How to raise an interactive toddler

Every time you go out, you’re not only having fun, you’re also helping your little one’s development. Here’s how…

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  • Day trips

    “A child’s world is very small and your little one doesn’t care if she’s on a beach in Spain or Blackpool,” says Dr Angharad Rudkin, child psychologist, ( day trips offer millions of social experiences, right from the moment when you decide where to go. Even it’s just a visit to the library, or using the internet to learn about the place you’re visiting and packing a bag, she’ll learn about choosing and planning.

    “Before you go out for the day, talk about it with your toddler. Let her get involved with packing your bag or let her bring a little backpack and help you with making a picnic,” adds Angharad. Days out offer the chance to try new things, like fairground rides or petting animals, so lead the way and don’t give in to worries or phobias. If you’re excited, she will be too.

    Try this: VTech’s Kidizoom Pink Video Camera, £49.99, Argos, will help her to record the day.

  • Playdates

    Watching your tot interact with his friends, it’s obvious how important playdates are for him. He learns how to build relationships, which is essential for his social life. He also finds out about sharing, letting someone into his world and then saying goodbye when the playdate’s over.

    “Play skills help develop your tot’s language and your little one will learn that mixing with other children and parents is a safe situation to be in,” says Angharad Rudkin.

    Let your child choose which friend comes over, it’ll give him a sense of responsibility, and invite his mum if you’d like some company.

    Try this:  Introduce role play with the Fisher-Price Little People Animal Sounds Farm, around £35.

  • Eating out

    Waiting for a table, ordering from a menu, using cutlery and sitting among other diners – for your toddler, visiting a restaurant is about so much more than having a meal somewhere other than home.

    “She’ll get to see how other people eat, as well as tasting a variety of foods she may not eat at home,” says Dr Fabia Franco, child psychologist and founder of the Middlesex University’s Babylab ( “Being in a restaurant lets her see how people behave around food. People talk about all sorts of things that they may normally not discuss at home. It’s a more formal setting that toddlers can learn from.”

    The aromas of cooking are a new sensory experience for your tot. Children learn from you how to behave at the dinner table, so this is a key chance to reinforce those behaviours, too. “Toddlers need to learn how to be patient when waiting for food and how to sit properly at the table,” says Dr Lin Day, child development expert and founder of Baby Sensory (

    It doesn’t stop at the table, popping to the loo in a public place is a new experience for your tot, where you can practise handwashing skills. And if a restaurant’s not in your budget, try the local chippy. It’s another opportunity to interact with other people, where she’ll see the exchange of money, and food cooked in a different way.

    Try this:  Crayola’s Disney Toy Story Mini Colouring Pages Plus 6 Markers, £4, Woolworths, should keep little hands busy when you’re waiting at the table.

  • Public transport

    He’s sung The Wheels on The Bus at nursery and played with his Thomas train set, so
    going on the real thing is a dream come true for your little one. And he’s no idea it’s also helping him learn about the big wide world around him.“When he gets on the Tube or a bus with you, your toddler will see all sorts of people; old and young, from different backgrounds and nationalities. Using public transport will give him more life skills, like learning to queue, knowing you have to sit when the train or bus is moving, and learning to press the bell when you want to get off. This will prepare him for he goes to school, when he could be using public transport more often,” says Angharad Rudkin.

    Toddlers absorb information easily and familiarity is important to them. “Talking to your little one when you’re on the bus together will make it more fun for him,” Angharad explains. “He’ll learn about numbers, letters and places, as well as how to communicate with various people. This is a social experience but also an intimate one between a child and parent.” 

    Try this: London Underground Map socks, £3.50, from size 6, London Transport Museum shop.

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  • The cinema

    You know the excitement of sitting in a dark cinema, popcorn in hand as the credits roll. And it’s never too early to introduce your toddler to the same experience. Of course, it’ll take a bit of time for her to get used to it, but going to the cinema has plenty of social benefits, as well as introducing her to the wonderful world of film.

    Not only will she see her favourite characters on the big screen, she’ll start to understand sharing a social experience – queuing, paying and sitting quietly around other people.

    “Don’t go with any expectations. Start when your tot is about 2, but don’t be disappointed if she wants to leave in the middle of the film. Get to the theatre or cinema early, before they lower the lights, and get her settled into her seat,” says Angharad Rudkin.

    Going at your little one’s pace is less stressful for both of you. If you don’t think she’s ready you could try puppet shows or story telling at the local library. It’ll help her get used to sitting in one place for about half an hour. 

    Try this: Munchkin’s Snack Catcher, £3.05, Argos, will keep your tot’s popcorn in one place and not on the seat

  • Mum’s tips

    “We try to make sure we get out as much as possible to a variety of places. We mix it up, from parks, petting zoos and sea life centres to play groups.”

    Symone Darvell, 29, from Hull, mum to Mia, 2, and Ava, 1

    “I send my son to pre-school so he can make more friends. We also try to visit our friends often, so all our children can play together.”

    Eileen Teo, 32, from Lichfield, mum to Kieran, 3, and Caitlin, 22 months


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