As your child charges toward the toddler years, you’re probably beginning to gain a greater respect for the ages-old adage, “the only constant in life is change.” After all, babies don’t just adhere to this wisdom, they embody it. Less than one year ago, your child did little more than sleep, eat, cry, fill his diapers and sleep some more. Now look at him: a sprightly little pip who relishes waddling around the house, playing with blocks and launching various projectiles from his highchair. Yes, he’s come a long way—and don’t expect him to slow down anytime soon.
But the more things change, the more they stay the same. You’ll find, for instance, that your child’s appetite for playing games is as hearty as ever. Better yet, he can now handle more advanced activities and even control some of the action thanks to his newfound coordination and body control. Games also help little ones learn valuable cognitive skills, like cause and effect—if he hurls a block from his highchair, it will make a noise when it hits the floor.
Let the Games Begin!
Nurture your baby’s playful spirit with these five playtime activities:
1. Clear for Takeoff: Leave small objects on the tray of your child’s highchair, and watch him fling them to the floor. He will then scream loudly for you to retrieve them so he can do it again. For your own safety, give him softer objects (beanbags or foam rubber balls are popular with tiny hurlers) of various size, color and texture.
2. Obstacle Course: Cover the living room floor with pillows, couch cushions, cardboard boxes and stuffed animals. Watch how your baby navigates the room and interacts with certain objects. You’ll learn a lot from just observing, including which toys your child prefers and how adept he is at sidestepping or climbing over obstacles.
3. What a Character: Turn story time into the ultimate learning experience by adlibbing dialogue and creating new scenes. For instance, if you’re reading a story about a cat, add words describing the cat—it’s size, color, what it likes to eat, how long its tail is and so on. Also, don’t be afraid to change the sound of your voice when reading the lines of different characters. Hand gestures and silly faces can add to the fun, too!
4. Mirror, Mirror: Sit in front of your child and make movements that he can mimic—swooping hand gesture, goofy faces, sticking out your tongue and whatever else you can muster. Help develop budding hand muscles by showing him how to clap and snap. Consider adding a colorful object or favorite toy to your play sessions.
5. Play Ball: Sit across from your child, roll a small rubber or foam ball in his direction and encourage him to send it back. Don’t get discouraged if he tries to put the ball in his mouth or just stares at it for a couple of minutes. This is how he learns about size, texture, weight, color and much more. Besides, he’ll learn to heave and kick the ball soon enough—so hide your breakables!