10 ways to entertain a Toddler…

…while teaching important skills at the same time!

            A great deal of growth happens between ages one and three. The child has become an observer of their external world and begins interacting with it.  They start to use language as a way of talking about real happenings and begin to sing simple songs and nursery rhymes.  Humor develops and for the first time they understand funny actions and phrases.  They begin asking questions using ‘what?’ and where? in order to gather more information about their world. Fine Motor skills, like holding a crayon, building towers with blocks, or cutting with scissors, develops right along with Large Motor skills, like throwing or kicking a large ball, walking on tiptoe, or jumping with both feet.

Since these are the activities and growth areas that a Toddler’s needs to develop anyway, let’s make growing up fun in just a matter of a few minutes a day!

  1.  Get down on your hands and knees and pretend to be a dog.  Move back and forth and bark.  Have your child follow you.  Give commands to him, like ‘Sit’, ‘Roll over” and ‘Beg’ and show him how you perform those.  Then encourage him to give you commands.  Change the animal to become monkeys, cats or cows.  (Improves Large motor, imitation, and language development)
  2.  Use an empty cottage cheese carton or large yogurt container to create bathtub fun.  Punch tiny holes in the bottom and fill it with water and watch it rain.  Sing ‘Rain, rain go away’ or ‘It’s raining, it’s pouring’ while he gets rained on. (Improves singing, language development and imagination.)
  3. The bathtub is a great place to teach prepositions.  Use toys that can float and some that can sink.  Plastic people can dive from the side of the tub and go ‘under’, climb ‘on’ a floating raft, jump ‘out’ of the water, ‘slide down’ a chute or swim ‘around’ the tub. (Improves language development and imagination.)
  4.  Choose a carpeted room in the house and with masking tape, create roads and a city to drive around.  Use a variety of vehicles and sing silly songs like, “We’re driving slow, slow, slow.  Now we’re going fast, fast, fast.”  You can teach the concepts ‘under the table’, ‘over the bump’, ‘through the tunnel’ and ‘stop at the store’. (Improves Large motor, imitation, and language development)
  5. Toddler’s love dressing up.  Gather together clothing items and put them in a pillowcase.  Say ‘I’ll put something on my head’.  Pull out an item and put whatever it is on your head. Make a funny face when the item is wrong.  Ask your child where that particular item should go.  Take turns picking from the bag and saying, “I’ll put something on my ….”  (Teaches body parts, clothing items, imitation, and language development)
  6. Play an imitation game that teaches counting.  Clap you hands and count along, saying the numbers, ‘one, two, three.’  Ask you child to imitate you.  Then ‘stomp your feet’, one, two, three.  You can continue on substituting body parts while tapping and counting. Counting to five is the goal. (Teaches body parts, counting, imitating a rhythm, following directions.)
  7. Make different size shakers out of used plastic containers. Put buttons, rice or beans inside and tape them securely shut. Give your child directions like, ‘shake the big one over your head.’  ‘Now shake it behind you.’  Alternate between big and little shakers and using different concepts like, ‘low, high, in front, beside, between or fast and slow.’ (Teaches directional concepts, imitating a movement, following directions.)
  8. Pour three or four different shapes of dried pasta into a one bowl. (About thirty pieces) Choose a specific piece and say, “Find another one that’s the same as this.”  Sort them into three containers so that the same pastas are together again.  (Teaches the concept of same and different, sorting and increases small motor ability.)
  9. Teaching colors can be hard but not if you teach them one color at a time.  Pick a color that your child is wearing and say, ‘If you’re wearing blue, jump up and down.’  Continue on with ‘blue’ directions for a while then alternate it with another color like, ‘red’. This will make him listen for the ‘blue’ directions and to ignore the ‘red’ instructions.  (Teaches the concept of colors, following directions, and increases large motor ability.)
  10. Surprise boxes are fun to discover new things.  Decorate a box and tell your child that there is a surprise inside.  Hide it while your child covers his eyes.  Let them remove the lid and discover and talk about things like, felt squares, buttons, pictures, a new toy, a special snack, shakers or any item that will be used in an activity. (Teaches creativity, language development, imagination, increases small motor ability.)

Toddler’s need a stimulating environment and a variety of experiences to help them grow and develop skills they will need in a few short years when they enter school.  Activities which emphasize the senses and include physical activity will appeal the most to your child.  If you have a toddler, you know you have to keep them busy, so why not teach them a new skill while you’re at it?