Go out to somewhere where they can move:
- library story time
- a playgroup (most communities have one meeting in a gym or church)
- the mall in the morning when there are few shoppers
- a kid friendly coffee shop with a toy corner
- a resteraunt with a play place
Try to avoid really busy locations or places where your toddler must sit for a long time. A couple of times a week take them out to somewhere wehre they can run, climb, dance, sing and see people.
Because toddlers like routine, it is good to pick one or two "out" days to go to the same activities and see the same people.
Remember that this time is not for you to begningly neglect your child. At this age they must be followed. Even at a "kid friendly" place, small children must be kept safe and taught to behave well.
Provide outlets for energy at home:
- play chase
- play peek-a-boo
- put on music and dance
- have a tickle fight
- give them a laundry basket, empty box, toy stroller or wagon to push around
- lay pillows and couch cushions on the floor and let them climb, bounce and roll around
- make or buy some soft fabric balls or beanbags for safe throwing
As well as needing movement, toddlers learn primarily through interacting with people and things and through imitating the tasks they see adults performing every day. They love to show you what they are doing, and watch what you are doing.
Get down to their level and play:
- sit on the floor and watch what they are doing. Spend a few moments listening to their babble and actions. Then give them words by describing what they are doing. Watch your toddlers face light up when they see you recognize what they are up to
- if they are listless, pull out a familiar toy and show your toddler how to use it in a different way. For instance, find or build a ramp they can roll their cars down. Build a stack of blocks and knock it over. Pull out a blanket and play peek-a-boo
- read or look at some board books. Toddlers read books in different ways. My oldest son loved to lie on the floor and have us read every book in the house to him while he kicked his feet. My middle son loved to point at things and let us tell him the name or make a noise. My daughter likes to read the same three or four pages over and over. Let them lead the way you read the books.
Bring them up to your level to see what is happening:
- carry your baby in a backpack or baby sling. Let them watch you cook, clean or go about your routine.
- set them up on a chair so they can watch what you are doing at the kitchen counter. Give the toddler a dull knife or spoon and some real, safe food to play with while you prepare supper.
- let them feel and taste safe foods, wet cloths, soapy water and kitchen utensils. Let them handle hammers, screw drivers, potato mashers and other real life objects.
- give them a basket, box, or bin of things to play with and explore while sitting on the floor. Do your paperwork or check your email sitting on the floor next to them
Hope these suggestions help you play with your toddler.
Next up: good toys for toddlers.