“Play is an essential part of every child’s life and vital to their development. It is the way children explore the world around them and develop and practice skills. It is essential for physical, emotional and spiritual growth, for intellectual and educational development, and for acquiring social and behavioral skills. Play is a generic term applied to a wide range of activities and behaviors that are satisfying to the child, creative for the child, and freely chosen by the child. Children play on their own and with others. Their play may be boisterous and energetic or quiet and contemplative, light-hearted or very serious.” ~Hampshire Country Council and the Early Years-Development and Childcare Partnership
Being a stay-at-home mother, I learned there are so many activities, games and events you can do with your child. Below are examples of the types of games you can do with your child and certain events you can take you child to. The examples listed below are the things I did/do with my toddler who is about to turn 3 years young. Therefore, I am sure most of these you can still do with a new born and up. [Important Note]: Always keep in mind that repetition is key when learning.
Activities and Games to Play:
- Flashcards.—I did flashcards with my son ever since he was born and now he is almost three, he knows his colors, numbers, counts up to 30, his alphabet, the sounds the letter makes, etc.… It is never too early to start with flashcards.
- Read books.—There are so many different types of books out there. Reading books is another activity I have been doing with my toddler ever since he was a new born. Still till this day, he loves to be read to. He even sometimes pulls out a book and acts like he is reading it himself. But there are books to keep your child attentive; for example, there are books that your child can push buttons as you read them the story and so on…
- Color.—Crayons, washable markers, colored pencils, etc.… Sit down and color with your child. As your child picks a color, name the color and of course, reassure them how much of a great job they are doing.
- Paint and/or Finger-paint.—My son does not like to finger-paint, although he absolutely loves to paint with a paintbrush. This helps them explore their creativity side.
- Play-Doh.—Play-doh can be found pretty much anywhere, especially in dollar stores. They also have out little toys to help design and create such structures.
- Blow bubbles.—Majority of children love to help blow bubbles and/or even chase after them to pop them. Bubbles can be lots of fun!
- “I’m going to get you.”— I know that my toddler loves to play this. I will say, “I am going to get you” (kind of like tag) and chase after him and eventually get him. Once I do, I either tickle him, non-stop kiss him and/or spin him in circles.
- Water Time.—Set up an area where you can fill up some pots and pans with water and put out some little cups, dishes, bowls, etc.… and let your child explore with the water. Try and show the child how to pour the water back and forth into different dishes. The child may get wet and make a bit of a mess but that’s ok, it’s only water!
- Chalking outside.—Chalking can be a lot of fun. Chalk can be found at many stores, especially the dollar store, grab some colored ones and get ready to have fun and chalk with your child.
- Go for a walk and let the child explore. I typically brought a little bag from the dollar store and let my child collect outside environment pieces such as rocks, leaves, flowers, grass, and/or whatever it was that caught his attention. I would also explain to him what it was that he was interested in and explained what I knew about that certain object that he wanted to put in his bag. I know this was something he really enjoyed doing.
- Blocks.—When my toddler was in his younger years—one and two years old—he loved building blocks (mega blocks) and then knocking them down. Now as he is older, he still loves building blocks.
- Board Games & Games.–There are many board games to choose from; esp for learning. Some games I would recommend is Candyland, Hi Ho Cherry-O, Connect Four, Cards, Go Fish, Snakes and Ladders, Scramble, A Day Out With Thomas Boardgame, Toppel and so on…
- Computer Games.— My toddler loves his little child computer ever since I can remember. It surely helped with his alphabet and numbers. It is also a great way to help them get more acquainted with computers since they are our future.
- Sing songs and play hand games or even toe games too.—For example: Pat-a-cake. I know my son loved this as an infant and still does as a toddler. Also, “this little piggy went to the market…” and so on.
- Face expressions.—Make different face expressions and noises and explain what they are and/or have your child guess what type of expression you are doing. Take for example, surprised: open your mouth (as a face expression) and make a surprised sound. This can help your child become more in tuned with their emotions and feelings.
- Hide-and-seek.—My toddler absolutely loves hiding and me finding him. I am sure this is a game that you cannot go wrong with.
- Play Ball.—There are so many different things you can do with a ball. Roll the ball back and forth to each other, play catch, bounce it against the wall, soccer, and so on…
- Foam matt and letters.—My toddler also learned his letters through foam matts that you lay on the ground. We would take the letters out of its spot and mix them up and then he would tell me what the letter was, the sound it made and put the letter back in it’s spot.
- Build a tent/fort.—Building a tent can be fun for both parent and child. I know I have fun when helping my child build a tent. You can use what you already have at home: blankets, pillows, sheets, etc.….
- Puzzles.—Children are never too young to learn how to do puzzles. My son was two at the time he did his first puzzle and is still non-stop doing them. As a parent/guardian, all you have to do it sit down with them and teach them that colors go with colors, edges go with edges and so on. Soon enough with practice, I am sure they will get the swing of it and will be doing all by their self.
- Dance.—Put on some music and dance your tushy-butts off. Dancing is always a fun way to interact with your child.
- Follow the leader.—You or your child start off by being the leader. You do everything your child does and then take turns and switch it up by having your child follow you and do what you do. For instance, walk around your house, skip, jump, turn in circles, etc.…
- Stickers.—Go to the store and grab a blank book (Again, I typically go to the dollar store and just get a blank copybook) and we have sticker time. My toddler usually puts all his stickers in his book that he gets from other people and for occasions. This is also a perfect memory book for the both of us.
- Stamps.—Stamps are always fun too. Again, you can get yourself a blank book and let your child stamp away. Also, the stamps can also be found in many stores too such as the dollar store, A.C. Moore, Michael’s Art Store, and so on…
- Activity Books.—There are many activity books out there for all ages. This helps children with their writing skills. You can learn how to trace letters, numbers, shapes and so on.
- Play an instrument.—You can find instruments of all kinds anywhere. Toys-R-Us, Dollar store, etc….
- Memory Cards.—These cards can be fun and help a child with their memory.
- “Red means Stop and Green Means Go.”—This is a fun little game you and your child can play to help your child learn about meaning of color. As a parent/guardian, you stand several feet across from your toddler. You tell them green, they start to walk/run then a couple seconds later you call out red which causes them to stop. You can also make up other ways to play this game—be creative!
- Play School.— Get an easel or chalk board and play school. You can even do the dry erase markers and board and help the child learn how to write, draw and/or scribble. Do letters, numbers, math such as plus, minus, and equals and so on… Also, if you do it everyday, write the child’s name on the board and repeat thier name and spelling of it so they get familarized with thier name.
- Arts & Crafts.—Trace your child’s hands and/or feet and make flowers out of them. You can also make other cool projects by using their cut-out hands such as ears to their favorite animals or for special occasions. Lots of different things to do with arts and crafts and again, be creative!
- Whiffle Ball & Bat.—Whiffle ball and bat can always be a fun way to interact with your child.
- Learn Another Language.—It is never too early to teach your child another language. I have been randomly teaching my child since he was born how to sign (as I am going along, I am also teaching myself). I do some signing every here and there and now that he is a toddler, he understands and does some signing himself at times. There are many books out and you can even find some websites on the Internet.
“When kids play, they remember. They may not be aware that they are learning but they sure are aware they are having fun. When you have a good belly laugh with your siblings or parents or friends, that stays with you. And the great thing is that it comes naturally… If we only let it.” ~Rebecca Krook, play facilitator for kids with disabilities
Events & Outings:
Look in your local area for such events:
- In my hometown, Philadelphia, The Please Touch Museum is an awesome place to take children to of all ages. However, there are many museums out there for children to attend just look for some in your local area.
- “Parent/Guardian and Me classes.”—Example: The Little Gym. My toddler loved this class. It also helps children learn how to open up and interact with other children.
- The Beach.
- Chuck E. Cheese.
- Go to the Library.—I know I already mentioned read books, but find out at your local library about any get-together groups that may be going on. Also, some libraries have computers specifically for young children. I know my toddler absolutely loves playing their computer games.
- If you have a lake, river or pond around you, take your toddler there to hang out and watch the water. Hopefully there are ducks, geese and birds that are there too so don’t forget to bring crackers or bread to feed them. This is something my toddler also loves to do.
- Take your child out for some ice cream or water ice.
“Play builds the kind of free-and-easy, try-it-out, do-it-yourself character that our future needs. We must become more self-conscious and more explicit in our praise and reinforcement as children use unstructured play materials: “That’s good. You use your own ideas….” “That’s good. You did it your way…” “That’s good. You thought it all out yourself.” ~James L. Hymes, Jr., child development specialist, author
~Believe in yourself and you can create what you want. -Dianne Furphy