Wondering ‘what to do with 1 year olds near me‘?
I know the feeling!
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After asking myself this regularly with my oldest, I decided to keep a running list of places we loved to go to hopefully make it a little easier with the next kid.
Now that my youngest is at this age, I’m getting the privilege of feeling like I kind of know what I’m doing! Or at least have an idea of where to start. I hope this guide helps you!
Dive into my curated guide to find the perfect indoor and outdoor places to take a 1-year-old. Then get out there and create some memories!
What Makes a Successful Outing With a 1 Year Old?
- The most engaging activities for 1-year-olds allow them to explore and be hands-on!
- Aquariums, indoor playgrounds, and children’s museums are great rainy-day activity options.
- Outdoor places like zoos, splash pads, and playgrounds allow 1 year olds to run around and burn energy.
- Keep visits short, about 1-2 hours. 1 year olds have short attention spans.
- Remember to pack snacks, drinks, and an extra change of clothes when out with a 1-year-old.
- Baby-wearing can help make public outings easier by keeping your 1-year-old close.
Fun Places to Take a 1 Year Old: Inside Adventures
When rainy day activities aren’t enough on a Saturday, finding places for a 1-year-old can be tough!
Here are some tried and true indoor options.
If you’re lucky to have one nearby, aquariums offer a lot of visual stimulation for your child. They are one of the absolute best places to take small children, in my opinion.
They are perfect for any age for that matter!
Blue Planet Aquarium lists the benefits of bringing children to an aquarium as follows:
- 1. Improves Vocabulary – Broaden your one-year-old’s vocabulary beyond the limited range of “fish” or “fishy” by taking the time to identify and highlight various aquatic creatures. There are also lots of opportunities to point out differences between the fish, for example, size, color, fast vs slow, etc.
- 2. Encourages Relaxation – Toddlers are bundles of energy sometimes. Experts from the National Marine Aquarium, Plymouth University, and the University of Exeter have studied the calming nature of fish tanks. They found that exposure to an aquarium can help reduce stress and anxiety.
- 3. Promotes an Appreciation for Nature – Aquariums offer the opportunity to see creatures that may appear in their favorite books. This also helps them to explore a whole new world!
- 4. Appeals to Different Types of Learners:
– Visual learners will enjoy the colors of the fish and coral
– Auditory learners will be captivated by the live shows and conversations around them
– Tactile learners can touch and feel the interactive displays
– Kinesthetic learners can practice standing and walking
Tip: Before you go to the aquarium, I recommend picking up some books from the library or Amazon to get them excited to learn about the sea and the creatures living under the water.
Libraries are great places for little ones rain or shine. Check your local library’s program schedule and look for toddler-friendly activities – music or storytimes are favorites. If they don’t have any, your toddler will still love reading books and wandering the aisles. Some libraries may even have toys for them to play with.
3. Indoor Playground
Take your one-year-old to an indoor playground and get ready to watch them go!
Indoor playgrounds often have dedicated toddler areas with padded floors, ball pits, and slides.
They offer safe free play fun and minimal mess.
Tip 1: Bring socks for everyone! Most places will not allow shoes
Tip 2: Call in advance to make sure they aren’t closed for a private birthday party.
It is crucial for children’s well-being to have exposure to nature. Conservatories offer indoor protection from the elements and miles of nature to explore. This year we visited a Butterfly Conservatory and my son loved looking at all the colorful butterflies.
In 2005, experts coined the term “Nature deficit disorder” to describe children’s lack of outdoor exposure.
Childmind.org states that “the average American child is said to spend 4 to 7 minutes a day in unstructured play outdoors, and over 7 hours a day in front of a screen.”
Conservatories are a great way for toddlers to experience the outdoors without braving the rain or cold
Bonus: They are often free with an option to donate.
5. Children’s Museum
If you have a children’s museum nearby these make wonderful places to take little ones!
They are specifically designed to stimulate children and unlike standard museums, they encourage children to touch the exhibits.
Similar to aquariums – they will appeal to all types of learners.
6. YMCA/Children’s program
Early learning programs are offered for babies and up. Children are exposed to music and dance which can help them learn skills like counting.
These are also great to expose your child to other children and adults and help them them learn to socialize.
7. Grocery Store:
The grocery store may sound boring, but it is a great place to learn and explore.
Shopping carts allow kids to be up higher and see more. Pro-tip, turn the shopping cart around so they are in the front and get to face out.
Check out this post for what you can do at the Grocery Store to stimulate brain connections in one year olds.
What to Do Outside With a 1 Year Old?
Are you looking for a quick adventure before nap time or want to let your children play for a few hours exploring the world?
The following outdoor activities can be enjoyed at your own pace and are often free which make some of the best things to do with a one-year-olds short attention span!
8. Your Own Backyard
Not ready to go far from home yet? When I’m on the hunt for things to do with 1 year olds, it doesn’t get much closer than these fun activities in my own backyard!
Turn your backyard into the park! You can have all of the excitement with the convenience of being close to home.
My daughter will play at her water table for a good ten minutes, which in Toddler time means a LONG time. She also loves filling it up herself with the hose.
Dino Play Pool
We have this dinosaur-themed pool and we LOVE it (check out the photo above with our daughter in it). I say “we” because my husband and I have both enjoyed it with our daughter and have even laid in there while she was napping!
I like this basic slide because it has sides at the top to prevent your little one from falling off. Toddlers love climbing things so the stairs are great and learning to slide by themselves will make them so happy.
9. Splash Pad/Water Park
If the weather is nice, pack up your little one and their swimsuit and head to a local splash pad. If they aren’t walking on their own that means you get to splash with them!
Splash pads make such a fun sensory activity for 1 year olds!
You can introduce them to water without having to go swimming in a pool. Pools are also fun outdoor activities, they just take a little more planning.
10. Take your Baby to The Zoo
The zoo is probably the most frequent place we go with our children. My favorite time to go is winter. There are fewer crowds which is ideal! When you get cold, head for the indoor exhibits to warm up.
You probably won’t make it through the whole zoo in one visit. This is great because each time you go you get a completely different experience. Your baby will love to walk (if they can) or sit in the stroller and see the animals.
Zoos will often have a kids’ area with tunnels to crawl through, a big sandbox, and slides.
11. The Park/Playground
This may be an obvious one, but to keep things interesting take a drive to a new park or nearby playground. Ask your friends if they have a favorite local park and have a play date.
Adding new twists to a day at the park with things like a picnic, a ball, or bubbles makes it a new experience. It’s one of my favorite things to do with 1 year olds near me!
12. Petting Zoo
Get your toddler introduced to farm animals by taking them to a local petting zoo. They will typically have goats, cows, horses, donkeys, etc..and maybe even a few exotic animals like llamas.
Petting zoos are smaller than a typical zoo, which makes them great for quick trips. Your child can touch and feed the different animals. They are also less expensive and not as crowded.
I have a whole post on Petting Zoos and how to really take advantage of them. There is a little cheat sheet on the animals so you can tell your one-year-old all sorts of interesting facts about the goats, sheep, and other animals.
Beaches are one giant sensory bin! Our favorites are, placing water or sand in a bucket, making sand piles and smashing them, and putting their hands in the water to splash. Each of these helps their cognitive development.
Baby Beach Must-Haves: Check out our favorites on Amazon
14. Food Truck Festival
Expand your baby’s palette by going to a food truck festival. You might be surprised by what new foods they enjoy. My daughter loved the fish tacos!
15. Go For A Walk in the Woods With Your Baby
“Forest School” is a European concept around early education where the classroom is brought outside. You may count mushrooms or rocks, build a tower out of sticks or climb and balance on logs!
There are lots of studies to show that Forest School benefits children in lots of ways. For example, it builds confidence, helps with sensory development and helps with physical skills.
Take your 1 year old for a walk in the woods and expose them to all the new sights and smells
Tips For a Stress Free Outing
Taking your one year old out in public can be challenging.
Gone are the days when they could sit in their stroller peacefully for hours or nap anywhere. They want to be free to crawl, cruise, or walk.
When they are hungry they need real food. Toddler tantrums are real.
Although it may sound intimidating, you can manage everything with planning and everyone (even mom!) can have fun.
1. Don’t take on more than you’re comfortable with to start.
When looking for fun things to do with a 1-year-old nearby, remember it doesn’t need to be a grand adventure. Just getting out and exploring with you makes a big difference.
This way, you can go back home while they are still smiling.
While it may seem like a splurge to pay for admission and only stay for an hour, this short outing can have an incredible impact on their learning. Their curious minds soak up everything, absorbing new experiences and sights. And sometimes longer outings can be overwhelming!
If 1-2 hours sounds like too much – read on for places to take 1-year-olds near me that can be done in 30 minutes or less. You can always build up to longer outings as they become more comfortable.
2: Have snacks.
Ever heard the term “hangry?” It’s a blend of anger and hungry. My one-year-old inherited this trait from her father. When she is hungry she gets very upset. So I always have snacks on hand.
I found this container very useful. Their little hands fit inside to get the snacks and the lid seals when they remove their hands. This way, when they inevitably shake or throw it, everything doesn’t go flying out.
Put cheerios, blueberries, crackers, or cut-up grapes inside. Avoid any sugary snacks as they will lead to an inevitable sugar crash.
3: Don’t go alone.
Grab your partner, friend or baby’s grandparent and head out together the first few times.
4: If you’re driving, have one adult sit in the back to amuse your child.
Sing songs, bring a few toys. Make the car ride a part of the fun.
5: Don’t give up.
Every parent has a bad day or outing. Shake it off and try again next week.
Add some fun to your trip out:
- Drive through the car wash.
- For longer car rides gift wrap a book for them. It will take them time to unwrap plus they get a new book.
- Go for ice cream, a little bit of vanilla in an ice cream cup is a nice treat!
TLDR: Things to Do With a 1 Year Old
Hopefully, the question of where and what are some fun things to do with your child has been answered!
You’re now inspired with lots of ideas for family fun.