Monday, May 25, 2009

Toddler Tuesday: 5 developmentally stimulating games

Toddler Tuesday Tips!

So today I am introducing Toddler Tuesday! I may not be the first person to ever have this idea, but I still think it is a good one. Each Tuesday, my tips will be for the parents of toddlers! Today I thought I would share some of the fun and educational activities that are good for a toddler to do. Some of these will be easier and some will be harder, every child is different, so don't worry if one of these activities seems a little beyond your little finger-food fanatic.

1. Stacking blocks.
Just regular old run of the mill blocks will do for this activity. Padded blocks don't stack well, big card board box blocks are never really square and odd-sized blocks can be frustrating at first. Just a normal set of wooden alphabet blocks that are uniformly square are great for stacking. First let your baby look at the blocks and investigate them on their own for a little while, then begin to model for them the right way to stack the blocks. Count each new block with an excited voice as your tower gets taller, then say "time to knock it down!" and push over the tower. Your toddler will be most interested in knocking down the tower at first, but keep at it, and soon you'll see great stacking skills develop.

2. Throwing a ball.
For this I recommend that parents start with a soft ball. Your toddler might take a long time to figure out how to get the ball to fly through the air like you do, or the ball could come hurtling right at your head on the first try, so plan for the worst. This activity is a great one to do outside on summer days, or in the living room during the winter. Try sitting with your feet touching your child's feet so that your legs form a diamond shape, then tossing and rolling the ball back and forth.

3. Make-believe with stuffed animals.
You may have already had your baby pick up the remote control and hold it to their ear while saying "heh-woeh?", in which case CUTE!!! The next step is to get your child to use figure-type toys, like stuffed animals, dolls or action figures to model behavior that he sees around the house. Sit down together with some spoons and an empty cup and "feed" the stuffed bear, or use a brush to help the dolly comb her hair. The nice thing about this kind of activity is that it doesn't require you to always be around for it to be fun. The other day my son was making the penguin clap it's hands while reciting "patty cake". He was rolling on the floor laughing while I was tidying up the kitchen!

4. Sorting colors and shapes.
There are a million toys on the market that are made to help your child do this exact activity, so use whichever one you have handy, I don't have much of a preference here. If you want you can combine sorting with putting the shaped in the holes, or sorting colors by stacking the disks on the pegs. I really love when there are a couple of different ways to sort the same objects. Like first sorting them by color, then resorting them by shape. An advanced form of this game would include things like texture and sound, but move at whatever pace is comfortable for you and your child. Sit together at a small table and begin by modeling the type of sorting that you want your child to do first. If they try to participate, but are getting it wrong, simple kindly explain where that piece really goes and why, then move it there yourself.

5. Threading beads on a pipe-cleaner.
This is a great fine-motor coordination activity. The hardest part about this activity is the amount of concentration and attention span that it requires. I wouldn't push your child to do it with you, but perhaps if you sit and do it for a while near where they are playing, they will come and express some interest. Use large wooden or plastic beads, so there is less of a chance that they will break or be ingested, and attach one to the end of the pipe cleaners to start with so that the beads your baby puts on won't just fall off the other end. If you fill a couple of strands you can segue into a fun game of dress-up in which the beaded strands can be crowns, and necklaces! This is one of those activities that my son has to have mommy help him with and that requires some clean up afterward. No one wants to step on a bead in the middle of the night.

I hope you all like my new segment, Toddler Tuesdays!, the regularly scheduled 5 baby tips will be back tomorrow. Thanks for reading, and as always, if you have any questions or comments, I'd love to hear from you!

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