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The Best Games to Play with One-Year-Olds for Connection, Learning, Fun

One-year-old toddlers are super fun. They might be learning how to walk, talk, and explore the world around them for the first time. Toddler’s closer to two years old might be zooming from one end of the room to the next in the blink of an eye. One thing that all one-year-olds have in common, however, is that they love to soak up knowledge and learn new skills.

The best games to play with one year old will help to develop their gross or fine motor skills, sensory and social skills, or have other educational or cognitive benefits. Check out our recommendations for the best games you can play with a one-year-old. This post contains affiliate links to some related products. Bounceback Parenting will receive compensation if you purchase through these at no extra cost to you.

Top 10 Games to Play with Your One-Year-Old

  1. ThinkFun Roll and Play Game- This award-winning game is perfect for parents and toddlers to play together to develop skills that inspire creativity and imagination. You play ThinkFun Roll and Play by rolling the big plush cube to determine a color category then draw a card that has an activity on it that must be acted out. Some of the activities include “roar like a lion,” or “make a happy face.” There are endless learning opportunities, and you don’t even need the cube to play if you want to make the game even more simple.
  2. Puppets- Toddlers love puppets and playing with puppets that represent animals, or even people is a great way to include imaginative play with your child. Puppet games can include pretend feeding, petting, singing, telling stories, or even playing house! There are endless games you can play with puppets. Full hand puppets are great for games, but often you can find finger puppets that will fit your toddler’s hands too so that they can play pretend with you.
  3. Finger Painting- Most toddler’s love to be messy, but when that mess is easily cleaned up, it makes mom and dad’s life so much easier. Washable paints like those by Crayola are perfect for beginners to learn finger painting. You can also use these paints with foam pieces or brushes for stamping and learning how to make brush strokes. Another painting activity that can be fun and help avoid the mess of arts and crafts activities at your kitchen table is bathtub paints that double as soap!
  4. Pretend Play- When you play with your child through role-playing games, mimicking, and more, you are developing critical skills and brain functioning. Some one year old’s really love playing with toy cleaning supplies like vacuums or mops, and if your toddler is standing up or walking they may even be ready for pretend grocery carts, play kitchens, or even starting a dress-up station! This age is also the perfect time to introduce sets like the Fisher-Price Little People Caring for Animals Farm Playset or a play tea set that can teach skills such as manners and sharing.
  5. Shape Sorters- One-year-old toddlers love to play with shape sorters, and these toys are appropriate for quiet playtime that is focused on learning. Shape sorting helps develop fine motor skills, critical thinking skills, and problem-solving. You can also use shape sorters to start learning about shape and color identification. The Fisher-Price Shape Sorter is a tried and trusted product that thousands of parents have used with their children, including us!
  6. Puzzles- Toddlers love puzzles, especially chunky ones like Melissa & Doug puzzles and puzzles with knobs or little handles to grasp. Puzzles are a great way to interact with your toddler as they start to think critically and problem solve. Most families end up with dozens of puzzles, and our household is no different. We have lots of different puzzles from animals to vehicles, and from shapes to people in our home. Puzzles also open up opportunities for you to identify and label things in our world for your toddler to build early language skills. We’ve also used puzzles for sorting and pretend games.
  7. Build it and Knock it Down- One of the easiest ways to delight a one-year-old is to build a giant tower and then knock it all down. Megablocks are a great first block for toddlers who are learning to build because the blocks are easy to stack and put together. You’ll probably need to work side-by-side with your toddler to built amazing structures, but the interactive play is great for you and your kid. If you don’t have mega blocks, you can also use wooden blocks, or big soft plush blocks that won’t hurt if they get thrown.
  8. Piano Mats- If you want to get your one-year-old up and encouraged to take steps, try a piano mat. We love the Play22 keyboard playmat because it looks just like a real keyboard with 24 keys and the ability to record and playback the songs your toddler makes. You never know what kind of musical genius might be waiting to show itself! Another reason we really love the Play22 mat is that there are seven other modes that allow the notes to sound like a saxophone, violin, clarinet, trumpet, banjo, guitar, and xylophone. The volume is also adjustable which is a great relief to parents who want a quieter musical experience. If you want a musical mat for toddlers that is less instrumental and can teach numbers, colors, and animals too, check out the Learn and Groove Musical Mat by LeapFrog.
  9. Carry this Over There – I know, this seems silly, but toddlers love having jobs to do. We've referred to toddlerhood as the “load and tote phase” before because of how happy it makes them to carry things around. Filling a bucket or basket with blocks or other toys and carrying them to another place to dump out can be a satisfying game.
  10. A toddler board game – Most toddler board games are not so much about sitting still, but about giving some ideas for active play. Having an easy to play game like Seek-a-Boo around can make playing with your toddler easy and fun. You can find the rest of our favorite toddler board games here.

Playing with your one-year-old is the best way to teach them new skills and help them explore and learn about their world. Making sure that toys and games are age-appropriate is essential but there are many games and toys that can be adapted for young toddlers that can grow with them. The best ways to engage your one-year-old is through physical interaction and games that engage their senses. Along with games, don’t forget that reading to your toddler is the very best way to teach words and develop language skills.

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Alissa Zorn is an author, and founder of the website Overthought This. She's a coach and cartoonist passionate about helping people overcome perfectionism and shame to build authentic, joyful lives. Alissa is certified through the International Coach Federation and got her Trauma-Informed Coaching certification from Moving the Human Spirit. She wrote Bounceback Parenting: A Field Guide for Creating Connection, Not Perfection, and is always following curiosity to find her next creative endeavor.