Ideas for an 18 Month Old

I had a sweet friend ask me for ideas to occupy an 18 month old while homeschooling. I decided to answer this on my blog. The mom who needs these ideas has two children. My experience comes from managing several little ones at a time. Please keep that in mind and adapt for your situation.

I have homeschooled with little ones moving through the 18 month old stage for a long time. As I looked around my family this morning, I realized that my last 18 month old is now four and the twins aren’t quite there yet. Fortunately, I have the twins to keep everything fresh. Sometimes, I find things blur.

What did I actually do? (Ha!)

I will share some ideas and then link some websites in hopes that I can be an encouragement for the mom who is seeking ideas.

I have found that what I do varies depending on the stage of my little one. I tend to flex with them. There is a lot of flexing in the younger years as naps change and development grows.

I always try to share special time with my little ones before we begin school and before nap. (This is my ideal! We fall away from the routine and I have to work to get us back on it.) We read quality books and I just love on them. I have found this helps tremendously. Make sure you plan for “learning time” for your little one. Having a special read aloud time with delightful books is plenty. As they get older, there are some Lauri toys that are good for ages two and up. My little ones have enjoyed working with those, with me helping. I have a special book list just for toddlers and I like to begin with these as soon as I feel we are ready.

Practical Ideas:

School during nap-time. This is the first time I am actually doing this and making it a priority. For years, I had many little children and was expecting and so I was napping too. I still do lay down- but only for an hour when we are schooling. So take heart, if this is not realistic for you- school can still be done!!!

Establish a routine and do approximately the same thing with the little ones every day. This I do. I move my little ones from activity to activity- changing it up and keeping it fresh. I do not do this in a rigid every thirty minute cycle because it stresses me out and tires me.

Ideas for the routine:

-High Chair Time or Table Time. During High Chair Time we do the following activities listed below.

This is when your little one is sitting in their special seat whatever that may be- booster with tray, highchair, etc.

You can rotate through several different high chair times at different times during the morning or late afternoon.

Snack Time.

Dried cereal and Puffs are a common choice here.

Cheerios and a large dump truck. (I did this with a little girl, too).

One of our favorite high chair toys is a large black tonka truck that has doors that open and close. The cheerios “drive.”

Sit Time.

This is when I supply a small pile of board books and they “read through them” for a small set of time. I did have to train this with some of my children. This is how I trained. I put the little one in their seat. I set a timer on the microwave for two minutes. I announced in a happy, excited voice that we were having sit time (or book time). I gave the little one their book(s). Set the timer and if they would chatter, just put my finger on my lips and said “shhh”, during sit-time we are quiet. When the timer beeped, I praise in a happy, excited voice. Once they master two minutes, we move up by a minute or two til we achieve around fifteen minutes.

Finger Toys.

Place little one in high chair and give age appropriate small toys to manipulate with their hands. Stacking cups, mega blocks, building blocks, etc.

Color Time.

Tape a sheet of paper to the high chair and provide chunky crayons. This is only good for a little bit older children who will not eat the crayons.

For a bit older:

Color Wonder

Sticker work. Stack of sticker sheets and Paper.

Do- a-Dot art time. You can even create a special art bin for two year olds with the crayola products that are for the very young.

Water Play. Place a towel on the table and put a smallish Tupperware container with a bit of water and some suds on it. Provide little animals.

Oatmeal Sand Tray. This is one of my very favorite activities that we have used for years. I have a cookie sheet with dump trucks, cars, and sometimes small creatures with instant oatmeal on it. Although this is messy, it sweeps right up and it provides a LONG space for teaching.

Model Magic

-Lauri Puzzles.

Three year olds do well with these.

-Play-pen/Crib Time

Place several special fun toys inside with your child. It helps to play fun children’s music or play a CD you have created yourself. They love to hear your voice and they learn SO much. You can have two of these. One with music and one with the special CD.

-Play-Yard Time.

This is fun for the more active play time. Invest in a play- yard and set it up near your school area. These are nice because they have a little door that “locks.” It feels like a special play space. Fill it with larger, more active toys. They can crawl and walk around within.

-Movie Time.

Have a special movie and safe snack time. This can be in the high chair (if you can move it to where you need it to be.) Movies we enjoy with little ones that age: Baby Signing Time (cannot say enough wonderful things about these!), Baby Einstein movies, Praise Baby movies, Boz, and Curious George(for slightly older, I think).

If you trust your older child(ren), plan a playtime for them with the little one within range of your direct supervision. Then you can take care of a grown-up task you need to do.


I do not use this very often anymore as I don’t feel comfortable with little ones out of my sight. But if you have a good space, you can child-proof a bedroom or play-room and close it off with a gate. Your little one can play happily for even up to 45 minutes. This is also a good time to use a CD of some kind. Make sure it is very safe. Children are very creative!

-Toy Cabinet:

Finally, I have never done this- but you can designate a lower cabinet in your kitchen for your little one and stock it with age appropriate toys and activities. Teach your little one to take out one thing and use it and then put it back- or let them have a free-for-all. Whatever works for you! They can work in this cabinet more than one time a day. They work right under your supervision. 🙂

Links for further exploration:

Preschoolers and Peace

Managers of Their Homes

Creative Family Times– this book has a script for the Mommy/Daddy CD and other ideas.