It's no secret. Toddlers love to play – with friends, with family members, and with toys. Lots of toys. But before you fill out a credit application for ToysRUs, you may want to save yourself some money and time, by finding out exactly what your child deems fun. While some can't seem to get enough Lego's, others are drawn to books. I've categorized activities by the cartoon characters your child loves. See which style fits and personalize your child's playtime.
Bob the Builder
These toddlers love to build. But before investing in Thomas or Brio train sets start small. Begin with Duplo blocks or cardboard bricks for stacking. Help your toddler set up a fort with chairs and a blanket. Be sure to join in the fun by crawling inside with a flashlight and a picture book to share. You may want to drive by a nearby house under construction each day and watch its progress. Have dad help your little builder set up a tent in the backyard and then camp together under the stars… or streetlights.
Dora the Explorer
This toddler wants out! Be sure to take your little explorer to the park, on a hike, or down a bike trail. It's also fun to create maps leading to hidden treasures in the house or backyard. You may want to purchase a bug terrarium or butterfly net for backyard exploration. Try visiting the local pet store, zoo, aquarium or space observatory. A family camping trip is a must.
This tot loves to learn new things, and games are an easy way to teach. Purchase a box of Old Maid cards and place them face down on the floor. Have your child flip over two at a time in search for the match. Another fun game is to purchase plastic Easter eggs and fill them with treats. Each egg should be coupled with another filled with the same item. Have your little one find the match by shaking the eggs and matching the sound. Sometimes toddlers like to learn from other children. Invite an older sibling or friend to teach your toddler how to write his or her name. Also, it's always fun to bring home a plastic horn or musical recorder and let your toddler blow out a tune… in the backyard.
It's a make believe world for this toddler. Try to encourage an active imagination with plenty of dress up costumes, found at garage sales or in the grocery store clearance section after Halloween. Children who enjoy the arts might like listening to stories on CDs, or watching DVDs that can be imitated later. Host a dress up tea party with friends, real or stuffed. Or grab the video recorder and act out Bible stories as a family. Then breakout the popcorn and enjoy the performance.
Lionel (Between the Lions)
Make sure you have your library card ready, ‘cuz books are candy for this little one. Check out story time opportunities in your town at the public library or bookstores. Start a toddler book swap, by asking moms to bring over any used picture books to trade. Take in a theatrical performance of your child's favorite book. Host a literature party where children dress up as their favorite storybook character. Then invite a parent in costume to read some of the books aloud.
This is a toddler in motion. You may want to purchase some music from your local Christian bookstore for this little one to exercise and dance to. Purchase a Twister mat and call out colors as jumping spots. You may want to invite other parents with toddlers to join you in starting your own fitness program at a nearby park or in your backyard. Some athletic gyms offer toddler classes or you may want to visit gymboree.com to locate your nearest activity center.
Feel free to try some or all of these play styles with your growing toddler. Most importantly, as you discover your child's play interests, don't forget to play too. That's the best part of raising a toddler. It's a fun time to laugh and build lasting memories together.
Here are some rules for successful play:
- Be prepared to answer a lot of questions. Toddlers learn through play.
- Prepare your tot before play begins. Explain clean up rules or any potential danger.
- Take drinks or snacks on away trips.
- Plan playtimes around naptime schedules.
- Stretch your toddler by allowing him or her to try new play styles and experiences.