Activity Guide: 1-2 Years

As reality sets in and we all begin to adjust to our new ‘normal’ of being and working from home with young children in tow, we thought we would offer some virtual support and advice on ways in which to keep the Under 5’s occupied at home.

We will be posting an age group per week; offering snippets of advice and activity ideas, using items you may already have at home to buy you a few minutes peace, and maybe even the opportunity for a hot cup of tea!

This week we are focusing on activity ideas for children aged 1-2 years.

Children in this age group have a notoriously short attention span, and it’s important to remember this and so the ideas we share with you in this blog will be activities and experiences that you can potentially set up and can be accessed intermittently throughout the day/week with your children, rather than expecting them to persist and focus for more extended periods on one activity.

Sensory Trays are a great invitation to play for your child; and can be designed and developed to really focus on and enhance your individual child’s needs and interests. These can also be created on a large scale if you have access to a tuff spot, or we have also found plastic storage boxes double up beautifully as a way of creating and containing sensory tray play!

Below are a few examples of successful sensory tray ideas we have created in the past that have been well-received by the children.

  • Dinosaur Island; soil, branches, leaves, rocks and dinosaurs.
  • Stones/shingle/pebbles and construction vehicles.
  • Coco pops/rice krispies and diggers.
  • Dried lentils, pulses and spoons and bowls
  • “We’re Going On A Bear Hunt” themed sensory tray; sticks, grass, tray of water, coffee and cornflour (mud)
  • Flour and glitter
  • Rice and receptacles



Water play is always a hit with this age group, whatever the weather and can be adapted to suit your indoor or outdoor space, and again can be done on a larger or smaller scale depending on the resources and space you have available but children of this age just adore exploring water freely; add bath toys, jugs, cups, bowls, spoons, buckets – anything that allows them to fill, empty, transport and explore cause/effect – if doing indoors, make sure you have plenty of towels to hand!

A car wash is a great way to incorporate children’s love of water and the very common interest in vehicles we commonly witness in children of this age group. We have set this up on a smaller scale before using a tuff spot of storage box filled with soapy water and sponges and encouraged the children to wash their plastic cars and vehicles, but we have also extended this simultaneously and then let the children was our car too to really bring learning to life and develop those transferrable skills!


As parents, we can sometimes be in such a rush that we forget to stop and involve the children in processes that could be incredibly valuable, so how about baking together? Or encouraging the children to serve/make their own breakfast or lunch with support, now is the best time to really focus on and develop those skills that children will need to develop in later life, but allowing them the independence and freedom to chop fruit, be independent in the cake making process, follow instructions and be hands on and involved in meal time routines will be so beneficial for them and a wonderful opportunity for you to strengthen that bond too.

Our latest cohort of under twos have been obsessed with stickers recently; sticking them on themselves, furniture, the dog! You name it, we’ve found stickers on it! And so a simple activity of peeling off stickers and sticking them onto a piece of paper or card to create a picture, not only gives this process more purpose but is also a great fine motor-skill activity and really develops that hand-eye co-ordination.

Similarly, as with stickers, our current cohort have developed an increased interest in wearing hats as they begin their dressing up and imaginative play journey, so why not create a hat box or basket at home that allows your child to freely explore different types of hat and try them on; not only will this support the beginnings of their imaginative play, but also will support them in developing self-care skills as they learning how to successfully put the hats on and take them off again independently.

If you can stand the mess and have the resources at home to do so; painting is a great sensory activity for children of this age group. It doesn’t have to be bog-standard painting with a brush either, you could always try:

  • ‘No paint brushes allowed’ large scale painting. – using anything that is not a paintbrush to make marks!
  • Body painting
  • Car tracks in paint
  • Printing with corks, forks, or items of various shapes.
  • Spray painting (diluting paint in a spray bottle with water.)
  • Potato printing (also works with apples!)


For those with the opportunities to access outdoor spaces (within the Government Guidelines) many of these activities and experiences can be adapted and transferred to the outdoor area, which will enable a different perspective, and perhaps offer more of a focus for the children and their outdoor play, whilst also offering a less messy alternative to some activities and essentially and easier clean up! Children love being outdoors, and even something as simple as taking their favourite toys outdoors will offer them a different perspective to their play.

To encourage language and focus on stories and rhymes; you could create a themed basket based upon a particular colour/song or book to develop your child’s interest, knowledge and language.

For example, a basket or box with all yellow items, or alternatively, a basket with 5 frog finger puppets in and a picture of a frog to introduce the rhyme ‘5 little speckled frogs’ to your child, or similarly, soft toys and resources/props alongside the child’s favourite book to encourage them to develop their imagination and also to allow you to bring the story to life by adding props as your read with your child.

Children love to be noisy so allowing them some time to freely explore the sounds of instruments is a great way for them to not only develop an interest in music, but follow instructions and explore how different instruments work. If you don’t have a range of instruments available at home, why not make your own? Plastic bottles and cardboard tubes full of rice and pasta make great home-made shakers, and saucepans and spoons make fantastic drums! (Not that your neighbours would agree!)

Bubbles; the holy grail of a child’s toy library. No matter how old they are, bubbles will never lose their appeal; indoor or outdoors, chasing and popping bubbles will keep children entertained for such a long time, so worth investing in some bubble wands, a bubble machine or even making your own mixture!


We hope you have found this little activity guide useful and can find some inspiration from some of the activities we’ve mentioned to keep the children entertained during these uncertain times, join us next week where we will be looking at activity ideas for children aged 2-3 years.

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