The right games and interaction for your toddler should be fun, natural and promote bonding. Creative and imaginative games are critical elements for toddlers as they promote thinking “out of the box”, problem-solving abilities, resourcefulness, and build increasing confidence.
Specialty stores, catalogs, and websites are full of stimulating games and toys for toddlers. But you don’t need to spend a fortune, with a little preparation and very few dollars, you can create learning opportunities with everyday items and situations. It’s also reassuring to know that many games can be played spontaneously any time you have 15 or 20-minute of free time. Here are some ideas that you can use, especially for young toddlers 12-24 months of age. These games are loads of fun, easy and inexpensive. Your toddler won’t even know it, but as she plays, she’s learning valuable skills and building up her creativity capabilities.
Cognitive Skill Games
1. Baby Safari for building fine motor and classification skills.
Gather together 2 containers of different sizes, fill one with balls and add in a few animal figures. Have your toddler separate the animals and put them in the second container. As she grows and becomes more mature, you can add to her safari experience by having her classify the animals by type, color or size.
2. Zookeeper for building imagination and fine motor skills
With home-made or dime-store animal masks, cut out the mouth area and place over any type of container (a tissue box is perfect.) Your toddler will love “feeding” the zoo animals with crackers, cereal or uncooked rice or pasta. As your little one becomes more skilled, you can add to the fun and learning with scoops, spoons and more complex instructions such as “Pasta to the lion”, “Crackers to the horse”
3. Worm hunt for building imagination and fine motor skills
Fill a large bowl with sand, uncooked rice or pasta and add in a few “worms” (lightly cooked pasta) and have her search for and separate the worms. To make it more fun, you can add green food coloring to the pasta.
Games for Physical Skills
1. Toddler train for coordination, auditory processing, and memory
Draw a train track on a Kraft Paper-covered floor and have your little one move up and down the “tracks” while she listens to music. Add treasures such as snacks or toys to make the game even more fun. Once she has the hang of the game, add music so she can start and stop, speed up and slow down according to the rhythm.
2. Trailblazer Obstacle Course for coordination, balance, and memory
An obstacle course or maze is entertaining and so easy to create in any home: bedroom, hallway, kitchen or backyard are ideal. Just add toys, tunnels, chairs, foot ladders, and pillows and you’re ready to go. Tip: Large cardboard boxes make ideal “tunnels” for little ones and cost nothing.
3. Simon Says for auditory skills and musical appreciation
This traditional game is for older kids, but you can start your toddler out one step at a time almost anywhere you have a little space and some music ( a cell phone is perfect) Play music and add commands like “Simon says: move your shoulders”, Simon says: Do the twist” “Simon says: Raise the roof.” So easy and so much fun to play alone or with siblings.
Social skills games
- Emoji Cards for empathy and pro-social skills
Home-made flashcards with different emotions or emojis are perfect for quiet times. Take turns with your child pulling a random flashcard and imitating the expressions on the flashcards. It’s even more fun if parents, siblings and other friends join in.
2. Pass the Goodies for sharing, imagination, and pro-social skills
This is an easy game that can be played at home, in waiting rooms or anytime there’s a little downtime. All you need is a bag of “goodies,” real or pretend. Have him share his stash of goodies with others in the room. For an older toddler, add complexity, such as: “Take the cracker from the bear and give them to Granma.” “Poor Daddy is very hungry, give him lots of crackers”
DEVELOPS EMPATHY, SHARING, MEMORY AND PROSOCIAL BEHAVIORS
Healthy social, physical and emotional development is fostered by activities that provide time and space to play, imagine and interact. These games are simple and inexpensive and it’s easy to add your own twists or variations or use them as inspiration for other games. Regardless of budget, size or spare time. virtually every home has myriad articles and situations that can be converted into learning aids and stimulating play for your little one.
*All plastic toys or pieces must be larger than 1.5 inches in diameter to avoid choking hazards in smaller children. Pasta should be lightly cooked to avoid choking or injuries.