1. Introduce New Textures & Shapes
Pinterest is literally exploding with amazing ideas for sensory bins. If you have never heard of a sensory bin/box, it is a container filled with some kind of a texture such as dry rice or beads. Toss in a few small toys, and let them dig for treasure! Obviously, take your toddler’s ability to keep objects out of their mouth into consideration and supervise at all times.
For younger toddlers, cooked pasta may be a better option. Cupcake enjoys the colors of vegetable pasta, and if she happens to pop in into her mouth I can just call it lunch!
Another great option for babies and young toddlers is a shape themed treasure box. When Cupcake was around eight to ten months old I created a shape basket which I decorated and filled with a particular shape. For example, when it was circle themed my dear hubby and I collected lids, bangle bracelets, and other round treasures too large for a munchy little mouth. Cupcake adores her treasure basket!
Choose an activity based on your toddler's current skill level, but don’t be afraid to let them attempt new things! A personal favorite in our household is finger painting, and Miss Cupcake has become quite the little artist. Make your own finger paint by adding a bit of color to pudding/yogurt (or buy washable finger paint at the Dollar Store if you have no fear of them eating it) and use a large white poster board as their canvas. Yes, this gets messy! After all, motherhood is not for the faint of heart. It may be easier to let your little love create their masterpiece outdoors or even in the bathtub!
While many people consider “chasing around a two year old” a workout in itself there are many benefits for both mommy and toddler to a more organized exercise routine. I was pleasantly surprised to see how delighted Cupcake was to be included in my workout. She adores imitating me and giggles with delight as she does a downward dog that would put a seasoned yogi to shame. For times when toddlers are not interested in actively participating you can simply pop them in a stroller and go for a walk/run. Toddlers will enjoy the mommy and me time while learning healthy habits that can last a lifetime!
4. Learning activities.
When Cupcake was six months old we began what we refer to as “baby school.” Among other things, I used the Your Baby Can Read flashcards several times a day and (on rare occasions) the accompanying DVDs. Long before her first birthday she had developed a love for learning and could identify several words. While every toddler has unique skills and learns at a different pace, they are similar in the fact that they absorb the information around them like little sponges.
If organized learning isn’t something you and/or your toddler are interested in there are still plenty of ways to include learning into their playtime. Build words with alphabet blocks, count the number of toys they are playing with, or help them name body parts. They will love it!
5. Sing and dance.
No skills required! Nothing brings Cupcake more delight than the moment she hears me turn on a catchy tune. She starts doing a little jig… and so do I! Sometimes we sing and dance the morning away and have a fantastic time doing it. The sillier the better!
6. Visit the pet store.
Most toddlers are amused by all creatures great and small. In their little minds it’s like a trip to the zoo, and it costs you absolutely nothing (unless, of course, they insist on bringing home one of those fun looking doggie toys J). The pet store near me even has tiny shopping carts for children to push around! Walk through the store while naming the animals and the sounds that they make. Fun, fun, fun!!
7. Bake cookies.
This is a fantastic activity that can involve sensory play (with squeaky clean hands, or course) and learning. Give your toddler an oversized mixing bowl and talk them through the steps. We prefer healthy-ish oatmeal based cookies. Let them help set the timer and watch the cookies through the oven window. Then enjoy a warm cookie together. YUMMY!
8. Search for treasures at the park.
Give your little love a bag or bucket and let them collect pebbles, leaves, and other fun objects at the park. Walk along with them and discuss their newfound treasures with great enthusiasm. For even more fun, hide small prizes for them to discover and watch their little eyes light up with excitement.
9. Make a ball pit.
For younger toddlers, a crib makes a idea ball pit (yes, they will throw every last one of them out). You can also fill a kiddie pool up with balls which allows them to climb out and throw them all back in… double the fun! For around $12 at Wal-mart you can purchase 100 balls which will provide hours of entertainment for your toddler.
10. Dress up.
Set up a full-length mirror, give them a box of hats/shoes/sunglasses, and let their imaginations run wild! The Dollar Store often has plastic firefighter hats, crowns, princess shoes, etc. Your toddler will have a ridiculous amount of fun while practicing coordination skills and learning to dress themselves.