Your baby turned one, and now she's headed into toddlerhood. Even if you're not ready to watch your baby grow up, 1-year-olds can begin exploring their world in different ways. Your interaction with your baby is most important, so make sure you or a trusted caregiver spends time every day playing with your little one. Here are seven activities to get you started. One-year-olds can be busy, so be prepared to play hard!
Walk and talk
This activity is best for walkers, but could be adapted for a stroller. Take your little one on a walk, and go at his pace. Look for bug, birds, dogs, interesting plants and sticks or whatever else catches his eye. Crouch down as you point out things at your child's level. Talk about the sounds you hear and things you see. Your walk might not take you very far, but it will help your child develop curiosity and learn more about the natural world.
Fill an indoor sink or shallow tub outside with water and add toys that float and sink, straws, scoops and other squirting water toys. Dress for getting wet so you can join in the fun. Show your toddler how to scoop and dump water, how to blow bubbles with a straw and how to squirt. If you're outside, use a paintbrush to "paint" the sidewalk and house.
Dump a cup
Once toddlers discover the joy of dumping, nothing is safe. Channel his enthusiasm by providing a safe dump zone. Fill a shallow container with dry pasta and provide spoons, cups and scoops. Then let him go at it. Containers of blocks and toys are also fun to dump. Make the most of the mess by beginning to teach the concept of cleaning up as you play.
Both real and stuffed animals can provide fun and teach kindness to toddlers. If your toddler seems scared of animals, start with stuffed. Gather several stuffed animals and teach your toddler the noises they make. Pretend to feed and groom them, and see how your child responds. My children have always enjoyed playing pet store and pet doctor as well.
If your child likes live animals, visit a petting zoo, zoo, or a neighbor who has a pet. Talk about what the animals eat, enjoy doing and how to care for them. Try to move at your child's pace and interest level to make the experience best for them.
Older 1-year-olds can begin to develop fine motor skills. It's easy to grab paper and crayons (consider chubby crayons for toddlers) and let your son or daughter create a mini masterpiece. Other art projects perfect for toddlers are finger painting and play dough. An edible play dough recipe can be fun and tasty!
Once she learns you aren't actually going anywhere, peek-a-boo is a happy game for baby. Toddlers can start to discover the fun of hide-and-seek. Start by hiding in obvious places, like under a pillow or blanket. If she seems intrigued, help her to hide. Hide-and-seek is a great game to involve the whole family. My youngest daughter was such a patient hider as a toddler, and she could hide in small spaces, which made the game really intriguing. If your toddler seems frightened, be sure to come out of your hiding place right away.
Music is so important for all children. It's never too early to begin singing to your baby, but your toddler can start singing along. Teach songs that have accompanying motions, like "The Eensy Weensy Spider" and "The Wheels on the Bus." Catchy rhymes are also fun, like "Pat-a-Cake." Libraries often have extensive collections of children's music for loan. Try a few CDs or downloads and see what your baby likes. Add instruments for more sensory fun.
When my husband worked long hours and I was home with two little children, we had music appreciation time every day. It saved my sanity and made the kids happy. Don't count out music you enjoy, or seemingly complicated music like classical or jazz. Toddlers can enjoy moving their bodies and listening to all types of music.
As any parent can tell you, the toddler years are challenging, but pass quickly. Enjoy daily moments with your little one as you play together in a variety of ways.
Amy M. Peterson, a former high school English teacher, currently lives in Oregon with her husband and four children. She spends her days writing, reading, exercising and trying to get her family to eat more vegetables.