Easiest Ways to Play with Your Babies and Toddlers to Promote Healthy Development

From Ms Barb and Ms Vanessa at the Lily Pad Lab

1. Blocks
-Stack them and knock them down (cause/effect).
-Line them up and make a train (counting, pre-reading if you line up left to right, fine-motor, language “choo-choo”).
-Sort them by color or size (math readiness).
-Drop them into a bucket (cause/effect, fine-motor, object permanence by looking for the missing blocks).
-Bang them together and its imitation, which is needed to develop language for babies.

2. Teach your child easy baby signs to reduce frustration. Remember communication is the key, not exact pronunciations at this stage. Kids need a way to say what they need/want, and sign language gets the job done. Try “more, all-done, eat, drink, want, and help.” After that, try adding some animal signs or ones more relevant to your family.

3. Sing songs!

4. Read books!

5. Talk about the sounds things make, like animal noises or cars/trucks for example (language development).

6. Let kids empty the “plastic container drawers” and then show them how to put it all back in.  Much of early childhood is spent taking things out and putting them back in again.  Play with boxes and other containers.

7. Roll kids in a blanket (leave head out) and pretend they are a taco.  Add lots of “toppings” by gently or firmly patting them. Talkers can say what they want added, and non-talkers just love to be looked at and talked to.  A gentle tickle is fun too. Kids love this game and enjoy the silliness of it. Parents can also have a turn being the “taco.”

8. Try at least 5 or 10 minutes a day to talk less and give more eye contact to your child. Let the child lead the activity while the parent engages with their presence. Put the phone away and follow your child’s lead. Even if you are quiet the entire 10 minutes and only smile and look into your child’s eyes, you will be amazed at what you find. This activity fills their need to be loved and noticed and cherished.

9. Kids also love to dress up and do pretend play. Even if you don’t have costumes, pretending to be dogs or cars or monsters can be very entertaining for kids (language development and social/emotional health).

10. String beads (or pasta with wide holes, or cheerios).
Play with glue, markers, washable paint, sand, and crayons.

11. Make playdough and play! Those activities are good for fine-motor skills like eye-hand coordination and also language development.

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