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Today's Child

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The Toddler

  • music enhance brain development, especially since it stimulates  the connection of 'sensory-cognitive-motor' development building the neuro-connections stronger and more complex
  • art activities can develop sensory stimulation, patterning, and conceptual awareness
  • role-playing helps toddlers understand their world: experimenting and practicing roles--they can express how they feel about other people; they can practice with rules; 
  • music activities enrich memory abilities
  • Toddlers love to bang on pots and pans and oatmeal boxes--builds creativity, motor development, sensory awareness, and rhythm
  • They love to march, and dance to music (don't forget the Classical Stuff!).  Provide scarves, instruments, and ribbons to dance and march with
  • Finger painting is F-U-N! Try finger painting in a bag (place paints in a re-sealable bag and 'paint' by drawing with fingers on the outside of the bag)
  • Provide a box full of hats and gloves and shoes to dress up in--provide a full-sized mirror so they can see what they look like
  • And don't forget sensory material: cornmeal, shaving cream, pudding, ice, rice, water, sand, flower, bells, Easter grass, sandpaper, silk, cotton balls
  • Attach some "mac-tac" to the wall (sticky side out) and provide a variety of materials for mounting on their mural: magazine pictures and words, ribbons, popsicle sticks, pebbles, buttons, textured paper and material, pre-cut shapes
  • Make musical shakers out of any container.  With two shakers of each sound, they can compare and find the matching sounds
  • Play "SH!!!! Shakers" by keeping one shaker empty.  Have them find the SH!!! Shaker (the silent one).  
  • Chanting Box: place two of several different objects inside a box (objects that have names of 1, 2, and 3 syllables long). Have child pull out 4 objects creating the words for a chant (Ex. leather mitten, leather mitten, blue shoe, cup) This builds not only language skills but the rhythm of speech and of music
  • Sing songs and do fingerplays: repetition of these songs develop memory skills, rhythm, and language
  • Sing, chant, act, and speak with varying voice tones and pitches -- developing sound discrimination skills Search for your favourite Music!

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  • every thing toddlers see / hear / feel / taste / do is either building new neuro-pathways or strengthening present ones
  • some pathways, if not used during the early years will disappear
  • everything is new to them: every person, every texture, every object, every action, every smell, etc
  • what they do now is the basis for all learning: problem solving, basic concepts, questioning, testing
  • toddlers need to be talked to, asked questions of, challenged, rewarded, read to
  • they are learning about the basic math concepts: in/out; over/under; big/little; soft/hard; up/down; red/green; fast/slow; heavy/light etc.
  • they are learning about real vs. imaginary
  • through experience they learn that although things may be out-of-sight they have not disappeared
  • they are learning that symbols represent real things or communications
  • pre-reading skills are being built: comparing sounds (ball/fall; basketball = basket - ball)
  • provide them sticky tape (all kinds) and let them explore
  • Set up challenging obstacle courses for crawling through, under, over, around (Labeling actions improves language)
  • Provide numerous sensory activities: allowing exploration, dumping, mixing, pouring, feeling etc
  • Play games that require memory skills and repetition (ex. hide an object under a cloth)
  • Toddlers love to repeat activities time and again experimenting with what they learned (or thought they had learned: was their theory correct?)
  • Label objects with words and pictures
  • Couple oral language with hand signs to assist them with communicating.  Kids can wave before they can say bye-bye!
  • Provide a multitude of materials and activities which enhance understanding of the basic concepts: blocks, boxes and bags of objects, music (at varying tempos and intensity), dolls, food
  • Make a "boo-tube" together: place an object (that creates a sound, if possible) in a see-through tube; cover one end of the tube with paint or decorated paper (they can decorate it); let them rock the tube back and forth, making the object inside disappear and re-appear
  • Peek-a-boo boxes can be made out of small containers by gluing a picture inside for them to find--the picture can be of themselves, of their parents, of animals, etc.
  • Make picture books together by selecting pictures of objects to place inside small photo albums
  • Place a bell inside the smallest of a set of stackable plastic containers; let them practice stacking with lids on as well as placing them inside each other (Seriation)
  • Attach a ribbon to walls or place on the floor; attach interesting pictures or objects to the ribbon and let the child track the ribbon from start to finish
  • Place a variety of objects with aromas in different containers. Depending on age, identify the smells to the child or let them identify them -- provide the visible object as well so they can match the container and the object
  • Suitcase surprise: keep an old suitcase handy and place different objects inside it on different days (or change it every week) Include blocks one time, and dress-up clothes another
  • Provide puzzles of various types and levels of ability: don't limit the challenge because they are 'toddlers'.  What is their current ability? What is the next level of challenge? 
  • Create a feely-box by putting a container inside a sock.  Hide objects in the container and have the child identify the textures and then the object they have found
  • Don't forget the great outdoors: it is full of natural smells, textures, and challenges; ask questions, let them touch, smell, view.  Take pictures of interesting objects to create a science book
  • Create stories without books (Storytelling)


  • toddlers are not only becoming aware of their bodies but are gaining control and learning about its potential and its limits
  • toddlers, through moving, learn how to walk, run, climb, sit, balance, kick, throw, draw--they learn about how they affect objects and their own bodies, they learn about distance and speed, and force
  • climbing over, under, and through objects develops motor skills and problem-solving skills as well as physics and science concepts (cause and effect; distance, force etc.)
  • large muscles develop before small muscles
  • active play improves ability to make judgments, to deal with frustration, provides a sense of accomplishment
  • motor development is the most visible source of self-appraisal--it is easy to see what one can DO, and that they are doing it better than before
  • Provide opportunities to run, crawl, play with balls and other tools, as well as times to sit (controlled muscles). Space and obstacles/challenges builds problem-solving abilities
  • Provide not only space to explore, but also the proper skills to interact with objects
  • Build a mountain of pillows for climbing --it's safe, it's soft, it's fun
  • Give them buckets, trays, and cups and lots of beans and rice (etc.) to pick up (supervised of course)--building small motor skills
  • Provide a bag of rags and a ball; let them play with the rags, dumping and tossing them everywhere; have them get the ball without stepping on the rags and returning it to the bag; help them put the bags back in the bag (in/out; sensory; motor control). They will love to do this over and over again (as they do all activities)
  • Decorate a plastic container to look like a bird or animal; have toddlers tear (or use scissors if they are ready) to make little pieces of paper to "Feed the bird"
  • Provide beanbags for tossing and for balancing on their shoulders, arms, hands, head, knees
  • Make a bowling set out of pop bottles and a newspaper ball
  • Create an obstacle course out of old shirt sleeves by sewing up one end and placing old squeaky toys inside-- let them crawl or walk on the train of sleeves, finding the object inside and making it squeak
  • have a 'pocket dance' where the children dance with their hands in the pockets: great upper body motions involved in this


  • social skills are not natural skills; they are learned
  • by watching others, testing, and interacting with others, children learn what behaviours get which results; how to manipulate their world; what roles are and how they adapt; what the limits are etc
  • they are learning about dealing with frustration, patience, delayed gratification, self-esteem, confidence, ability to take risks
  • what they are learning now is the basis of how they will interact with others when they are at age16--they are learning about becoming self-disciplined
  • providing opportunities that are challenging and stimulating but not beyond their ability builds self-esteem
  • how situations are handled can build empathy for others
  • they need freedom of choice matched with dependable boundaries
  • a loving environment increases ability to learn!
  • Talk to toddlers about everything you are doing and thinking (helps them with problem solving skills as well as social skills and self-praise)
  • Role-model the skills you want them to copy
  • When appropriate, don't solve issues for them--help them find solutions to try
  • Don't judge, demoralize, punish---when they act inappropriately it is because they haven't learned the appropriate way yet
  • Acknowledge interactions with others, attempts at tasks, accomplishments, risk-taking
  • Create story books together (they can draw the pictures), discussing an issue they are having (ex. separation anxiety during child care: include pictures of parents at car and at their work; start the sentences with "I like it when.." and "It makes me sad because..." and end off the story with the information about when the parents will return: time, during what activity etc)
  • give lots of hugs, snuggles, smiles, reassurance, love!

***Have a look at the TEEN page..... never too early to start parenting a teen!***
There are a few personal stories on the teen page --perhaps giving some food for thought.


101 Activities to do with Toddlers


copyright, 2000: Debbie Roswell