August 16, 2011

Toddler Development: Great Games to Play to Develop New Skills

The toddler years are ones of fascination, development, and movement! Toddlers are learning fine motor skills, speech, and how to manipulate materials like clay and crayons. This is a great time to jump in with educational games that are fun and engaging. Here are some ideas.


Rhyming games can be lots of fun for toddlers. Play a game where you describe something or make up a poem or song and your toddler fills in the rhyming word. Or read a short rhyming poem or song and try to think of other rhyming words that could have been used instead.

For those toddlers who are more visual, you could engage them in a picture book or photo album and let them make up the story to go with the pictures. You could also draw pictures and let your toddler “narrate.”

Matching games help build vocabulary and may help with reading readiness. If you don’t have a matching game from the toy store, you can make one easily with your own drawings, photocopies, or printed photos. You could even do a real-life matching game by printing photos of things around the house and having your toddler find the real life objects depicted in the picture.

Motor Skills

Gross and fine motor skills can be practiced through game-playing. There are so many possibilities! Here are some ideas:

* Stack soft blocks

* Poke a hole in the bottom of a shoebox, and let your toddler poke things through it, such as baby-safe strings of beads, balls, and scarves.

* Nest big and small boxes or other containers (many plastic food storage containers can be nested in this manner).

* Create objects with play-dough

* Dance (this helps with coordination and mobility)

* Make necklaces using large beads or tubular pasta

Social Skills

Play a game where you practice going out to meet and/or interact with others. Some toddlers are shy and others simply don’t seem to interact effectively; a lot of that may be because they just don’t know what to do. Practice going to the doctor, dentist, play group, nursery, wherever. Make it fun, and even dress up if you want.

Prompt your toddler after you’ve shown him or her what to do – “What do we do when someone says, ‘hello’?” “What do you do when the dentist says to open your mouth?”

Take your toddler with you whenever it’s practical so that he or she can not only interact with others, but observe how you and others communicate and interact with each other. Toddlers are learning all the time, even when they are just watching!

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Alexis Rodrigo