50 Sensory Activities for 1-Year-Olds: Learning Through Playtime Fun

My youngest child is rapidly approaching his first year. He’s still at the “I want everything in my mouth stage” but is also eager to learn. This second time, I have learned that babies don’t really need many toys to keep them entertained. My little boy is more interested in a cardboard box with no bells or whistles than a brand new toy. It’s easy to create sensory activities that are fun for 1-year olds with a bit of creativity.

Related: Activities for 12 month olds

At this age I am often amazed at the new senses babies begin to develop, particularly the way that they touch and perceive things. They start to explore and focus on objects. Why not give them easy crafts and activities to let their little minds soar?

50 sensory activities for 1 year olds
There are 50 fun sensory activities that will encourage your child to learn through play.

  1. Discovery Basket
    Fill any clear plastic containers that you may have lying around with small items for your baby to explore. Put a lid on the containers, and tape it if necessary. Let the baby spin the containers around to discover the contents.
  2. Paper towel roll chute
    Tape the cardboard roll of paper towels (or toilet paper rolls) to the wall and encourage your baby to drop cotton into it. This “into the chute” game is a lot of fun!
  1. Mess-free canvas art
    Choose a canvas at your local craft shop, dab on a few colors of paint, wrap it up in plastic and let the kids push it around with their fingertips. This is a fun, easy to clean craft that will look great on your living room gallery.
  2. Water Bottle Shakers
    Fill a bottle with water (and drink it!) Fill it up with popcorn, stones, rice, or whatever you like. You can make a rattle by taping the cap to it.
  3. Hand and foot painting
    You can create so many different handprint or footprint animals with your child’s hands or feet. The cool paint feels great on toddlers’ hands and feet.
  1. Mess-free Painting
    Fill up a plastic baggie and add different colors of paint. Seal it, tape it on the table, highchair or floor, then let the baby push it around. You can store it and bring it out for more fun another day.
  2. Water Painting
    Paint a masterpiece with water and a brush on colored construction paper. Bonus: Cleanup is easy and quick!
  3. Playing with Food
    Yogurt or applesauce can be used to “paint”. While you’re doing it, snack on some applesauce or yogurt. There will be time later to teach them better table manners.
  4. Sensory bottles
    Add some food coloring and glitter to the water bottle. You can also add knickknacks such as beads. Watch your child’s face when they tip the bottle.
  5. Cereal necklaces
    Your child can create a necklace by stringing some Cheerios on a piece yarn. This activity helps develop fine motor skills.
  6. Sand doodles
    Draw some straight or squiggly lines inside a small cardboard box. Pour sand on top and let your child trace the lines.
  1. Music Makers
    Wrap some rubber bands around an empty tissue container and you’ve got a makeshift Harp! Your child will enjoy plucking rubber bands and hearing the sounds they make.
  2. Sorting balls using a spoon
    Fill one bowl with golf or ping-pong balls. Let your child use a slotted teaspoon to transfer the balls into the empty bowl. This activity is great for improving hand-eye coordination as well as fine motor skills.
  3. Sticky note peek-aboo
    Print out some photos of your family and stick a sticky-note over them. Encourage your baby to “peek-a boo” with family members!
  1. Handprint keepsakes
    You can capture the sweetest little toes and hands as they grow with a variety of crafts. You’ll be happy you did this one day, even though the handprinting process may be messy.
  2. Sock puppets
    Draw faces on old socks with fabric markers and make a puppet show for your baby! You can also let them put the socks on their hand to use.
  3. Paper window mosaics
    The combination of tissue paper and plastic wrap that can be sealed with a press-and-seal is ideal for (temporary!) window mosaics. Window mosaics can be made with tissue paper and press-n-seal plastic wrap. Create a mosaic from some paper and adhere it to a sunny window. The colors will shine through your house and delight your little one.
  4. A life-size portrait
    For a few dollars, most home office stores will print life-size pictures in large sizes. Hang a photo of your baby on the wall to encourage him or her to discover their nose, eyes, etc.
  5. Cardboard tunnel
    Save the Amazon boxes to make a tunnel that your baby can crawl through.
  6. Sensor box for wipe dispenser
    Fill your empty wipe dispensers with fabric scraps. Your little one will enjoy pulling out the fabric scraps and placing them back into the dispenser. This is like a mini-laundry basket for them. You can really get your children started with “chores”!
  7. Paint whipped cream
    Spray some whipped cream onto a tray for a highchair or a table, and let your child paint in it.
  8. DIY Ball Pit
    Use your pack ‘n play or the plastic pool to fill with cheap plastic balls. Both will keep your baby entertained for many hours.
  9. Polkadot sticker art
    Labeling “dots” stickers are a great way to let your baby create their own masterpieces by sticking stickers on a blank sheet of paper. The kids will enjoy figuring out the way the stickers work.
  10. Sensory rice game
    Fill a tub with dry, uncooked rice and let the kids dig with their fingers, spoons or scoops. Keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t eat any uncooked rice.
  11. Touch-and-feel board
    Cover a poster with different things the baby can touch. For example, fake fur, sandpaper bubble wrap, and aluminum foil.
  12. Plastic Egg Play
    Take the leftover Easter eggs apart and stack them. Encourage your baby to do the same.
  13. Staple cups
    Watch your child knock down the towers and then rebuild them with plastic cups! You can also just knock them all down …)
  14. Sort toys into muffin tins
    Put a variety of balls in muffin tins, and let your baby have fun with them. For older children who are interested in sorting colors, colored cotton balls can be a great way to keep them entertained.
  15. Bottle peek-a-boo
    Roll up a piece of paper and place it in the water bottle’s bottom. Stick a cottonball or rock into the paper roll, and show your baby what happens when you lift the paper.
  16. Clothes pin drop box
    Make a hole large enough to fit a clothespin through the lid of an empty can of coffee. Place the lid over the empty can and demonstrate to your baby how to insert the clothespin. Asking questions such as “Where did it disappear?” will help stimulate their minds.
  17. Texture Walk
    Bring some crunchy leaves to the house for your child to stomp.
  18. Spaghetti play
    Let your baby play with the noodles after they have cooled. You can join in the fun while you supervise. Who doesn’t like to play with noodles when they’re supervised?
  19. Kitchen rock band
    Set up a few bowls and utensils on the floor for your baby to safely explore. My little boy loves measuring spoons. He also likes plastic bowls and spatulas.
  20. Play pretend animal
    Show pictures of different animals to your baby and act out the sounds and motions they make, like a cat licking its paws and meowing.
  21. Ring some bells
    Look through your holiday decorations for bells, and let your little one ring them!
  22. Vegetable peel play
    Let your baby have fun with the leftover peels of carrot, potato and zucchini. The different textures and scents will delight them.
  23. Tub drums
    Turn over some tubs or buckets to make your own hand drums.
  24. Hanging loofas
    You can string some loofas on yarn. You can hang them from a table, or even the handle of your fridge to give your child something to bat at.
  1. Sensory bags
    Sensory bags allow babies to safely explore things they would normally not be able to touch due choking hazards and mess. I like to put things like cotton ball, crayons, and other textured objects into a plastic zip-top bag. Then, I tape it on the wall. This can provide hours of fun!
  2. Noodle necklaces
    Let your child experiment with different shapes of dried pasta on string.
  3. Mini sandbox
    Fill an empty tub in the attic, garage, or basement with sand and other items that your child might enjoy. It’s great to have indoors, especially during the cooler months. Put a towel or garbage bag under the tub for easy cleanup.
  4. Snow globes
    Fill the water portion of the jar with glitter, and then place the lid on tight. Now you have your own homemade snow globe.
  5. Stringing pipe cleaners
    Make holes in an egg carton. Loop pipe cleaners through them. These can be pulled out by the baby, then placed back in.
  6. Magnetic tubs
    Fill up a small container with magnetic items, such as bolts and washers. Tape the lid to it. Let them safely pull different items around the container using a magnet stick.
  7. Edible slime
    You can find a lot of recipes for edible slime that are safe for babies. Let your baby have fun with it. Who doesn’t love slime?
  8. Foam window lettering
    These foam letters work well on windows, too. And your baby won’t become a prune when you use them.
  9. Busy board
    You can use latches and zippers to create a board that your child will be able to explore safely. These boards also make great homemade gifts.
  10. Touch and Feel Frames
    Use sponges, dusting cloths, sandpaper, bubble wrap and other items to create sensory frames. Use sponges, dusting clothes, sandpaper or bubble wrap. Close the frame, place it back in and let your baby try it!
  11. Bathtub painting
    Let them be creative by sticking baby in the tub without water and using washable paint. After they’re done, wash the tub and the baby.
  12. Busy Basket
    I use my busy basket with my little one almost every day. It’s tucked away, so that when I bring it out it is all brand new for him. The box is filled with random items, like blocks, kitchen utensils that are safe for babies, sensory bottles, and music makers.