So many parents are used to being able to take little one to parks, playgrounds, cafés or the beach. Due to the COVID-19 isolation period, all of these play spaces are not an option for energetic toddlers, at least for a little while longer.
If you’re finding yourself at a loss for what to do after you pick your little one up from child care, or on the non child care days, we can help!
Toddle spoke to Caroline, a childcare educator with more than twenty years of experience in play. We asked her for some ideas for what to do at home (without any special equipment) to keep your toddler amused. These simple learning games for toddlers at home can be a life saver when you're just not sure what to do next.
‘There are always the classic games like hide and seek, musical statues, playdough or a puzzle. But sometimes the most fun comes from a made up game that your child can enjoy with you.
These are the types of games that we might set up in a child care centre, using our specialised equipment. But you can easily make them work at home, using whatever you have to hand.’
Here are some ideas:
1. Which toy is missing?
Gather together five or six items, whether that’s some little figurines, stuffed animals, or even just some crayons.
Lay them out and have your toddler take a good look at them and go through each one.
Then have your toddler close their eyes while you take one or two away. They have to work out which ones are missing. They can then do the same for you.
Little children love this game because they love finding patterns – and they love being right. Observing differences and grouping items is an important skill for children to learn.
2. Teddy bear’s picnic
Just because the park is closed, doesn’t mean you can’t have a picnic at home. Pack some sandwiches, fruit, a drink, and a few toys into a basket or backpack to take on a little adventure at home.
Even if you don’t have grass to sit on, you can just set up inside on a rug. Don’t forget to serve teddy and bunny!
You can ask your child questions like ‘what are your five favourite fruits to take on a picnic?’ or ‘who would you like to go on a picnic with?’
3. Scavenger hunt
Draw up a list of items (or pictures of items) that your child has to collect from around the house. It might be things like a pencil, a leaf, a peg, a banana, and a book.
The child can tick things off the list as they go around the house finding the items. This is great for kids as it keeps them focused on the goal. They also get a bit of exercise while they run around looking for the items.
4. Jump the sticks
Collect some sticks from the garden or on your walk for this game. Lay them out on the ground in a row, in the shape of a ladder’s rungs. Your child needs to run through the sticks without touching them.
After a few turns through, move some of the sticks closer together, and some further apart, so that it gets a bit harder each time. This is a great game to get a bit of physical activity into the day.
5. Nature drawing
Have your toddler collect some leaves from the garden or while on a walk. Bring them inside and glue the leaves horizontally on a plain piece of paper. Use markers to turn them into fish in an underwater scene, adding some plants and other creatures to complete the look.
You can also try using the leaves to create other animal scenes such as an African savannah or a farmyard.
Time to pull out your tins, packets of pasta and apples. Your child will love setting up a pretend shop, complete with cash register (make one from a shoebox or just draw one on paper).
Take turns to be the customer, and if you want to take it further you can have some fun with accessories and silly voices.
Children love playing games where they pretend to be an adult. See how they handle your questions, such as ‘do these apples also come in purple or blue?’ or ‘can I use this packet of pasta as a hat, shopkeeper?’
7. Obstacle course
This can be as challenging as you think your little one will be ready for.
A simple version might be throwing some cushions down on the carpet for them to hop and skip across, avoiding the dreaded lava (carpet!).
A more complex version could see them needing to balance along a skipping rope laid out on the grass, before they reach a chair that they need to climb onto and jump off, then commando crawl around the clothesline pole before hopping back to the starting position. You could even use a stopwatch and see if they can beat their time on their next go.
8. Wash the toys
Gather together all of the waterproof toys because it’s bath time! Set up a tub in the garden and fill it with warm water and bubbles.
Have your child throw the toys in for a soak, and then give them a wash with scrubbing brushes, sponges and face washers. Lay all of the toys out on a towel in the sun to dry.
No doubt your little one might end up hopping into the tub too, but at least then bath time is done for the day.
Try to see the enforced isolation as a chance to connect with your little person. They will most likely love having you home and constantly available for games and cuddles.
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