Month 12: Top 10 Sensory Activities for 12 month old baby

Sydney beach at 12 months

8 min read

As an Occupational Therapist and a Mom I have put together top activities for your 12 month old baby. These activities will focus on strengthening their cognitive (mind) and motor (movement) development.

This is my second month visiting my family in the beautiful Sydney, Australia. So far it’s been an adventure from chilling with the Koalas to chasing few Roos, Kangaroos. Today is Beach time. So much water… there is no end! To get to it, I had to cover a great distance of sun baked sand. Ready, steady…. Go! Feet in…hmmm… feels warm and soft. One step… kaboom. My legs collapsed and I landed in the sand. Crawling it is… off I go. Ooo it feels so nice. I think I will play here for a while….. Legs go in and out, hands go in and out. Let’s see how far I can throw it….. oooppps it landed all over me.
Whooosh…. Look, the water reached my toes. That was a big and loud wave. I think it might be time to explore the water. DAD!!! Let’s go swimming!!
Playing on the beach
— Lots of smiles, Josh

Wherever you are, make sure you expose your 12 month old baby to a stimulating environment. The environment should provide access to different stimuli and be rich with music, language, different textures and be sure to provide opportunities for lots of movement. The beach is only one location but there are many parks, playgrounds, farms etc.


What to expect from your 12 month old

One year on and so much incredible growth and development has happened. Your once helpless newborn has now transformed to a little person who is mobile and so much more independent.

Here are a few things that you may see your 12 month old do:

– Mobility:

  • Your 12 month old is able to creep or crawl
  • Is able to sit independently
  • Pulls self up to stand
  • Walks holding on to furniture
  • Can stand alone
  • May have taken their first steps

– Hand skills: Your little one’s hand skills are continually improving. At 12 months your baby should be able to point and/or poke things with their pointer finger. They should be able to use pincer grasp (thumb and pointer finger) to pick up things. They should be able to put things into a container and then take them out. Additionally, they will also finger feed themselves and start getting better at using a spoon.

– Communication: Your baby is learning language by imitating you. You may hear a few words like ‘Mama’, “Dada’, ‘no’. To keep increasing their language skills make sure you speak to them continually throughout the day. Describe daily tasks or activities that are happening around them. Make sure you remember to read to your little one daily. They may also be using their pointer finger and use pointing as one of their means of communicating with you.

– Social: Your little one may be testing their limits. You may be hearing ‘no’ on a regular basis. They may be starting to throw tantrums. You may also notice that your 12 month old might be shy or anxious towards certain people.

Activities for your 12 month old baby

Your little one has become a little explorer and is gaining many new skills at a very fast pace. Here are some ideas that you can try with your 12 month old. As always they have been tried and tested.

1. Free play and exploration

Exploring at 12 months
Skills DevelopedTargeted Senses
Problem solving, creativity, fine motor skills, gross motor skills, motor planning (ability to conceptualize, plan and carry out an unfamiliar task) & visual skillsOpportunity to target ALL senses
How to Play

One year olds love to explore. Providing them with opportunities to free play and explore their environment and objects encourages curiosity and also fosters creativity.

Note: Ensure that you have baby proofed your house so that your one year old can explore in a safe environment.

Ideas to get you started:
  • Your one year old can have access to cabinets that are filled with unbreakable containers, pots & pans.
  • They can maybe have access to drawers that have wooden spoons, whisks, spatulas etc (nothing sharp!)
  • Let them play with clean laundry
  • Toy wagons, strollers and shopping carts are also great
  • You can’t go wrong with a box of blocks

See what incredible things they can come up with. They might look and explore the object. They might shake it, bang it, drop it, poke it or put things inside of it. Any of the above ideas are great in encouraging imagination and creativity as there is more than just way to play with it.

2.Water play

12 month old baby activities: Water Play
Skills DevelopedTargeted Senses
Hand skills, hand eye coordination& bilateral coordinationTactile & proprioceptive senses
How to Play

This activity is great for any season. It doesn’t matter if it’s summer or winter. During summer you can play outside. You can play in water parks or fill up a water table, a baby swimming pool or simply a large container with water. In winter your baby can play in sinks or in bathtubs.

Some ideas for play:

  • Let them splash around in it
  • Use a stick to twirl and splash the water
  • Sink and dunk a variety of water toys
  • Play fill and empty with a variety of containers

3. Clean Painting

12 month old baby activities: Clean Painting
Skills DevelopedTargeted Senses
Hand skills (finger isolation and strengthening of the muscles in the wrist), hand eye coordination & bilateral integrationVisual & tactile senses
How to Play

Equipment needed: large zip lock bag, variety of paint colors and masking tape

  1. Open up the zip lock bag and place a few drops of different colored paints inside.
  2. Close the bag and stick it to a vertical surface. To make it nice and secure I placed the masking tape on both top and the bottom edges.
  3. Place it high enough on the vertical surface to encourage your 12-month-old to stand up. This will strengthen his core and leg muscles, which are important for walking and standing up unsupported.

Occupational Therapy Tip:

  • Completing this activity on the vertical surface strengthens muscles in their shoulders and in their wrist. Those are important for many fine motor skills including writing and cutting.
  • Encourage your 12 month old to hold on to the zip lock bag with the other hand. This encourages bilateral integration (use of two hands).

4. Introduction of concepts

This is a great time to start introducing concepts. During play start talking to your little one about different concepts.

Some ideas for concepts:

  • Up
  • Down
  • On top
  • Underneath
  • In between
  • In front
  • Behind
  • Big
  • Small
  • Same
  • Different

As you play choose a few of the above concepts. You can play with animals for example. Start off by having them dancing on top of the table. Then, they all jump down and start dancing under the table.

Another idea is while playing with blocks you can build a big tower. Then build a small tower.

Make sure that you repeat those concepts on many different occasions. Have fun on implementing the concepts not only with the toys but in the outside world. You can talk about big and small cars on the road. Cars going over and under the bridge. Examples are everywhere around us and repetition is the key here.

5. Messy Play: Gelatin sensory tub

12 month old baby activities: Gelatin play at 12 month
Skills DevelopedTargeted Senses
Hand skills, hand eye coordination & bilateral coordinationTactile & visual senses
How to Play

Once you have purchased the Gelatin follow the instructions on the box on how to make it.

Then, simply cut it into small cubes and place it into a ‘sensory tub’ or what I also call a plastic container.

You can then let your little one run wild and explore the textures and shapes with their hands or even feet. You can also add a variety of containers, spoons and cups for extra creativity and experimentation.

Occupational Therapy Tip:

If you place the container on a raised surface it will encourage your little one to stand up. This will strengthen their core and leg muscles, which are important for walking and standing unsupported.

6. Magnet Play

Skills DevelopedTargeted Senses
Language, concept understanding, hand skills & hand eye coordinationTactile, auditory & visual skills
How to Play

You may have noticed a trend throughout this post. I try to include many activities that encourage your little one to stand while playing. This is important to work on strengthening both their core and leg muscles. This in turn will help with their balance and walking skills.

To get you started, place magnets on your fridge. High enough to get your little one to stand. I like shapes or animals as you can simultaneously work on concepts, language and creativity.

With shapes you can talk about colors, shapes and start building things from it. A snowman, a tree, a house… anything really.

With animal magnets you can create stories about each animal and have them moving it from one place to the next.

7. Lets get sticky

Skills DevelopedTargeted Senses
Hand skills, hand strength & hand eye coordinationTactile & proprioceptive senses
How to Play

Equipment needed: Contact paper, large container (turned upside down) and items that you don’t mind sticking to the contact paper.

So, here is what you have to do. Attach the contact paper, sticky side up, onto the large container.

Then, stick few objects to it and let your little one explore. They will get a chance to explore the sticky and non sticky feeling. They will also be learning that some items can be pulled away easily and some will require much more force. This will give them a chance to use their proprioceptive sense.

8. Pom pom drop

12 month old baby activities: pom pom drop
Skills DevelopedTargeted Senses
Hand skills, hand eye coordination & attentionVisual sense
How to Play

This is a fun game with minimum set up. Simply attach an empty paper tube onto a wall with some tape holding it in place. Then grab some pom poms and let your toddler practice their hand eye coordination skills as they drop the pom pom through the hole. They will then watch with excitement as it comes out through the bottom end. First, you can place the tube vertically. As your little one gets proficient with this position you can vary it by changing up the angles for an additional challenge.

9. Indoor sandbox

Skills DevelopedTargeted Senses
Fine motor skills & hand eye coordination skillsTactile & visual senses
How to Play

This activity can get messy but it is also easy to clean up. Depending what you can find in your supermarket you can use any of the following grains for this activity: fine cut oats, cream of wheat, wheat farina or semolina. Main part is to ensure that it is a very fine grain to make it close to feeling like sand.

Place it into a large container with a splash mat underneath it. First let your little one explore the texture with their hands. Then, add some toys or cups and spoons to the mix. They can keep strengthening and developing their hand skills as well as use their imagination to explore.

10. Cruising around

Skills DevelopedTargeted Senses
Balance & weight shifting (required for walking)Vestibular, tactile & proprioceptive senses
How to Play

This is a great activity for those little ones that have not yet mastered the skill of walking. Cruising the furniture (holding on to the furniture as they walk sideways) is a very important skill that teaches some foundational skills. These skills are essential for walking. As your child is cruising along the furniture they move their feet side to side. While doing this they are learning to keep their balance and they shift their weight.

To encourage this skill, spread some of their favorite toys out across a coffee table or a sofa and encourage your little one to reach for them. As the toys are spread out, this method will encourage them to step from one side of the coffee table/sofa to the other.

Summary: Activities for your 12 month old baby

So there you have it. My top 10 Sensory Activities for your 12 month old that you can do today to help their development.

These are just a few activities that are bound to spark other ideas. Just remember that every new sensory experience is helping your child’s growth and development.

Remember: Each baby develops at their own pace. If your child is not ready or not interested in this month’s activities, just try them again in a few weeks.

~ Urszula

Disclaimer: The activities in this blog are intended for sensory play. They are not a replacement for treatment of children with Sensory Processing Disorder, are not medical advice and should not be used in place of the care of a medical doctor or other qualified healthcare professional. These activities should be facilitated and supervised by an adult. All activities are to be performed at your own risk and in no event shall Sensory Lifestyle be liable for any damages.

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