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  • Writer's pictureAlison Wimmer

Play with Your Baby!

Activities for Infants 12-16 Months Old

Babies love games at this age. Try different ways of playing the games and see if baby will try it with you. Hide behind furniture or doors for peekaboo; clap blocks or pan lids for pat-a-cake.

Make puppets out of a sock or paper bag-one for you and one for baby. Have your puppet talk to baby or baby’s puppet. Encourage your baby to “talk” back.

To encourage baby’s first steps, hold baby in standing position, facing another person. Have baby step toward the other person to get a favorite toy or treat.

Give baby containers with lids or different compartments filled with blocks or other small toys. Let baby open and dump. Play “putting things back”. This will help baby learn how to release objects where he or she wants them.

Loosely wrap a small toy in paper towel or facial tissue without tape. Baby can unwrap it and find a surprise. Use tissue or wrapping paper, too. It’s brightly colored and noisy.

Make your own pull toy by threading yogurt cartons, spools or small boxes on a piece of yarn or soft string (about 2 feet long). Tie a bead or plastic stacking ring on one end for a handle.

Tape a large piece of drawing paper to a table. Show baby how to scribble with large nontoxic crayons. Take turns making marks on the paper. It’s also fun to paint with water.

Arrange furniture so baby can work his or her way around a room by stepping across gaps between furniture. This encourages balance in walking.

Babies continue to love making noise. Make sound shakers by stringing canning rims together or filling medicine bottles (with child proof caps) with different sounding objects like marbles, rice, salt, bolts, and so forth. Be careful to secure lids tightly.

This is the time baby learns that adults can be useful when baby “asks” for something by vocalizing or pointing, respond to the baby’s signal. Name the object the baby wants and encourage baby to communicate again, taking turns with each other in a “conversation”.

Play the naming game. Name body parts common objects, and people. This lets baby know that everything has a name and helps him or her begin to learn these names.

Make an obstacle course with boxes with furniture so baby can climb in, on, over, under and through it. A big box can be a great place to sit and play.

Let baby help you clean up. Play “feed the water basket” or “give it to mommy or daddy”.

Make a surprise bag for a baby to find in the morning. Fill a paper or cloth bag with a soft toy, something to make a sound, a little plastic jar with a screw top lid or a book with cardboard pages.

Play pretend with a stuffed animal or doll. Show and tell the baby what the doll is doing (walking, going to bed, eating, dancing across a table). See if the baby will make a doll move and do things as you request.

Cut up safe finger foods in small pieces and allow baby to feed self. This is good practice with picking up small things and feeling different textures (bananas, soft crackers, berries).

Let baby help during daily routines. Encourage baby to get the cup and spoon for mealtime, to find shoes and coat for dressing, and to bring the pants or diaper for changing. Following directions is an important skill to learn.

Baby is learning different toys do different things. Give baby lots of things to roll, push, pull, hug, shake, poke, turn, stack, spin and stir.

Most babies enjoy music. Clap and dance to the music. Encourage baby to practice balance by moving forward, around and back. Hold hands for support if needed.

Prepare baby a future activity or trip by talking about it before hand. Baby will feel a part of what is going on rather than being just an observer. It may also help reduce some fear of being left behind.

Activities for Toddlers 16-24 Months Old

Toddlers love to play in water. Put squeezing objects in bathtub such as sponges, or squeezing bottles along with dump and pour toys (cups/bowls).

Toddlers are excited about bubbles. Let toddler try to blow bubbles or watch you blow bubbles through a straw. Bubbles are fun to pop and chase too.

Pretend play becomes even more fun. Encourage toddler to have a doll or stuffed toy do what he or she does—walk, go to bed, dance, eat and jump. Include the doll in daily activities or games.

Make instant pudding together. Let toddler help by dumping pudding, pouring milk, and stirring. The results are good to eat or can be used for finger painting.

Use boxes or buckets for toddler to throw beanbag or balls into. Practice overhand release of the ball or beanbag.

Play hide and seek. Toddler can hide with another person or by him or herself for you to find. Then take your turn to hide and let toddler find you.

Toddlers love movement. Take him or her to the park to ride on rocking toys, swings, and small slides. You may want to hold your toddler in your lap on the swing and slide at first.

Sing action songs together like Ring Around the Rosey, Itsy-Bitsy Spider, etc. Do actions together. Move with the rhythm. Wait for toddler to anticipate the action.

Put favorite toys in a laundry basket slightly out of reach or in a clear container with a tight lid. Wait for toddler to request the objects, giving him or her a reason to communicate. Respond to his or her requests.

Toddler may become interested in art activities. Use large nontoxic crayons and a large pad of paper. Felt tip markers are more exciting with their bright colors. Let toddler scribble own picture as you make one.

A favorite pull toy often is a small wagon or an old purse for collecting things. Toddler can practice putting objects in and out of it. It can also be used to store favorite items.

Make a picture book by putting common simple pictures cut from magazines into a photo album. Toddler will enjoy photos of him or herself and family members. Pictures of pets are favorites, too.

Toddlers are interested in playing with balls. Use a beach or Nerf ball to roll, throw, and kick. You can also use balloons. Play a game to keep the balloon in the air. (if the balloon pops, make sure all the pieces are picked up to prevent choking).

Play what’s that game by pointing to clothing, toys, body parts, objects, or pictures and asking the toddler to name them. If toddler doesn’t respond, name it for him or her and encourage imitation of the words.

Fill a plastic tub with cornmeal or oatmeal. Put in kitchen spoons, strainer measuring cups, funnels, or plastic containers. Toddlers can fill, dump, pour and learn about textures and use of objects as tools. Tasting won’t be harmful.

Toddlers will begin putting objects together. Simple puzzles (separate pieces) with knobs are great. Putting keys into locks and letters into mailbox slots is fun too.

Get two containers (coffee cups or cereal bowls) that look the same and a small toy. Hide the toy under one container while toddler watches. Ask him or her “where did it go?” eventually you can play the old shell game.

Help toddler sort objects in to piles. He or she can help you sort laundry (put socks in one piles and shirts in another). Play clean up games. Have toddler put toys on specified shelves or boxes.

Save milk cartons, Jell-O, or pudding boxes. Toddler can stack them to make towers. You can also stuff grocery bags with newspaper and tape them shut to make big blocks.

Lay out toddler’s clothes on the bed before dressing. Ask him or her to give you a shirt, pants, shoes and socks. This is an easy way to learn the names of common items.

Activities for Children 24-30 Months Old

Add actions to child’s favorite nursery rhymes. Easy action rhymes include: Here We Go ‘Round Mulberry Bush, Jack be Nimble, This is the Way We Wash Our Clothes, Ring Around the Rosey, and London Bridge.

Play target toss with a large bucket or box and beanbags or balls. Help child count how many he or she gets in the target. A ball of yarn or rolled up socks also work well for an indoor target game.

Wrap tape around one end of a piece of yarn to make it stiff like a needle and put a large knot at the other end. Have child string large elbow macaroni, buttons, spoons, or beads. Make an edible necklace out of cheerios.

Children at this age love outings. One special outing can be going to the library. The librarian can help you find appropriate books. Make a special time for reading like bedtime stories.

Play a jumping game when you take a walk by jumping over the cracks in the sidewalk. You may have to hold child and help him or her jump over at first.

Take time to draw with child when he or she wants to get out paper and crayons. Draw large shapes and let your child color them.

During sandbox play, try wetting some of the sand. Show child how to pack container with the wet sand and turn container over to make sand structures or cakes.

Add an old catalog or two to child’s library. It’s a good “picture” book for naming common objects.

Give child soap, washcloth, and a dishpan of water. Let child wash a dirty doll, toy dishes or doll clothes. It’s good practice for hand washing and drying.

Make “sound” containers using plastic Easter eggs. Fill eggs with noisy objects like sand, beans, or rice and tape shut. Have two eggs for each sound. Help child match sounds and put back in carton together.

Show child how to make snakes, balls, or roll put pancakes with a small rolling pin using Playdough. Add large cookie cutters to make new Playdough shapes.

Children at this age love to pretend and really enjoy it where you can pretend with them. Pretend you are different animals like dog or cat. Make animal sounds and actions. Let child be the pet owner who pets and feeds you.

Your child will begin to be able to make choices. Help him or her to choose what to wear each day by giving a choice between two pairs of socks, two shirts, and so forth. Give choices at other times like snack or mealtime (two kinds of drink, cracker, etc).

Enhance listening skills by playing music with both slow and fast music. Songs with speed changes are great. Show your child how to move fast or slow to the music.

Children can find endless uses for boxes. A box big enough for your child to fit in can become a car. An appliance box with holes cut out for windows and door can become child’s playhouse. Decorating the box with crayons, markers, or paints can be a fun activity to do together.

Play follow the leader. Walk on tiptoes, walk backward, and walk slow or fast with big steps and little steps.

Try a new twist to finger-painting. Use whipping ream on a washable surface. Help child spread it around and draw pictures with your fingers. You can also add food coloring to make it more interesting.

Action is an important part of a child’s life. Play a game with a ball where you give directions and the child does the actions such as roll the ball, kick, throw, push, bounds and catch are other good actions.

Make an obstacle course using chairs, pillows, or large cartons. Tell child to crawl over, under, through, behind and in front of or between the objects. Be careful arranging so the pieces wont tip and hurt the child.

Collect little and big things (balls, blocks, plates). Show and describe the objects. Ask your child to give you a big ball, then all the big balls. Do the same for little. Another big/little game is making yourself big by stretching arms high and little by squatting down.

Activities for Children 30-36 Months Old

Tell or read a familiar story and pause frequently to leave out a word, asking the child to fill it in. For example, little red riding hood said “grandmother, what big _____ you have”.

Teach somersaults by doing one yourself first. Then help the child do one. Let him or her try it alone make sure furniture is out of the way. You may want to put some pillows on the floor for safety.

Give a cup to the child. Use bits of cereal or fruit and place on in child’s cup (one for you) and take one in your cup (one for me). Take turns. Dump out child’s cup and help count the pieces. This is good practice for early math skills.

Put an old blanket over a table to make a tent or house. Pack a picnic snack for your camper. Have the child take along pillow on the campout for a nap. Flashlights are especially fun.

Get a piece of butcher paper large enough for the child to lie on. Draw around the child’s body to make an outline. Don’t forget fingers and toes. Talk about body parts and print the words on the paper. Let child color the poster and then hang the poster in the child’s room.

Children at this age may be interested in creating art in different ways. Try cutting a potato in half and carving a simple shape or design for the child to dip in paint and then stamp onto paper.

Add water to tempera paint to make it runny. Drop some paint on a paper and blow through a straw to move the paint around the paper, or fill an old roll-on deodorant bottle with water down pain. The child can roll color into paper.

A good activity to learn location words is to build roads and bridges with blocks. Use toy cars to go on the road, under or over a bridge, between the houses and so forth.

Trace around simple objects with the child. Use cups of different sizes, blocks, or child’s and your hands. Using felt tip markers or crayons of different colors makes it even more fun.

Have the child help you set the table. First, have the child place the plate, then glasses, and then napkins. By placing on at each place, he or she will learn one-to-one correspondence. Show the child where the utensils should be placed.

Collect empty boxes (cereal, tv dinners, egg cartons) and help the child set up his or her own grocery store.

Help the child learn new words to describe objects in everyday conversations. Describe by color, size, and shape. Also, describe how things move and how they feel.

Make your own puzzles by cutting out magazine pictures of whole people. Have the child help glue pictures onto cardboard. Cut pictures into three pieces by cutting curvy lines. Head, trunk, and legs make good pieces for the child to put together.

Dribble different color paint in the middle or on one side of a paper. Fold the paper in half. Let the child open paper to see the design it makes.

A good game for trips in the car is to play a matching game with a set of old cards. Place a few different cards in front of the child. Give him or her a card that matches on displayed and ask him or her to find the card like the one you gave him or her.

Cut pictures out of magazines to make two groups such as dogs, food, toys, or clothes. Have two boxes and put a picture of a dog in one and of food in the other. Have the child put additional pictures n the right box, helping him or learn about categories.

Cut a stiff paper plate to make a hand paddle and show the child to use it to hit a balloon. See how long the child can keep the balloon in the air or how many times he or she can hit it back to you. This activity helps develop large body and eye-hand coordination.

To improve coordination and balance, show the child the bear walk by walking on hands and feet keeping the legs and arms straight and the rabbit hop by crouching down and then jumping forward.

Encourage him or her to try elephant walk bending forward at the waist and letting your arms swing freely with your hands clasped together while taking slow and heavy steps. This is great to do with music.

Make a poster of the child’s favorite things using pictures from old magazines .use safety scissors and paste or a glue stick to allow the child to do it independently yet safely.

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