Your toddler is growing and developing in leaps and bounds every day, and her inquisitive little mind is always eager to explore and learn new things. With a little creativity, you can help her learn about the world around her and develop her motor and cognitive skills. Encourage your toddler to use her imagination by presenting her with a variety of activities you can organize from items around the home.
Create an emotion memory game from magazine pictures or family photos. Cut out pictures of people expressing different emotions and glue the pictures onto blank cards. Ensure you have an even number of pictures for each expression. Lay all of the cards face down and have your child turn over the pictures two at a time to try to match the emotions. The game can help your toddler recognize emotions in herself and others to develop empathy.
Fill a large bucket with water and let your toddler experiment with different types of containers, such as bowls, colanders and strainers. She can also find out what types of objects sink or float. When she’s finished, empty the bucket, dry it and fill it with other materials, such as rice or sand. Have her feel the difference in texture and then try picking up the materials with the different types of containers. She can also practice measuring with measuring cups and spoons.
Set up a laundry basket in the center of the room. Provide your toddler with a variety of objects to toss into the basket, such as clothing, stuffed animals, soft toys and foam balls. The activity will help your toddler develop gross motor skills, encourage hand-eye coordination, and teach him to think about how hard he needs to throw and whether to move further or closer away to develop cognitive skills.
Make jewelry together to practice hand-eye coordination and creativity. Lay out a variety of items for your child to use, such as fruity circle cereal, macaroni, manicotti, penne and cartwheels (ruote) noodles. Cut several pieces of string and let your toddler make necklaces. Encourage her to try out patterns, such as different-colored fruit circle cereal or alternating cereal and noodles.
Make a texture book with your toddler. Cut up pieces of materials, such as fine sandpaper, fleece, cotton, burlap, corduroy, vinyl and felt. Glue the scraps onto pieces of card stock or poster board. Use a hole punch to make holes down one side of each page and tie the pages together with ribbon to complete the book. Once she’s familiar with the different types of textures -- smooth, rough, bumpy and others -- play a texture treasure hunt by having her search for all the items around the house with a particular texture.
Make an obstacle course in your living room or playroom for creative play and motor development. You can use folded blankets for balance beams, couch cushions for climbing, yoga mats for somersaults and chairs and tables for tunnels. Help your child navigate the course, stopping along the way to toss objects into bins, use a hula hoop or dribble a basketball on the spot.
Explore paint with your toddler. You can let your youngster paint on blank painting paper with a brush, sponges, potato stamps, cotton swabs, leaves and bunched up rags. Finger paint, make handprints, or lay mural paper on the floor and make footprints across the entire length. Fill a squeeze bottle with paint, hang an old sheet on the clothesline outside and let your toddler squeeze a masterpiece onto his blank canvas. In the winter, fill a spray bottle with water and a little food coloring and have him spray a picture in the snow.
Cook and bake together. You can introduce your toddler to measurements and show her how individual ingredients combine to make new things. Encourage sensory exploration by allowing her to smell, touch and taste different foods as you work together. If your toddler is a picky eater, she’ll be even more likely to eat foods that she has helped to prepare.