As for an infant, for a toddler too, there is no distinction between playing and learning.
Giving a child suitable toys to play with is as important as keeping him clean and tidy. Choose toys that suit his capabilities and also address the right learning needs.
For a toddler the world of reality is more important and interesting than the realm of imagination. His need for sleep diminishing progressively, he has more time to explore and learn. He learns by looking, touching, tasting, smelling and listening. Gradually sometime close to his second birthday, he begins to experiment-to finger, squeeze and drop things to see what will happen. When he drops things or picks them up, he is both learning and having fun listening to nursery rhymes. As he plays he begins to categorise according to shapes, sizes and colours. He begins to recognise different animals, vehicles and people.
A toddler will play with whatever is available to her. But playthings especially beloved at this age are
- Water – plain, bubbly, coloured, warm or as ice. Provide it in bowls, baths, small paddling pools etc. Provide plenty of small containers to fill and empty. Show him how it stays in a mug but leaks through a sieve. Add detergent, blow bubbles, let him see the ice melting, and change the colours with food colouring…
Bath time is not only for keeping the children clean but also for fun. Keep a selection of bath toys, including bath books.
- Mud, clay or play-dough.
- Stones, shells, leaves, twigs, flowers, grass.
- Toy bricks/Building blocks
- Fitting toys that go into holes, simple jigsaw puzzles
Jigsaw puzzles are an ideal quite activity which no toy cupboard should be without. They teach recognition and sorting skills, vital for success in early reading and writing.
- Pull-along toys – these are a firm favorite once the child starts walking, especially if they make a loud noise as they move.
- Stacked rings, hoops or beakers are versatile toys as you can start by making towers for the child to knock down and as his motor skills improve he will learn to build them up himself.
- Ordinary household items like locks and keys.
- Small dolls, wooden animals, soft toys, cars etc. These help in developing mothering instincts and bonding; and are not an exclusive arena for daughters.
Try to buy kids toys that require the child to participate in rather than just be a spectator. So resist the temptation to buy the latest model of battery-operated or wind-up car and instead buy him a push- button or pull-back car which will give him insights to cause and result effect.
- Helping in dusting the house, washing clothes or mopping the floor. They also love doing fetch-and-carry.
- dressing up in your clothes, footwear.
- Imitating adults – Toys, such as dolls, doctor set, etc, that encourage make-believe play and provide the perfect stimulus for young imaginations to run riot
Junk material often make the best toys – a fridge carton can be converted into a play house or a shoe boxes can become building blocks. For your toddler you can even make musical instruments at home from junk.
To maximise enjoyment try these techniques
- Don’t dress a toddler in her best clothes for playing and expect her not to get dirty. Let her wear her oldest clothes so that she can splash about, get all messy and have a ball. Spread newspapers on the floor and the table if she’s playing with water, colours, or mud
- After she’s finished playing read a book showing the same objects or activity. This will help establish it in her mind more firmly.
- Talk to her through the day showing her different things, naming them and recalling all the things she played with during the day.
- Let the toddler play with the toy the way he wants and not the way it is supposed to be played with. Not only will he not enjoy this more but this will also encourage creativity.
- Take out some toys at a time
- Join her in play and have fun yourself.
Remember she is not only learning and absorbing knowledge as she plays. She’s also learning a sense of fun and how to enjoy life a little more.