What could be more fun than playing with toddlers? If you said nothing than you’re right! Now I’m not talking about the toddler playhouses or the toddler playpens. While those are great, I don’t know about you but I don’t have a lot of money lying around. Nor do I desire to fill my home with toys that my toddler will play with once and then that’s it. But how exactly can with play with toddlers? And how can we make sure by playing with toddlers we are giving them the important skills they need later on in life?
In this post, I will be giving you five mom tested and toddler approved activities that focus on the five areas of development. And the best part…they’re FREE! You can also check out my Facebook page where I have 10 Free Virtual Toddler Time videos for you and your little one!
How to Play with Toddlers
Toddlers love when activities are high interest and have simple rules or directions. They also really enjoy activities that incorporate their whole bodies. My toddler loves anything that involves singing, dancing, jumping, really any type of movement.
Toddlers also enjoy “quiet” time activities as well. Quiet activities involve drawing, painting, coloring, writing, reading, anything that can be done with little to no whole body movement.
The number one question I get from parents is that they are not sure how to initiate or start playing with their toddler. They want to do it the “right” way and I think some are appalled when I tell them there isn’t a “right” or “wrong” way. The only right way to play with your toddler is to find something they are interested in and use that.
Some items you can use to play with toddlers are:
- Dolls/Action figures
- Dress up clothes
- Stuffed animals
- Colored paper/pens/pencils/crayons
- Anything you can find around the house
Games to Play with Toddlers
Games are probably a toddlers most favorite type of activity. I have realized that when it comes to playing with my own little one, if I make the activity into a game she buys into it a lot more. This does not have to take a lot of thought. For instance, one of our favorite games is to see who can put her clothes away faster, mommy or her. So an otherwise mundane chore for me is made into a fun game that makes her want to play along and help with the work.
The first area of development in young children is cognitive. Cognitive development is controlled by the brain and deals with all aspects of learning and processing information.
My absolute favorite activity to play with my little one in this area is Sunshine ABCs. You take a paper plate color or paint it yellow, write the ABCs around the rim, write the abcs on clothespins and then have your toddler match the letters together. This activity supports cognitive development by teaching them their letters and how to recognize them.
The next area of development is fine motor. Fine motor development deals with your child’s fingers. This area helps them hold pencils, crayons, etc and be able to pick up objects with their thumb and pointer finger.
My little one loves picking up and sorting objects based on color. Her absolute favorite activity for this is sorting teddy bear counters into colored cups. Everything you see in the photo cost less than $20.
Although I promised you FREE activities. So, another activity we do for this area is I take different sheets of colored paper and lay them out on the table or floor. Then I take another sheet and tear it into small pieces or crumble them up. Then, my little one has to sort the smaller pieces of paper onto the right color. She loves this activity and the best part is once it is made I just store it in a Ziploc bag to be used again and again.
Gross motor development is the third area of development. This aids your little one with kicking, running, jumping, hopping, skipping. Basically anything that deals with whole body movement.
This activity is super simple and so much fun for toddlers. Sock throwing! Yup you read that right, sock throwing. What you do is take socks, ball them up, set up a laundry basket, and throw those socks into the basket. This is a game that you will come back to time and time again. Every time my little one helps me with the laundry she always grabs the socks and starts throwing them.
Pretend Play with Toddlers
Pretend play and toddlers are like peanut butter and jelly. They love to pretend they are princesses, doctors, teachers, mommys/daddys, just about anything they can think of. A lot of parents message me about how exactly to join in with their toddler while they are pretending. So, let’s answer that question right now.
It really is as simple as just playing along with them. Wear the crowns, drink the pretend tea, change your voice, etc. In short just be silly with them. No one is watching you, judging you, or recording you to broadcast on the TV or social media so let yourself be a kid again.
I absolutely love playing pretend with my little one because of how wild her imagination is. But, I also know that these moments are fleeting and in a few years I will be looking back and longing remembering the times where she was super happy running around the house in her superhero cape.
Speech and language development is the area that focuses on your child’s ability to speak and converse with others. This is an area where I have the most difficulty. I am always worried about my little one’s language development because to me this area is the most important.
Pretend play and speech and language go simultaneously together. My little one’s favorite pretend play game is to be princesses and have a tea party. We dress up, sit around the table or on her bedroom floor, and drink pretend tea out of her Peppa Pig tea cups. This is a time for us to laugh, talk about her day, talk about my day, and tell stories. Most of the time we talk about princesses and what they do all day.
It is so important to make this time as authentic as possible. I have found that my little one responds the best when the interaction is not forced. For instance, if you let your child talk freely, they will be able to gain a deeper level of development in their speech and language.
A simple activity for this area would be pretending to be superheroes. Grab some bath towels, secure them around your necks, and run around and talk about superheroes. Toddlers will love this!
This area is SO important! Social-emotional development deals with your child’s emotions towards themselves and others as well as how they interact with other children. This area of development helps them regulate their feelings that often affect how they react to their classmates and teachers in the later years.
The simplest activity for this area would be to play the emotions game with your toddler. My little one absolutely adores this game and wants to play it all the time. You simply say, make a ____ face. Then your child should make a face that matches the emotion said. As your child grows you can then expand the game by asking questions, such as what would make you _______, what is something that makes you happy, etc.
How to Play with Toddler Boy
I get so many questions about what activities to do with a toddler boy. The answer is truly simple. Toddlers boys would definitely enjoy all the activities mentioned above, maybe not the tea party/princess idea, but definitely everything else.
I find that toddler boys really like activities that involve using lots of gross motor skills. If you can tie any of the other areas of development and make it into a movement game I am sure toddler boys would love it.
Is your child ready for school?
You won’t want to miss out on these 5 easy tips to get your kid starting out on the right foot.
Are you a parent to a kid who is starting Kindergarten? Then you may want to check out my latest post here. You can also check out my Facebook page where I have 10 Free Virtual Toddler Time videos for you and your little one!