Boost your toddler’s development with these fun and easy games
Between 9 and 17 months – depending on her strength, confidence and balance – your baby will start walking. (From 4-5 months, bounce her with her feet on your lap to a rhyme such as Humpty Dumpty, with a gentle fall for fun.)
Once your baby’s sitting or crawling, put toys on the sofa or a soft chair, so that she’ll need to stretch up for them. She’ll soon pull herself up to standing, though you may need to bend her legs to help her get back down. Give her lots of praise and she’ll do it again and again until practice makes perfect.
Enjoy one-to-one conversations from the start. Tell your baby all about her world, describe things to her and sing rhymes such as Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star. Share books together once your baby is a few weeks old; bright primary colours will appeal visually, though it’s your voice she’ll really love. Read books with animal sounds such as ‘baa’ that she’ll be able to manage before proper words.
Play name games with her. Put some familiar items on the table, point to them and say what they are. Then let her have a go at pointing while you say the name for her. Take care not to always correct her speech – she’ll do that for herself in time.
Concentration and memory are an important part of learning. Play hiding games with your toddler. Let her see you put a ball behind a cushion, then ask her where it is and let her find it, gradually making the game a bit more difficult.
Give your toddler chunky crayons and large sheets of paper on the floor (but tell her to only draw on the paper!). Let her scribble away and enjoy controlling the colour. In time, she may want pens and pencils and will start to make lines and circles at will. This is all useful for later writing.
Set up a teddy bear’s picnic and talk to your child about what the bears are doing. She’ll eventually create her own stories around them. Small world play, such as a farm set, will expand your child’s world and a bundle of old clothes, hats and scarves will allow her to role play.
Problem-solving involves patience, concentration and perseverance. Stacking rings or a shape-sorter are ideal – she’ll have to think about what will fit and then use hand-eye co-ordination to get it in place. Later on, introduce wooden inset puzzles and then jigsaws.
Eating, getting dressed, washing hands and tidying up are all skills you can help teach your child. Keep it fun and allow plenty of time so she can master new skills. Let her choose clothes the night before and have them ready where she can help herself. Make sure she has outfits that are easy to slip on and off. Have a ‘getting dressed race’ together and let her win.
Use the alarm on your mobile or a kitchen timer for toy tidy-up time and do it together. Remind her to wash hands and allow her to pack her bag when she’s going out.
Although toddlers tend to play alongside rather than with each other, they learn by observation, too. Take your child to social gatherings and show her how to introduce herself to other toddlers. Talk to your little one about sharing and be prepared to intervene when it all goes belly-up (as it most probably will!).
Physical and mental development are inextricably linked, so make sure she has plenty of opportunities for physical play, which will help improve co-ordination, balance, agility, strength and stamina. Regularly visit playgrounds, join a toddler or children’s gym class, have soft-play outings, and take a ball, trike, scooter or kite to the park. She’ll adore games of chase, hide-and-seek and hopscotch. Let her take small, supervised risks to extend her skills – and celebrate all her achievements.
Motor skills are important, too, for writing. Ideal materials are clay, playdough, water and sand. Pre-schoolers will enjoy tracing their fingers or a pencil around maze books, threading and making animals out of coloured Blu-Tack or Plasticine.
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