Sensory Activities For 1 Year Olds

sensory activities for 1 year olds

This blog post is one of the oldest posts on the site, but the sensory activities for 1 year olds that we shared way back when are just as fun now! When this post was written, the babies that played with the balls and muffin tins were just 11 months and going on 1 year. Those little ones are now 11 years old! This is such a great brain building activity for babies that I wanted to reshare the idea for the latest crop of babies out there!

If you are looking for more Baby activities, try the fun over on our Baby Play page. You’ll also find some great ideas for different ages on this post on baby sensory play.  We’ve been busy!

sensory activities for 1 year olds

sensory activities for 1 year olds

This sensory activity for 1 year olds is an easy activity to set up. You’ll need just a few items:

  • colorful balls
  • muffin tins

You can add create another sensory activity for the babies with the same colorful balls and a cardboard box or basket. We also used an empty cereal box with hole cut into the sides.

Each sensory activity here supports development of eye-hand coordination, grasp and release, core strength and stability in dynamic sitting, positioning and seated play on the floor (floor play).

Baby and Toddler Brain Building activity using balls and a muffin tin. Perfect for developing fine motor skills, visual perceptual skills in an active activity for sitting and mobile babies.

An important consideration is the use of baby positioners as they can impact powerful movement-based play in babies.

The best for sensory play for 1 year olds is just playing on the floor! There are so many benefits to playing on the floor with a basket of balls and a few muffin tins.

Baby and Toddler Brain Building activity using balls and a muffin tin. Perfect for developing fine motor skills, visual perceptual skills in an active activity for sitting and mobile babies.

What do babies love to do? Take things out and put them back into containers.

We have a bunch of different colored and sized balls that are so fun to play with in so many ways. I had my nephew here one day and we needed something different to do. My nephew and my Baby Girl are both 11 months old and they absolutely loved this play activity! 

I pulled out my muffin tins and they had a blast putting the balls into the tins, taking them out, putting them back into the box, and pulling them out again!

Little Guy (my 3 year old ) loved joining in too. Really, who could resist playing with all of these colorful balls???

Peek a Boo Sensory Activity for 1 year olds

What else do babies love? The peek-a-boo game!

It’s at this age (around one year) that babies often struggle with separation anxiety when being dropped off at a caregiver’s when separated from their parents or caregivers. You will even see signs of separation angst when a parent goes into another room, which can especially happen when the baby is tired.

The next sensory activity for baby was a fun one!

We had an empty cereal box that I cut circles into. They had a ton of fun putting the balls into a hole, and pulling a different one out as the box moved around…there were a lot of little hands in there moving that box around 🙂

The it’s-there-then-it’s not of a great game of peek-a-boo (or peek-a-ball in this case!) is awesome in building neural pathways of the brain. 

 

 

More sensory activities for babies

Other sensory activities for 1 year olds and babies include using small baskets or boxes to transfer the balls from one container to the other.

Transferring from box to box…working those hands to pick up different sized/weighted/textured balls.  Dropping the ball to see what happens is so predictable, but it is important in learning for babies. Just like when baby drops the cup from her highchair a million times…

We had a ball!

(couldn’t resist that one…heehee)

Baby and Toddler Brain Building activity using balls and a muffin tin. Perfect for developing fine motor skills, visual perceptual skills in an active activity for sitting and mobile babies.

Need more sensory ideas for 1 year olds? Try these:

  • Sensory tables- put interesting toys, textures, scoops, and containers on a low table like a coffee table. The new cruiser or early walker can stand at the table and explore the textures
  • Messy play on a highchair- Strap baby in and encourage messy food play. Thing about apple sauce, pudding, or mashed potatoes.
  • Textured fabrics- Put a bunch of fabric scraps into a box and invite the one year old to pull them out and put them back in.
  • Play with cups and spoons– with supervision- This is a great activity for eye hand coordination skills.

Bilateral Integration

bilateral integration

Bilateral Integration is an area that kids need for so many tasks…but it’s not a developmental milestone that stands out unless a problem is necessarily noticed unless there is a problem. What we do notice in as our kids grow and develop are the motor skills that impact functioning. We notice use of both hands, fluid and efficient movements in tasks like playing, getting dressed, and interacting with peers. Let’s take a look at bilateral integration and dissect how to support this essential sensory motor skill.

Another resource that supports this information is our blog post on bilateral coordination. You’ll find many bilateral integration activities in that blog post.

Bilateral integration resources and information

Bilateral Integration

From writing and holding the paper, to holding a art project and cutting with scissors, to zippering a jacket, coordinating both sides of the body in an efficient manner is a skill that is necessary for almost everything we do.

Bilateral coordination develops from a very young age. When babies begin to bring both hands together at their mouth, you are seeing coordinated efforts begin. When the infant pushes up on both arms while lying in a tummy time position, the integrated movements of both hands and legs occurs along with strength and control.

Research tells us that motor tasks like jumping, jumping jacks, riding a bike, hopping, etc. become easier and more fluid with age as children develop. It’s through play, sensory input, motor skill experience, and activities that these skills are developed.

Below, you will find bilateral integration activities that can be incorporated at various ages. Use these bilateral coordination activities to promote coordinated and efficient movements in meaningful activities.

What is Bilateral integration?

Bilateral integration refers to the ability of both sides of the brain to work together in a coordinated manner. We see this ability when the skills associated with the left side of the brain are done in conjunction with skills associated with the right side of the brain.

Skills associated with the left side of the brain:

  • Speech and language- Understanding using language (listening, reading, speaking and writing)
  • Comprehension
  • Math problems and facts
  • Handwriting
  • Linear thinking
  • Memory for spoken and written messages
  • Logic
  • Verbal language
  • Sequencing

Skills associated with the right side of the brain:

  • Creativity and imagination
  • Creative thinking
  • Spatial skills
  • Intuition
  • Art, drawing, and creative artistic skills
  • Musical skills

Then, when other aspects of functional performance are added to the mix and the individual is still able to complete the task, this is bilateral integration in action.

Those other considerations include:

  • Attention and focus
  • Proprioceptive input
  • Vestibular input
  • Visual information
  • Motor targets achieved, or motor control shown by fluid movements
  • Praxis- movements thought about and completed in coordinated manner

When both sides of the body work together in a coordinated manner so that the individual can manipulate objects such as cutlery with various amounts of force modulation, taking in sensory stimuli such as sights, sounds, tastes, and proprioceptive and vestibular input, and managing posture, coordination, and body awareness, bilateral integration is visible.

When bilateral coordination or bilateral integration is intact and progressing appropriately through development, it is an indicator that both sides of the brain are communicating effectively and sharing information during functional tasks. 

Tasks that require bilateral integration

Knowing what we covered above, it is easy to see how some daily tasks are impacted by coordinated and integrated motor skills requiring both sides of the body. Each of these skills requires and has input from other sensory systems and cognitive systems as well, such as proprioceptive input, executive functioning, attention, and even creative thinking and problem solving.

  • Writing and holding the paper in a stable position
  • Cutting and holding the paper steady and at an appropriate height
  • Putting on a coat while holding a backpack (or other item)
  • Tying shoes
  • Pulling up pants and not losing balance
  • Putting socks on
  • Jumping jacks with coordinated movements
  • Turning a page and writing or copying work
  • Typing
  • Squeezing toothpaste and brushing teeth
  • Flossing teeth
  • Playing an instrument
  • Using a knife and fork
  • Pouring water from a pitcher into a cup
  • Cooking skills: chopping, cutting, slicing, peeling, taking food out of packages, putting food into the microwave or stove, taking food out of the fridge
  • Reaching for objects
  • Stabilizing an object with one hand while manipulating another object with the other
  • Jumping rope
  • Catching a ball
  • Riding a bike
  • Swimming
  • Many more tasks!
These bilateral integration activities are creative ways to help kids with bilateral integration needed for fine motor tasks like handwriting, scissor use, and other functional skills.

Bilateral Integration Activities 

Amazon affiliate links are included in this post.

First, let’s talk about some ways that coordinated use of the arms and legs are needed for coordinated movements. These are skills and tasks that can easily be performed by some children. Others, who struggle with motor planning, core strength, posture needs, left-right discrimination, visual motor skills, or many other areas can struggle. It’s easy to see that simply addressing some areas won’t fix the issue when an underlying concern is present.

To promote the skills needed for these tasks, try some of the activities listed below to promote bilateral integration:

Related Read: Here are are some additional bilateral coordination activities with a winter theme.

Bilateral Integration Activities for Babies

Bilateral movements are part of everyday life for baby! From turning, creeping on the floor, rolling, sitting, crawling, cruising on furniture, and taking first steps, babies are developing bilateral integration skills from birth.

Encourage these bilateral integration activities with babies:

There are ways to support child development at this stage through age-appropriate play that will support the child’s progression at later stages, too.

  • Provide various toys and objects appropriate for young babies. Include bold colored objects including black, white, and red items or contrasting colors, toys, or pictures on a blanket or play mat during tummy time. This black and white board book can be propped up or used while on an adult’s lap.
  • Provide gentle infant massage during and after bath time, and on all extremities. Here is a resource book on infant massage.
  • Provide toys and age-appropriate objects for reach and grasp. This banana toothbrush teether has molded handles that make it a great teething item for little ones.
  • Provide teething toys as baby brings hands together at their mouth.
  • Provide toys that are appropriate for mouthing that can be held in both hands.
  • Provide hand-held toys while the child is seated in a high chair. This one has a suction cup base to keep it stable, but has a black and white ring at the base that babies can grasp with one hand while manipulating with the other hand.
  • Provide toys of various weights when seated upright to provide resistance against gravity and to promote strengthening of the upper extremities. Blocks, rings, sorting toys, or something like this quality teething toy made of heavier materials can be useful to provide variances in weight, while still allowing the baby to manipulate the item.
  • Provide toys available on a high chair or table surface at various distances to provide opportunities for depth of perception when reaching for toys and bringing them to the mouth.
  • Continue tummy time while playing in prone to promote strength and stability in upper extremities.
  • Use the ideas in our baby play library for more ideas.

Bilateral Integration Activities for Toddlers

Provide toys requiring one hand to stabilize a base while the other hands manipulates an object. Shape sorters are great for this.

Other toys include:

  • Peg Boards
  • Blocks- These press and stay sensory blocks are perfect for encouraging one hand to use as a stabilizer and one hand as a
  • Play Dough
  • Drawing/coloring- Here is more information on the benefits of coloring.

Bilateral Integration Activities for Preschool

Preschool is a time for building hand strength, coordination, eye-hand coordination, and improving motor skills needed for the upcoming years. You can find many preschool activities here on our website, but some specific ways to support bilateral integration include:

  • Encourage kids to participate in cooking activities.
  • Use play dough to cut with scissors and roll out play dough snakes or balls of play dough.
  • Age-appropriate crafts and craft sets are great for this age.
  • Play with stickers of various sizes.
  • Make “snow angels” on a carpet or fluffy blanket
  • Simon Says is a great game for encouraging novel and varied motor combinations.
  • Play various song and movement games such as the Hokey Pokey, Farmer in the Dell, etc. Here are movement and song activities that can be used in circle time, warm-ups, centers, or in group activities. All of these move and dance songs promote core strength and stability.
  • Climb on outdoor play areas at playgrounds and in low trees.
  • Add sensory! Try this table top bilateral coordination activity to draw shapes.
  • Draw with both hands! This four leaf clover activity is a powerful one as it covers a variety of skills.

Bilateral Coordination Activities for School-Aged Kids

In schools, development of bilateral integration is important for tasks like putting on a coat or jacket and backpack, holding a paper with the supporting hand and writing, and using scissors. There are many other bilateral integration tasks that happen throughout the day.

Some ways you can support development of these skills include:

Try these bilateral integration activities and coordination ideas to promote use of both hands together in activities such as handwriting, cutting with scissors and so many other tasks!

Last thoughts on encouraging bilateral integration

The best way to encourage and promote integration of both sides of the body? Movement and play! Get the kids active, moving, and experiencing various planes against resistance and with exposure to all types of sensory experiences.

The combination of proprioceptive input into a play experience that promotes strengthening in a fun way provides all of the benefits kids need to improve bilateral coordination skills. Add personal interests as the child grows. And finally, have fun!

 

Use these bilateral coordination activities to promote bilateral integration needed for skills like writing and holding the paper and any activity that uses one hand to manipulate an object while stabilizing with the other hand.

Feeding Developmental Milestones

feeding developmental milestones

Below, you will find resources on feeding developmental milestones and information on development of bilateral coordination that are needed for the feeding skills to use both hands together in a coordinated manner. These bilateral coordination milestones are needed for independent feeding skills, so let’s break this down.

Development of bilateral coordination skills is necessary for improved self-feeding in toddlers and improves through the childhood years. Independence with feeding skills is an important part of child development!

Feeding developmental milestones in kids

Bilateral Coordination Development

When we talk about bilateral coordination development, we can also mean bilateral integration. Typically, bilateral coordination skills refer to the physical sensory motor use of both sides of the body in a coordinated and fluid manner.

However, bilateral coordination requires the overarching bilateral integration of the brain hemispheres and takes into consideration the ability to manage all of the functions listed above.

In fact, there are three components of bilateral coordination and these play a role in feeding developmental milestones:

  • Symmetrical movements- picking up a bottle with both hands to drink
  • Reciprocal movements- Using one hand to pick up food and another to pick up food the next time; we see this with babies and toddlers especially
  • Dominant hand/supporting hand movements- Using a knife to stabilize the food and the knife to stab the food. Or, holding a bowl with the supporting hand and the dominant hand to scoop the food from a bowl

Independence with feeding progresses from symmetrical movements to reciprocal movements, to dominant/supporting hand movements.

One way to really take a look at the developmental progress of bilateral coordination skills is through the functional task of feeding using cutlery, or utensils like spoons, forks, and knives and drinking tools: cups, bottles, etc.

When children learn to feed themselves and become more independent with self-feeding tool use with finger foods, utensils, or cups, development of bilateral coordination is one aspect that is necessary.

When we think about self-feeding, problems can arise based on a variety of areas. Upper extremity coordination is one of those aspects that are evaluated and addressed when self-feeding difficulties are present.

When thinking about development of self-feeding, consider the following issues related to bilateral coordination difficulty and try using some of the bilateral coordination activities based on development of bilateral coordination to improve feeding skills.

Related: For several ideas to support bilateral coordination skills while indoors, try our list of Winter Bilateral Coordination Activities that kids will love!

Discover typical development of bilateral coordination in feeding skills in kids, which are needed for improved independence in self-feeding.

Bilateral Coordination Milestones

Bilateral coordination development begins prior to birth, while in the womb with the physical movements felt by the mother. From there and immediately after birth, bilateral coordination milestones are achieved.

Amazon affiliate links are included in this post.

feeding developmental milestones

Development of bilateral coordination in self-feeding depends greatly on the child’s developmental level. Below, we’ll go through feeding milestones by age.

Development of feeding skills is just one skill that is a great way to to assess and analyze the development of bilateral coordination. Also, development of fine motor skills and visual motor skills have an impact on coordination of the hands in self-feeding.

In one blog post, we covered the skills needed for independence with functional tools, including holding a spoon, scooping with spoons, using forks, and other tools like toothbrushes, hair brushes, etc. That is a good place to start with understanding all of the other areas of development that go into tasks like feeding.

Throughout these ages, oral motor development plays a significant role in the manipulation of foods. Consider how these aspects of oral motor skills impact the developmental progression of feeding skills:

  • Rooting
  • Sucking
  • Swallowing
  • Gag reflex
  • Tongue movement
  • Jaw thrust
  • Jaw movements (moving jaw side to side to move food and movement of foods)
  • Lip closure during swallow phase of eating and drinking
  • Biting into foods
  • Tolerating different solid food and liquid consistencies

Development of bilateral coordination occurs at every stage of childhood and can be observed through feeding abilities.

Newborn Feeding Skills

At the newborn stage, primitive reflexes dominate movements. In particular the rooting reflex supports feeding at this age.

Babies aged 0-3 months will root, suckle, and swallow in feeding activities. This stage progresses as vision and motor control develop.

Feeding milestones 4-6 months

In this stage, development of coordination between the eyes and motor skills are just developing. The child explores with their eyes, hands, and mouth and will start to reach for objects purposely around four months. Accuracy of hand use is limited.

Babies can be observed using both hands in play as they pick up objects in their line of sight. However, they typically will pick up items with the hand that is closest to the object or toy. 

During this phase, the baby is spoon fed and when presented with a spoon, makes a suckling movement with lips and mouth. The baby will show a gag reflex at this age. With foods on a spoon, the baby will thrust their tongue out at the presence of foods and push the spoon away at times.

Look for munching of the jaw, or movements in the jaw indicating a chewing pattern, even though the young child can not chew at this stage.

Feeding Skills at 6-9 Months

At this stage, the child is typically sitting up with or without support. The child’s hands are often times used in grasp with a clenched or a fist-like grasp.

The child will begin to separate the thumb from the rest of the fingers to use a gross grasp on objects. Babies at this stage will typically place everything in their mouth, using both hands together in symmetry.

The child will hold a bottle or cup with assistance, placing both hands on the cup/bottle, but are not able to hold the cup or bottle on their own.

The gag reflex is still present but it is less sensitive to foods and utensils.

The baby has a voluntary bite on soft foods, chew cookies, and baby teething foods. They will begin to hold those items independently using both hands together at their mouth.

You will see a raking motion from the fingers, but this movement is typically not successful in picking up small foods like baby puff snacks. the baby can , however begin to pick up small food pieces using the thumb and the side of the pointer finger to grasp items (not a pincer grasp)

Feeding Skills at 9-12 Months

The child is able to sit upright without support and develops proximal stability, allowing for increased development of distal extremities.

In this stage, babies are developing pincer grasp and thumb and finger opposition skills. This stage brings the ability to hold one object in each hand such as two blocks.

The baby will be able to bring both hands together at the same time. Children will be able to begin finger feeding skills around 9 months as they bring dry cereal foods to their mouth with a scraping motion.

Finger isolation on both hands begins as they poke foods and explore textures with their hands. Children will use both hands to smear food and bring soft foods such as wet foods like a cereal mix or applesauce to their mouth. The child will be able to hold a cup with both hands and bring it to their mouth.

The child will start to hold a spoon with a gross grasp, or a palmer grasp but without a dominant arm. At this stage, grasp of the spoon occurs with a palmer grasp. The child will not hold the bowl or plate with their non-assisting hand.

You may see the baby begin to take longer sips from a straw while managing the liquid in their mouth to show a true drink. Similarly, with cup use, there is more drinking patterns as a result of the increased jaw control. However, at this age, these drinking skills are with an adult present to hold and remove the cup or straw. The bilateral coordination skills are not present in order to engage the hands either symmetrical coordination or as a dominant hand/supporting hand along with the drinking aspect.

You will start to see more controlled use of the thumb and pointer finger in a true pincer grasp to pick up foods. This occurs between the tip of the thumb and the pointer fingers. The baby at this age can finger feed themselves.

Feeding Skills at 12-15 Months

In this stage, the child begins to dip their spoon into foods. They will have more accuracy with dipping as opposed to scooping foods.

The spoon is held with a digital grasp and the child will likely switch hands while holding the spoon. The child will lift and drink from a cup with one hand.

As toddlers progress in development, they will begin to establish a dominant hand and crossing midline. This ability to utilize a dominant hand and a non-dominant hand in activities indicates a maturation of the brain and lateralization in functional tasks, which is very important for motor planning, directionality, and visual motor skills

A scooper bowl with suction base can be  help with scooping development and bilateral coordination at this stage.

The child at this age can hold a spoon with a gross grasp or palmer grasp with an inverted wrist. They will dip the spoon in food. The spoon will make it back to the mouth, but typically, the spoon is only touched to the lips. They will not likely remove all of the food from the spoon using their lips at this point. The motion of the spoon is entirely with the shoulder and elbow. The wrist is in one position so that the spoon is dipped into the food upside down. You’ll see increased shoulder abduction in order to get the spoon into the food. The spoon may be upside down in their mouth too.

Feeding Skills at 15-18 Months

The child is able to support the bowl with one hand while scooping with a spoon. Children can hold a small cup and pick out pieces of dry cereal or snacks.

Fine motor skills are developing quickly.

Drinking from a cup can move from a sippy cup to a spouted cup. Other young toddlers can drink from a straw. Holding the cup moves from a two handed grasp to a single grasp. You’ll see grasp on the handle of a sippy cup or spouted cup begins to move from a gross grasp to a pincer grasp. This grasp pattern development occurs in this later stage of toddler range because of the weight of the cup/drink.

By the end of this age range, the 18 month child can hold an open cup on their own to pick up, drink, and set the cup back down with just some spilling of the liquid.

Feeding Skills at 18-24 Months

As a child gets closer to two years of age, the variety of foods increases and this allows for greater exposure to textures of foods (mushy, crunchy, etc.) and types of foods (liquids, solid foods, mixed consistency foods).

The child will typically be able to drink from a cup with accuracy and with one hand but with more accuracy and precision. As the child moves toward two years, you can see a desire to drink from an open cup, but the accuracy of motor control and attention skills are not there for this type of cup.

There will be more coordination of the spouted cup or sippy cup and accuracy, with less spillage.

At this stage, the child will use a dominant hand in self-feeding and will begin to supinate the forearm when scooping with a spoon, resulting in greater accuracy. This looks like a typical spoon motion with the wrist, however there will still be a palmer or gross grasp on the spoon.

By two years, the toddler can use the spoon to scoop and feed themselves chunkier or thicker foods such as applesauce, mashed potatoes, etc.

Development of bilateral coordination for feeding skills is essential for accuracy and improving independence in self-feeding in kids.

Feeding Skills at 24-36 Months

During this stage, the child’s dominant hand is more established and the child can support with the non-dominant hand with greater accuracy.

There will be greater control of forearm supination so that the palm is facing upward when scooping. Typically, the child is able to self-feed without assistance.

Around 2.5 years, the child can drink from an open cup with one hand. A small, “pixie” cup or slightly larger small cup is great for this. They can also hold the spoon with a “palm up” position on the spoon. This allows for greater accuracy and ability to self feed thinner soups or cereals with milk.

By the end of this stage, around 3 years, the child can use a fork to pierce soft foods and they can brink the fork to their mouth and remove the food using their teeth and lips.

Feeding Skills at 3-4 Years

The child will begin to use a fork with improving accuracy. They can use a straw and hold the cup with one or both hands. They can also hold a cup while drinking from a straw on their own, and without assistance.

The child can use a pitcher to pour water into a cup, demonstrating bilateral coordination with advancement to the dominant hand/assisting hand stage.

The child will use both hands together with improving coordination in self-feeding. At this age, it’s a great time to get kids involved in helping to cook recipes. This experience in the kitchen along with an adult supports development of fine motor, sensory motor, and visual motor skills. Check out these cooking with kids recipes to support these areas.

Feeding Skills at 4-5 Years

Children will be able to use a knife to spread butter or peanut butter with the dominant hand while holding the plate or bread with their non-dominant hand.

Beginning use of child-friendly knives is appropriate. They will press with the knife rather than chopping or slicing.

In this stage, you’ll see a coordinated use of hands, in most cases. At this age, it’s important to expose the preschool child to lots of fine motor play and sensory motor play experiences to support development and exposure to motor activities. These promote development needed for fine motor skills and success in later years in the classroom.

Feeding Skills at 5-6 Years

Children will use a fork and spoon accurately. They will be able to scoop, poke, and stab with a fork using appropriate positioning and without use of the non-dominant hand to support the plate.

The child will begin to use a knife to cut foods.

Feeding Skills 6+ Years

The child will be able to cut meat with a knife with increasing accuracy and ability. As they develop, the child will increase coordination with knife and fork use in a coordinated manner.

Spilling of cups and foods decreases with age and development.

Attention in feeding tasks develops as children progress through the various stages, too. This makes a big difference in accuracy as well.

Trouble with Feeding Development

It’s important to remember that all children are different and the developmental milestones for feeding tasks listed above are not set in stone. There is always fluidity with development and feeding skills are no different.

If there are skills that seem to be delayed, be sure to reach out to the child’s pediatrician and a pediatric occupational therapist for individualized feeding evaluation and assessment as well as a specific treatment plan based on the individual’s needs.

Some things to consider that may be impacting feeding development include oral motor problems, determining if the feeding development issues are a result of sensory vs. oral motor considerations, or there is a need for specific adaptive feeding equipment.

Development of bilateral coordination skills in feeding occurs throughout childhood.