I’m on a few social media platforms, and the most common question I get is “What activities can I do with my 1-year-old?” Many of the kids of my followers are younger than Alexander, so the activities I share aren’t necessarily suited for them.
My backstory with Alexander’s “education” is that we didn’t start, officially, until age 22 months. And shortly after, I realized that we were doing a Montessori style of learning. That’s when I started really getting into it. (At the time of this writing, he’s 32 months… I would normally just call that 2.5 years!)
Alexander is smart. And so are most kids his age! He may be great at numbers and letters and many things. Other kids may not be great at numbers and letters but are great at other things. So don’t get too caught up in comparing your child to mine or anyone else’s. Some toddlers really are geniuses, but they are few and far between. Kids are smart, definitely, and you can foster that natural curiosity in so many ways. Don’t worry about flash cards or structured activities or “the right” toys.
I can only speak to what I did with Alexander, so let me give you my personal not-necessarily-“Montessori” suggestions for your 1-year-old.
- Describe everything you see in a lot of detail (that will change based on baby’s age and current knowledge). And don’t shy away from REAL descriptive words. Like, if you see a cardinal in a pine tree, you can say “Look at that red bird in the pine tree! That’s called a cardinal!” Or if you are using a spatula to flip an omelet, say “Watch mommy/daddy flip the omelet with a spatula!” If you’re at the grocery store and you see a bag of rice, say “Look at tiny all this rice is. The rice is white.” Or if baby is older, “Look at this bag of white rice. This word is RICE.” Then point to the letters and say “R-I-C-E”. I didn’t spell words until Alexander was a little older, but I definitely used REAL words and not baby words, and I used colors and numbers constantly. If I saw an octagon, I called it an octagon. A crosswalk is a crosswalk. A bridge is a bridge. A cashier is a cashier and not just “a nice lady at the store”. I think being specific is super helpful in building a vocabulary. Alexander didn’t speak at all until he was 19 months, so for a long time, it was just me talking to him, and he never replied or validated what I was saying. Now, I can see that he was absorbing so much!
- Put small objects in a large object. This can be done in a hundred ways. Littler babies with chubby little fingers might be better at picking up balls and putting them into a bucket. With the development of fine motor skills, a baby could pick up beans and put them into a bowl. Or drop blocks down a paper towel tube. Or put utensils into the dishwasher. (<< This is a good age to start helping load the dishwasher or help with laundry.)
- Practical life! As I just mentioned, this is a great time to do some practical life activities. A 1-year-old can wipe off a surface with a rag (not well, necessarily, but the motion is there and the effort is important!). She can put clothes into the washer or, a little later, move the clothes from the washer to the dryer. She can put trash into a trash can. She can use a dull knife to cut a banana or other soft food.
- Let go of “Good job!” I was 100% guilty of this for a long long time. And “good job” isn’t BAD. But it’s certainly overused. Your toddler does something simple, like getting off the couch by himself, and you say “Good job!” Then 10 minutes later, he does something complex, and you also say “Good job!”, there’s no distinction between them. It’s also a good idea to keep quiet and just observe. What you don’t want is to build an environment in which your child doesn’t feel validated unless they hear your approval. It’s good to have some internal validation, like… “I finally solved this puzzle! That was exciting!” Even if mom isn’t standing there to say anything, he would be excited that he finally solved the puzzle. What I’ve started saying is “Wow!” and “Look at how you stacked those books!” and “I love the way you write your numbers!” It’s validation without really judging the final product.
I have several bloggers I like, and a lot of them have younger babies. Search them out. Find a few groups on Facebook or people to follow on Instagram. If you see an activity that’s clearly for an older baby, MAKE IT YOURS! Nearly everything can be scaffolded up or down to meet your child’s abilities. If you aren’t sure how to do that, just ask – I’d be happy to help!