At some time in their second year, most babies take their first steps and become toddlers. The toddler period usually ends at age three and the child becomes a preschooler.
Through play, toddlers learn language, social skills, personal awareness, creativity, problem solving, and control of their body movements. If toddlers are given interesting toys and materials to play with and opportunities for movement and exercise, they will learn easily and quickly. Much of their play will revolve around an adult, who provides the tools and activities to support and extend their learning.
The following activities will meet the learning and developmental needs of toddlers and engage their interest. All are suitable for the home, toddler activity group, or nursery.
Toddlers learn about the world by engaging in hands-on activities which stimulate their senses. The home offers a wealth of opportunities for sensory play from washing objects to matching socks, dusting, pouring drinks, preparing food, setting the table, washing up and sweeping up leaves.
A plastic tea set and play food are great toys for toddlers. They can set out the dishes, fill them with food, match lids to pots, and pretend to feed their teddy bears. The play encourages toddlers to sort and group objects and to explore and handle different objects. Kitchen cups and containers that can be stacked, nested, or used as hiding places for toys are also fun to play with. As toddlers handle the containers, they learn about size and space, which forms the foundation for mathematical and spatial awareness
Hide and seek
Hide and seek is one of the best activities for toddlers because it covers all the developmental areas. It is also simple to organise and lots of fun.
The simplest game involves hiding behind the sofa or under the table. Toddlers may feel frightened if they are unable to find the adult, but making noises and movements helps to reduce anxiety. A puppet show is lots of fun too and it enhances the concept of object permanence or awareness that things continue to exist even when they disappear.
Bags and boxes
A handbag filled with safe items encourages exploration. If the bag has flaps, straps, or a zip, these can be grabbed, pulled apart, opened, and closed to develop fine motor skills. As each item is explored, the adult can name it and explain what it might be used for. Changing the contents regularly will provide an endless source of interest and amusement. The bag can also be used for make-believe and imaginative play.
Toddlers are naturally inclined to move their bodies to music with a strong beat and dancing is an excellent way to work in some physical activity. Dancing builds muscle memory and encourages them to express their emotions. Pom-poms, scarves, and ribbons can add a new dimension to dancing, especially if the adult joins in with the fun.
Wind down time
At the end of a busy day, toddlers need to wind down. An educational film or DVD offers an opportunity for close physical contact, which has a huge impact on learning and development. High quality educational programmes can provide a window on the world for toddlers and help them to make sense of it. Some educational programmes can inspire an outing to the park or a messy play activity the following day.