After having been a parent for almost 2 and a half years, I have discovered a few simple must-have kids items or activities that’ll keep most toddlers occupied when your mommy (and daddy) brains have reached their play-limit. Trust me, that happens.
As new parents you automatically think you need the latest and greatest and most educational toys and gadgets to ensure your sproglet grows intellectually every minute of the day… trust me, it’s not the case. Most kids are happy to dig in the dirt, scramble through the Tupperware cupboard and discover dead bugs on the driveway, but just in case you aren’t keen for that to be your daily existence, here are some simple kids’ toys/gadgets/entertainment that I have found to be fun and learning-oriented for toddlers:
(Please note that I’m not a qualified ECD teacher, these are just suggestions as to what I’ve found have worked with my own toddler and based on my own research and experiences as a mom.)
Reading – There can be NO better way of developing your child than spending serious time reading with them. Books also do not have to be brand new, they can be hand-me-downs, library books or gifts, but what they do need to be, is read! Kids soak up new words and descriptions, fill their imagination banks, develop curiosity and hopefully have a love for reading instilled in them that will last into adulthood.
Puzzles – working out what fits with what is a great activity for toddlers. It helps their brains learn to match shapes, colours and objects, improves their memory and associations and contributes to problem-solving later on in life. Wooden clutch puzzles are best to start with, leave the jigsaws till they are a little older.
Blocks – a set of colourful wooden blocks of different shapes and sizes are a wonderful tool for creative brain development. Kids learn to balance, build trains and towers, sort and categorize and develop a sense of playing on their own.
Art – we probably haven’t done enough of this (my son has been obsessed with balls and books, so we’ve focused there), but certainly, any time spent in an artistic fashion is not wasted. Whether drawing with crayons, scribbling with chalk, painting with powder or finger paints, gluing or sticking… it all fosters fine motor skill, develops the imagination and inspires thinking out of the box.
Baking – we love this one! Letting your kid help mix the cookie dough, cut out shapes and place on the tray, add the sprinkles, lick the spoon or simply bite into the freshly baked goodie is just special. They have fun, are allowed to get a little messy, use their imagination and spend quality time with mom or dad or granny.
Messy Play – this can really be anything that encourages fun with substances! Blowing bubbles, planting a garden in the soil, playing in a sandpit with water, smearing shaving cream in a tray… there’s plenty of fantastic creative ideas that help your little one with understanding and learning about textures and the importance of the sense of touch. Advisory – keep it outdoors!
Balls – there is simply nothing like a collection of balls. My son has had an obsession with balls since he was very young, and we have used them as props for sitting in a washing container, for fun play in the bath and especially for bat & ball games out in the garden. Start with a pack of light-weight plastic balls, then add soccer, rugby and tennis balls to the mix! We’ve also built up a collection of hockey sticks, tennis and badminton racquets, golf clubs and cricket bats to supplement the obsession. Kids will love a bit of rugby rough-and-tumble with dad like scoring a try or scrumming on the grass, running and kicking the soccer ball through cones or lining up small balls and hitting them one after the other.
Wheels – once your child is able to walk, a small wagon or bike they can sit on and push themselves around on is a winner. They learn balance, self-propelling and relying on another object to move themselves. My son has had a wooden push wagon which helped him learn to walk, a small car he could ride on, a classic black motorbike and most recently, a balance bike which has been wonderful in developing his balancing and free-wheeling skill.
Climbing / Jumping – if you are close to a park, or have a jungle gym or trampoline in your garden, then you are all set! Anything that encourages safe climbing, sliding, swinging or jumping (with parental watchfulness of course) is awesome. Some kids take to slides or swings or trampolines earlier than others, don’t worry if your child is more cautious, they will get there. All great for strong physical development and muscle growth.
Music / Dancing – kids LOVE music. Whether it’s a CD of nursery rhymes or a bright sing a long of children’s praise & worship music or even fun catchy music of mom and dad’s, children will automatically start wiggling their hips and clapping to the beat. You can also encourage their own musical development with shakers, a triangle, xylophone, hand-drum or bells.
Play Stations – this is not meant to be gaming! These are ‘stations’ that encourage imaginative self-play like a toy kitchen or tea set, a doll house or car garage. We have a large printed mat of a digging scene with roads and stop signs plus about 20 different cars and trucks that my son loves to drive and ‘park’. Kids need to learn to play on their own, and something like this is an ideal way to encourage this.
Lastly, while we want our kids to learn to play on their own, there’s often nothing they like more than playing with mom or dad. I have lost count the number of times I’ve sat on the couch re and re-reading my son’s favourite books with him, or how many times my husband has spent knocking balls around in the garden or going for a cycle around the block.
Do you have any great games, toys or activities that have worked well in your family? In this great community called parenting, sharing is certainly caring 🙂