How to play with your toddler

How to play with your toddler

Spending time playing games with your baby will help develop her mental and physical skills. We give you some ideas on how to play with your toddler – making sure you both have fun.

Let your baby be challenged. That’s how she learns. This is the time when baby is most interested in the world around her. Introduce the basics – try naming objects around the house and explain their purposes. Babies like to know as much as possible about everything.

Your baby is becoming a toddler!

The rapid growth slows, her face becomes leaner, and her ability to assert herself, move, and communicate gets stronger.

She now loves to move and use her gross motor skills – crawling, climbing, and pulling herself up to stand.

Fine motor skills are also important to her. She wants to turn the pages of a book or stack up a pile of blocks.

Your baby loves to do what grown-ups do. She experiments with cause and effect and manipulating toys. Give her a push mower, a cook set, or moving toys that are right for her size. Successfully manipulating these toys gives your baby the pride of accomplishment and builds her secure sense of self-esteem.

She may use a few words like “baba”, “mummy”, or “dada”, or she may have her own language and gestures (like pointing and head shaking). She understands the association between your words and gestures – a shaking head means ‘no’, clapping and cheers means that you are praising her.

A balancing act

As children gain control over their large muscle groups their balance will improve.

Place a strip of masking tape on the floor and ask your toddler to walk along it without falling off.

Encourage your child to play musical statues inside or play statues in the backyard. Your toddler will attempt to balance in different poses while looking at their shadow. Children will enjoy balancing on one leg.

Developing physical co-ordination

Toddlers love to bang things and the noisier the better! Pound and hammer tools are excellent at developing hand-eye co-ordination for toddlers.

Play dough develops both co-ordination and fine motor skills and drawing with crayons is a wonderful way of developing this skill.

Kids usually love painting. Place a sheet of paper on an easel, fridge door or wall. When the paper is vertical toddlers need to use more muscles in their arms for painting.

Blocks are another toy for working on co-ordination. Toddlers love to build towers and then watch them fall. Blocks can also be used for lining up and having toddlers walk around like an obstacle course. Line the blocks up and let your child step over them or build a high tower and let them kick it down.

Encouraging your child to move more

When we speak about physical development the term gross motor is frequently used. This refers to the involvement of the large muscle groups in the body, mainly the arms and the legs. These are the muscles that busy toddlers naturally exercise.

Turn on the radio and dance with your toddler. Different kinds of music will encourage different movements. Dance with your child and see if they can imitate the movements you make. Try balancing and holding positions. Encourage your toddler to jump and clap to the rhythm of the music.

Games such as Touch your Toes, Simon Says and the Hokey Pokey not only improve your toddler’s physical development, but improve their listening skills for following instructions. Toddlers also love the actions to simple songs and music like the chicken dance or Ring a Ring a Rosie.

Combine a love for pretend play with physical activity by pretending to be a racing car, a plane, a racehorse or even creating a pretend carwash while playing with your child.

Throw and kick balls. Try to find balls of different sizes and textures. For children who are wary of balls being thrown, blowing up balloons and tossing them with you in the living room may be a gentler introduction.

Toy 10 ideas for toddlers

  • Toy lawnmower
  • Toy hoover
  • Toy  kitchen
  • Toy radio
  • Hammer \ tool set
  • Building blocks
  • Cars
  • Balloons
  • Paint sets
  • Musical instruments

And don’t forget the ear plugs for yourself!

More like this:

Top toys for Christmas 2016
Motor development milestones
More toddler play ideas

Ask Allison

Q My sister-in-law and I both work three-day weeks and we help each
other out with child minding on our working days, which up until recently has worked out really well. Between us, our kids are aged between five and nine years – the problem is that it’s now become quite apparent that we have very different parenting styles. I prefer my two daughters (seven and nine) to have a structured day. For example, in my house, we have allocated times for television and iPads, etc. My sister-in-law, however, lets the kids run loose after school – homework is ignored and my kids end up wired after eating sugary treats all afternoon. I am considering looking at after-school childcare for the kids, but I’m worried that this is going to cause a family argument. Is there a diplomatic way that I can ask my sister-in-law to introduce some discipline into her child-minding days? It certainly doesn’t do her two kids any harm when I am minding them in my own house!

In a word, no, there is no diplomatic way to do this as it may very likely seem like your saying that your parenting style is better than
hers. As L’Óreal says, ‘now here comes the science bit.’ Dr. Kaylene
Henderson, a child psychiatrist, wrote a very interesting blog about ‘the
science behind the Mummy Wars’. She explains that before she had
children of her own she hadn’t been aware of how parents have a
very specific sense of the right parenting style. She also found that parents could be very definite in defending their chosen parenting style. Dr. Henderson, who describes herself as a curious, scientific, open-minded person, was surprised at how defensive parents could be and, at times, of their judgemental attitude towards each other. She explained the neurology of the Mummy Wars; okay, I’ll need you to bear with me for a second. Warning; I’m about to use some neuro-techie language.

Why do we judge each other?
As we have all had different experiences, this means that we all have very different memories stored in our brains. Most of our memories are ‘explicit’ memories – these are ones that we can recall easily such as important dates that mean something to us; important birthdays, special events or stories of and about our lives.
There is another type of memory called ‘implicit’ memory that plays a
key role in our parenting. This type of memory is the stuff that you do on autopilot. Psychologists call these heuristics or rules of thumb –
such as tying your shoelace, or driving your car (once you have learnt
to do both first!). Otherwise we’d really waste a huge amount of time
pondering over tasks that we have readily available to us. This seems to be where the science bit of our parenting style kicks in. This implicit memory goes all the way back to when you were an infant being parented by your parents. This is when you started the process of storing up how they did it into your memories.
Unless you make a conscious choice and effort to parent differently, what you saw and unconsciously learnt will be your automatic go-to parenting style.

We learn habits
This can really kick into gear when we feel our parenting style is
being mirrored or highlighted by disapproval from another parent. I know the cold sweat you feel when your child decides to make their outstanding bad behaviour performance at, of course, the most public and worst time. The implicit autopilot of how your parents dealt with these outbursts will flow unconsciously from you if you haven’t worked super hard to be aware and consciously change the old habits.
What’s happening for the on-looking parent is that they see you doing something they are used to doing, but you are doing it all wrong. Simply, because that is not how they know how to do it.

Find a way that works
You both have different parenting styles – who is to say which type is correct? You just need to know what works best for your family and that’s the bottom line. The irksome feelings won’t go away. You can talk to your sister-in-law, but I’m adding a caveat that it would be hard not to hurt her feelings. What we’re possibly looking at is that you prefer a more structured form of parenting, whereas your sister-in-law has a more permissive style. I’m not sure the two styles can mix, the mixture is a bit like oil and water.
If a collaborative shared form of parenting style can be agreed upon, then that is great, but our learnt hardwiring may prove difficult to change despite the intent to do so.
Perhaps, your own instinct of changing childcare might work best for you. In terms of making childcare work; the fit is ultimately the most
important aspect as you want a cohesive congruent feeling of the other caregiver to just ‘getting it’, like in any good partnership. Best of luck
with this and I wish you both well.



Q. I’m would like to start an exercise programme that will benefit my emotional health as much as my physical health, but I don’t know which type of class would be best. Should I consider choosing from yoga, pilates, tai chi, or could you recommend a class, please?

A It’s great that you have decided to get into exercise. The benefits to you are going to be great. You’ll sleep better, have more energy, better skin, reduced stressed, not to mention all the amazing physical benefits of your clothes fitting better, and looking healthy, trim and toned! My advice to you would be to try them all. Even if some don’t offer pay-as-you-go sessions, if you get in touch directly with the instructor, they will almost always let you try it out first to see if it’s for you. All of the above things that you mentioned are great for mental health, so it really will be a personal preference as to which you go for. On top of the classes you mention, all forms of exercise will give you great mental rewards so consider the not so obvious interval training sessions, bootcamp, and circuits too, as you will also feel on top of the world after a class like that.