Hi- I was wondering if you had any ideas for a child who is 18-months-old. Some of these ideas on little hands [from the Preschoolers and Peace site] seem like things for 2 1/2 to 3-year-olds. Maybe not; maybe it is because I just haven't tried some of them yet.
I do have a few ideas for that age group, and all of them involve some sort of confinement :) I'm not a real believer in lots of freedom for little ones, so if that's not your style, you might want to ask someone else.
1. Table play- strapped into high chair or booster, you can fill a muffin tin with various snacks like cheerios, raisins, pretzels, etc. A little in each muffin cup- they love to sort and pour and snack. My dentist husband actually recommends gummy bears rather than raisins. Mini marshmallows are good, too. Obviously, you'll want to choose food you know won't be a choking hazard.
Blocks, crayons, Duplo, hot wheel cars, wooden puzzles, etc. can all be played one-at-a-time at the table.
2. Playpen time- 15-30 minutes for this age group. Only put in one or two toys. More than that is overwhelming.
3. Stroller ride- assign another child to give the 18mo a ride in the stroller around the backyard or anywhere else that is safe.
4. Signing Time, Baby Songs, or Praise Baby DVDs, but I would still have the 18mo in a playpen while watching.
5. Bathtub play- kill several birds with one stone: baby gets clean, stays busy in the bath, and if you take a book and the other kids in the bathroom, you can read aloud to all of them.
6. Play time with older sibling. I would put a gate up in a safe room and give them one project (like puzzles, blocks, trains, etc.) to work on together. Clearly define what it is they can and cannot do.
If your 18mo is used to lots of freedom, it may take awhile to get him/her used to being restricted. A lot of our frustration with this age group comes because we tend to follow them around in their wake, picking up messes and putting out fires. Now, if you have a "helpful" 5-year-old who thinks the baby is bored and gives them markers in their crib first thing in the morning, that's a different story. Ask me how I know :)