they begin to master skills they have already been introduced to. You may have introduced this classic Montessori material as early as 6 or 7 months of age, but 12 months is when your toddler starts to understand the function of the material. 

Along with developing a child’s understanding of object permanence, this activity promotes cognitive development, hand-eye coordination, focus and concentration, and fine motor skills. 

10. Time in Nature 

One activity that is particularly beneficial for 12-month-old babies is spending time in nature. The Montessori education method emphasizes nature’s importance in young children’s development. This is because immersion in nature is believed to drive a child’s natural curiosity for the world around them and in turn their quest for knowledge. 

All you need to do is spend time outdoors in nature to complete this activity. You can go to a park, or spend time in your garden. Nature provides a wealth of opportunities for toddlers to explore and learn. You can let the toddler explore the new environment.  

one year old playing outside

Being outside allows toddlers to experience different textures, smells, and sounds, which can help to develop their senses. For example, walking on grass, feeling the softness of a leaf, or listening to the chirping of birds can all provide unique sensory experiences for a toddler. 

Time in nature has been proven to impact cognitive development. In addition, immersion in nature helps with physical, social, and emotional development.  


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