|How to Play With Your Toddler
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Play. The four letter word that holds so much meaning for us as parents. When you think back to your childhood, what do you remember most? For me, it was the hours upon hours spent in my basement playing with my younger sister. Whether that was playing barbies, playing house, or school (which I should have seen as a sign for my future profession) those memories are amongst some that I cherish the most.
Now that my daughter is approaching two years old, I’m watching all of the developmental strides she is making and realizing just how much play factors into that. From my education background, I know the importance of play and sadly how little time we give that to our young children. It’s why as I’m watching my daughter grow and learn, I want to make as much of an emphasis on play for her learning as I can.
So, as just as she’s learning through play, so am I and I wanted to share some of my tips for how to play with your toddler that I’ve come to learn alongside her.
1. Follow Their Lead
|How To Play with Your Toddler
This has been one of the most difficult lessons I’ve learned lately. As a teacher, I am a planner by nature. My lesson plans are always detailed and complete and I have my materials and directions ready to go way beforehand. As a mother, I started using this same approach; creating activities planned down to the minute and was shocked when little miss didn’t want to go along with MY plan. How could she?! I had planned this!
Well, this is toddlerhood I’m learning and it’s so important to go with their flow. If you set up an activity for them to play with and they don’t show interest, leave it out and let them move on. They might come back to it when they’re ready.
Using your activity in a completely different way? Let them. They’re still exploring and using their imagination. For toddler play that’s what’s important. Letting them use their imagination and develop their creativity. So if they’re using your sensory bin as a place to let their baby doll go “night night,” by all means let it happen.
2. Buy The Right Toys
|How to Play with Your Toddler
This may seem like an odd thing to say because what toy can be bad? It’s not so much that there are bad toys out there just toys that don’t hold educational value or will withstand the test of time because they don’t inspire children’s imaginations or let them explore their creativity. If a toy brings your toddler joy then by all means, let them play with it. But, there are toys that will stick around longer than others because they are open-ended and allow for creative expression and imaginative play.
When purchasing toys, look for toys that can inspire imagination, have real-world connections, and can be used in multiple ways. They don’t have to be expensive! Some of our favorites are objects that can be stacked, opened, and placed inside one another.
If you are looking to add to a holiday or birthday list some of our current favorites are pictured below:
|Melissa and Doug Farm Animal Sound Puzzle
|Melissa and Doug Let’s Play House! Dust! Sweep! Mop!
3. Make Playdates
This is as much for you as a parent as it is for your child. Toddlers benefit so much from learning from others. While parents are our child’s first teachers, peers play an important role as well. Toddlers are the perfect age to start coordinating supervised playdates. This not only helps begin their socialization but they also learn from peer models and discover things about themselves while playing with others.
Not to mention, that it’s so important for mothers to build a village for themselves. That’s another post for another time though.
So, go ahead, text that mom you met at the park, say hello to the mom at Target or in the grocery store with the same age child as you. It will be worth it for both of you.
4. Use Music and Movement
Just like it is so important for us to move our bodies on a daily basis, it’s that important for our children too as well. Dancing, singing, jumping, bouncing, it all gives them opportunities to discover new skills and have some fun! Throw on some music and have a dance party while you’re making dinner. Make a play list of favorite kid songs and play Freeze Dance! Sign up for a music class or go to the Toddler Time classes at the library and practice those songs at home while on the changing table or in the bath. The opportunities are endless. Take your music outside and dance around in the backyard or your driveway! Children love music and movement and it’s such an easy and FREE activity to do. Remember Simon Says? Break it out!
5. Read, Read, Read
This one seems so simple, I know. But, the importance of reading to your child every day bears repeating. Of course, there will be times when your child does not want to sit for an entire story (please see the real life moment above) but that doesn’t mean you should stop trying. Establish certain times throughout the day where a story is part of your schedule. After lunch is one of our favorite times to read a book because it’s a way to wind down before a nap. We keep some of our favorite stories on a small table in the living room so we can grab them whenever the mood strikes.
Don’t stop at reading the book just once. Repetition of a loved book is so important for reading development even at a young age. Something even more powerful? Give your toddler the power to choose WHERE in the book they want to start reading. Little Miss will flip to a page in the middle of a book and we just go with it.
Play with your books too. Act out a favorite scene, make up a song, or retell the story as you’re rocking them to sleep at night while making up your own parts to it. Reading can be used as play in so many different ways!
I hope these 5 Ways to Play With Your Toddler have been helpful and have given you some new ways to think of play. Play not only is the greatest tool for learning and development for your toddler but it is also the way to build a strong and safe relationship. Allowing your child to play in a safe and comfortable environment will only strengthen their skills and relationship with you.
I can’t wait for you to try out some of these ways to play. Please make sure you let me know if you try anything!
Photographs by Michelle Stoker Photography