You know how sometimes you have a closet full of nothing to wear? Far too often, our toddlers have a playroom full of nothing to do. Forget about the hundreds of dollars worth of toys (thanks grandparents!) — boooooooring. They would rather try to climb the nearest bookcase, stick utensils in the one outlet you forgot to cover, pull the cat’s tail to hear her make that loud, funny noise again, or paint a postmodern masterpiece on your freshly-painted living room wall.
At this age, it’s important for your kids to be at a certain level and it’s important for you to know what those milestones look like. So when it comes to their social and emotional development, it’s important that they’re reacting to other children, showing independence, and even being a little bad. Believe it or not, showing defiance is part of their growth as well. It’s also important that they’re stringing together two and four-letter words and pointing to the things they want. And yes, you even want them to start repeating what you say, so be mindful not to say anything you might regret. This is also a time they should start tapping into their imagination and playing makebelieve. As much as it annoys you, climbing the furniture with reckless abandon is also part of the growth process.
Time for a fresh distraction! And let’s have them learn a little something, while they’re at it. With these fun toddler games learning things like counting, body parts, and taking turns can be fun for both of you!
1. Simon Says
Teach kids how to listen closely and follow directions with a fun game of Simon Says. “Simon says touch your nose! Simon says jump on one foot!” But if you don’t start your instruction with the phrase “Simon says” and the players do it anyway, they’re out of the game.
2. Hot and Cold
Hide a toy and direct your toddler around the room to find it by saying “hot” when they get close and “cold” when they move away. This teaches them reasoning skills and how words can have different meanings depending on context.
3. One for you, one for me
Help your tot learn to count with this simple numbers game. Use anything: blocks, toy cars, baby carrots during lunch, foam toys during bath time, the possibilities are endless. Count out one for yourself and have your child count one for themselves. Move on to two, three, and so forth. Your child will be counting to ten in no time.
Get your child’s wiggles out and teach them the names of their body parts at the same time with a little Hokey Pokey! You put your left arm in, you put your left arm out, you put your left arm in and you shake it all about, you do the hokey pokey and you turn yourself around, that’s what it’s all about! Go through every body part you can think of – the sillier, the better. Eyelashes, anyone?
Take turns hiding while the other person counts to ten. Before you start, make sure any places that could be dangerous and tempting hiding spots aren’t reachable, like the fireplace. When it’s your turn to hide, remember you’re playing with a toddler – this isn’t your chance to disappear into the secret room in the basement. Relish the hysterically sweet toddler giggles when they find you.
6. Obstacle course
Set up on obstacle course indoors or out with laundry baskets, string, empty boxes, or anything you have handy. Painter’s tape works well to create a maze without damaging walls or furniture, for example. With obstacle course toddler games learning how to problem solve on the fly becomes second nature.
Work on the same simple puzzle together, or give your tot one while you complete your own side-by-side. The quiet together time is great for creating a safe space to talk about whatever your child wants – a space you can then keep open throughout their lives.
8. Odd one out
Also known as “One of these things is not like the other,” this is a great way to help kids figure out the concept of grouping. You can group by size, shape, color, type of item or what it’s for (cleaning, walking the dog or swimming, for example). Then throw in an extra item that doesn’t belong and let your child figure out which one it is.
9. Sock toss
Need a little help folding socks? Have your kid fold each pair into a ball, then try to throw it into a laundry basket several feet away. Even better: make the sock drawer the target and kill two birds with one stone. Make a big fuss every time they get one in!
10. Hallway bowling
Any old ball and plastic water bottles are all it takes to make your own bowling alley. Set them up at the end of a long hallway and roll away! This toddler game is great for both fine and gross motor skills, and bonus: you can wear them out by having them run up and down the hall to set the pins back up after each turn.