Fun Games | Emma's Dairy India

Child By Year

It's all about play


Some simple but fun games you can play with your toddler

Play is an essential part of your toddler's daily life. In the early years, children learn about their world through exploration and interaction and your child's physical, cognitive and social development is enhanced through play. It's therefore vital for his wellbeing that he has daily opportunities to play, ideally in various settings, so that he can enjoy physical activities, interactive and social play, as well as quieter activities that develop his problem-solving skills and engage him creatively.

In the pre-school years, your child's first and most important playmates are his parents and family.

Finding ways to play with your child is hugely beneficial for you, as well as him, as you can enjoy engaging fully together and develop a strong and trusting bond. Keeping your child stimulated doesn't have to involve vast expenditure or cupboards full of toys. A few staple age-appropriate toys will suffice, and there are plenty of simple games that you can play together that won't break the bank.

Try some of these for inspiration:

  • Set up a treasure hunt. By the age of one, your child has learned that things exist even when he can't see them. Set out a small treasure hunt - keep it simple in one room only - and tell him his teddies/trains/toy animals are hiding around the room. Hide just four or five items - under cushions, or behind chairs or in other not-too-difficult hiding spots - and then watch his delight as he sets off on his hunt. Help him out if he gets stuck to avoid frustration bubbling over!
  • Go on a nature trail. Head into the garden or off to the local park and set off on a nature trail. Gather items as you go along, such as conkers, leaves, small twigs, and fallen petals. Talk about the textures, colours and smells. Keep this simple for toddlers, and for older children, talk about the different seasons and what you can expect to find at various times of the year.
  • Have a rhythm session. Make some home-made percussion instruments by filling containers with rice or beans and show your child how to shake them to make a pleasing noise. Use wooden spoons with saucepans or empty ice-cream cartons to make a first drum kit.
  • Make hand and foot prints. All you need is some plain paper and a tub of non-toxic paint for children. Put the paint in a couple of saucers and get your child to place her palm or foot in the paint and then daub them onto a piece of paper. These prints make a lovely keepsake and colourful additions to the kitchen wall or fridge.
  • Ball play. Children love to play with soft balls, bean bags and bigger balls that they can kick around. Encourage your child to throw a ball or beanbag for you to catch, sit on the floor and roll a ball between you, or get a first football and have fun teaching him how to kick. Ball games are great for teaching turn-taking and for developing your child's muscle strength and coordination.
  • Have fun with water. Fill a washing-up bowl with warm water and add some plastic pouring cups and bath-time toys, then set this on the kitchen floor, or outside in warmer weather. Let your child have fun splashing about and learning how vessels empty and fill up, or sponges absorb water then can be squeezed. Never leave your child unattended when playing water games, even if it is just with a bowl of water.
  • Play copycat games. Young children love to watch their parents, and this is how your child learns so much about his world. He will love chances to mimic what you do, and opportunities to 'help out'. Harness this desire by engaging him as your little helper. Give him a duster or toy dustpan and brush and ask him to help you make everything spick and span. Or set aside a low cupboard or shelf in the kitchen and get him to put away his plastic cups and bowls. He may spend more time taking things out again than putting them away, but he will be happily occupied.
  • Make regular visits to your local park. It's important that young children spend time each day being physically active. Make trips to the playground a regular feature of your week so that your child can enjoy the physical opportunities and challenges this presents, from swings to sandpits to first climbing frames.
  • Check out local playgroups. These are a fantastic opportunity for pre-school children to socialise with their peers and learn about concepts such as sharing. Playgroups have a good range of toys that offer your child the chance to play with things he may not have at home. Many groups set up creative activities too and have group sing-alongs where your child can learn popular action rhymes and songs. Playgroups are also a good way to meet other local mums.
  • Create a collage. Set your child up with some first scissors, old magazines, paper and glue, and have fun cutting things out together. Show him how to cut out different shapes or look for similar colours to create a simple picture such as a flower or a beach scene.
  • Make a den. Have fun making a den together on rainy days. Get a couple of old sheets and some cushions and create a makeshift tent between a couple of secure chairs. Put in some favourite toys for your child to play with.
  • Tap into his imagination. From about the age of two, children's imaginations start to take hold and they will enjoy creating their own 'mini worlds'. Encourage this by assembling themed toys at home such as animals or toy pots and pans so your child can create his own farmyard or make 'tea' for you both.
  • Read together. Make books part of your child's everyday experience. Join the local library and turn trips there into a fun outing. Children's areas in libraries are usually relaxed with soft cushions and low seating and boxes of books to browse through. Let your child explore the shelves, then ask him to choose a couple to take home. Check out the notice board, too, as libraries often hold story time groups for parents and young children.
  • Jigsaws and puzzles. Children love simple jigsaws and puzzles that engage their working-out skills. You don't need dozens of different puzzles as young children love to revisit the same things again and again, repetition being an essential part of how they learn.
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