Have you ever bought your toddler an expensive new toy, only to discover that he spends more time playing with the box it came in?
Toddlers have an amazing ability to sink into the simple things of life and create worlds from their own imagination. At this magical age, virtually everything is brand new, and we can relax and know that our interaction with our young children, especially through simple, repetitive activities, is enhancing their development and love of learning. The key is to keep it simple and spend lots of time allowing them to explore at their own pace.
Here are some simple and inexpensive activities you can enjoy with your toddler:
Outdoor Activities for Toddlers
Toddlers love to be outside. Often, toddlers will want (and need) time to play freely, but here are some ideas for those times when your toddler wants to engage in play with you:
Blow bubbles. Toddlers love to chase and blow bubbles. They watch in awe as nothing at all turns into something and is then carried away by the breeze. Spillproof containers are perfect for toddlers, especially when they are off chasing their bubble creations. Toddlers love it when you blow bubbles, too. Try counting the bubbles or challenging your child to see how many she can catch.
Watch the clouds. Lie on your backs together and find shapes in the clouds.
Draw with sidewalk chalk. These thick chunks of chalk are perfect for little hands, and they are well suited to a toddler’s fine motor skills, too. Allow your child to create designs of his own creation. Or write your child’s name in block letters and invite him to color them in. You can also draw a wiggly line down the sidewalk for your toddler to walk along. Or make up a story as you walk along the sidewalk about a child who is out for an adventure in the world, and illustrate different parts of your story as you go.
Take a walk in the wide, wide world. A simple walk in the neighborhood will give your toddler an opportunity to become familiar with the world outside her home. As she follows the same route over and over, she will begin to form a concept of her neighborhood. In time, this will bring her comfort that comes from knowing she is “almost home.”
Toddlers also love to walk in the woods. All that nature has to offer, such as rocks, sticks, and leaves, are marvelous entities to be held and explored. If you take the time to allow a toddler to explore the woods, you are in for a treat yourself – as well as a lesson in patience. A toddler can watch a simple stream for what can seem like hours. While you walk, put a piece of transparent tape, sticky side out, loosely on your child’s wrist. When she finds small items that she’d like to document her journey, whether its flecks of mica, pretty leaves, or dried pine needles, she can press them on her Nature Bracelet. When she returns home, seal the goodies by placing another piece of tape on top.
Think like a kid. As you enjoy time with your toddler, try to imagine what things look like from his point of view. Toddlers take delight in the simplest things, especially if you do them again and again. For example, kids love to simply count their footsteps up to five or ten, and then start again. They love to say hello to the same dog (or the rosebush or the big rock or the open meadow) that you pass on each walk. They love to try to hop over cracks in the sidewalk. What did you love to do as a young child? If you can’t remember, ask your parents or other adults who spent time with you, and make a point to weave those simple activities into life with your own toddler.
Indoor Activities for Toddlers
Read. Reading opens a toddler’s imagination and fosters a love for books, which can propel him to success far into his school years. Read to your toddler whenever you get the chance. Take weekly trips to the library to pick out new books and audiobooks to enjoy. Introduce your child to the books you remember from your own early childhood. And make sure your child sees you enjoying a good book now and then, too.
Sing. Anytime a toddler can sing, concepts are likely to stick. Sing simple songs such as the alphabet song, or silly songs you make up about the life you live. Kids love having their own special songs, too. See if you can make up a song to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, which features your toddler’s name and some of the things you love most about him.
Car Games and Activities for Toddlers
Magnetic Trays. You can use an old metal tray or purchase a ready made magnetic tray at the toy store. With these trays, toddlers can play with alphabet and number magnets, as well as paper magnetic dolls. Another great way to use a magnetic tray is to print off pictures of family members and adhere them to magnets.
Travel Songs. Singing songs in the car is another great activity that passes the time. Again, repetition is the key. Sing the same song each time you and your toddler start off on a trip to the store, for example.
Story Starters. Start a story, and then ask your toddler or preschooler to fill in the blanks here and there. For example, you might start with, “Once upon a time there was a dog named: ____” (Ask the child for the dog’s name.). And the dog went to the ____.” This is great when you have a mix of ages, too. The older children can create a very silly tale, and your child can make it even sillier when it’s his turn.
Don’t be afraid to do the same thing twice. The key to educational games at this age is in repetition. Children’s brains develop connections by doing, seeing, and hearing something over and over again. That’s why children want to watch the same video, listen to the same song in the car, and go through the same bedtime routine each night.
As parents, we sometimes worry about whether our toddlers are getting enough attention, stimulation, and entertainment. Often, the games toddlers truly love are the most simple and the least expensive – especially when taken at a toddler’s natural pace and shared with someone they love.
Susie Cortright is the founder of Momscape.com and Susies-Coupons.com. Visit today for the latest Online Coupon Codes including coupons for discount toddler gear, including shoes, clothing, toys, and beds..