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Parenting Resource Library

Games to Play

Games to play with toddler
Learn to engage your toddler in safe and fun independent play.
Useful ideas for parents with 2 and 3 year olds.
A toddler’s natural curiosity, intense involvement in her surroundings,
and short attention span combine to make child care a high-energy
job. While most parents are capable of meeting the challenge under
ordinary circumstances, it becomes more difficult when they have to
divide their attention between their child and other responsibilities.
But with a little creativity, most two and three year olds can be
entertained for short periods of time with only minimal adult
intervention.
Admittedly, toddlers need a great deal of supervision and interaction.
It isn’t possible or desirable to impose a degree of independence on
them before they are ready. However, toddlers have already begun
developing the capacity to enjoy their own company for short periods
of time. Provided that the environment is safe and a parent is nearby
(i.e., Mom is working on the computer while her child plays in
another part of the room), young children can be kept happy with
minimal input. Here, then, are some tips for keeping little ones happy
on your busiest days.
--First, prepare the area where you need to work. If you haven’t
done so already, child proof the room. Install safety plugs in electrical
outlets; make sure cords from blinds and draperies are well out of
reach; close and lock windows to prevent falling; move heavy items
that could fall or be pulled down from shelves, counters, dressers,
and desks; and be sure that any poisonous, sharp, hot or otherwise
potentially lethal items have been removed from the area.
--Provide objects to play in. Several boxes in varying sizes will
provide unlimited play possibilities. Be sure no box is too big for your
child to climb into. If he can be trusted with a crayon, allow him to
decorate the box when he begins to tire of playing in it.
--If you’re working in the kitchen, empty one of the cabinets under
the counter. Young children enjoy hiding things there, then retrieving
their treasures. Some even climb inside to play hide and seek – but
make sure the area is free from sharp objects and can be opened
easily from inside if a child is going to play there.
--Construct a tent with chairs and a sheet in the room where you will
be working. Then, one at a time, offer the child objects to use in the
tent. When she tires of her book, for example, tell her it’s time for
the teddy bear to take a nap in the tent, and let her tuck him in.
When she next tires of the game, offer her a juice box and tell her it’s
snack time in the tent.
--Spread a plastic tablecloth on the floor and provide homemade play
dough and plastic cookie cutters. Have several colors available, but
offer only one at a time. When your tot tires of the first color, take it
back and replace it excitedly with another.
--Keep containers of trinkets, knickknacks and do-dads. Give your
child one of the boxes to explore. He will take each item out of the
box, examine it and experiment with possible uses. Be careful to
include only items that have no small parts that could choke a tot
who still puts things in his mouth.
--Stock up on board books when they’re on sale, and introduce a new
one to hold your toddler’s interest. Try to have a few minutes to
spare when you do, so you can read the book together first.
--Plan periodic breaks, and spend this time giving your full attention
to your child. Be flexible. Some children need more interaction than
others, so let her cues be your guide.
--Have several small snacks ready if your child is a frequent eater.
Prepare paper bags or plastic containers of raisins, pretzels, dried
fruit, or other healthy treats. This will save you from having to stop in
the middle of something if your child decides he is hungry.
The toddler years are a challenging time for most parents. With
forethought, however, you can help your child learn to enjoy her
limited independence, while finding much-needed opportunities to
tend to your other responsibilities.
Written by Dawn Williams - © 2002 Pagewise

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