One of my favorite times with my kids was when they were in the toddler phase. Yes, there was the terrible twos to contend with, but they were just so darn cute. They’ve grown past that now, and I still enjoy them very much, but toddlers are fun. At that age, games don’t have to be complicated to keep the child extremely happy. Here are four of my favorites:
1. Splashing in the pool
Sit in the child end of the pool — with the water about four to six inches deep. Hold the child and splash a little with one hand. Once a child is used to the water in the bathtub, it's hilarious to see him make the same discovery about the pool — splashes make a fun noise and a big mess.
One of my kids learned the word splash, and that was the activity he always called for. He’d say, “Spash,” and he had me trained — I would go to the same spot in the pool and let him splash until it was time to get in the shade. The kids all enjoyed splashing, and never tired of it.
2. Riding the swing
Holding the child in your arms, sit in the swing, and gently rock back and forth with the child. Squeal a little to encourage her, and pretty soon she'll be squealing along with you. It doesn't take much motion to keep toddlers happy and smiling. The motion is very soothing, and eventually you can slow down to a gentle rocking.
My child enjoyed rocking like that, and eventually I would watch his head start to nod. The security of Mom holding that toddler, along with the rocking of the swing, gave us a really special connection. I like to think I was teaching my child about safety and what security felt like. We would eventually have to get up, and my whirlwind child was much more quiet as we walked home.
3. Bounce the balloon
Play this one on the grass, and since balloons will pop, blow up several before you start. Sit the child down in front of you. It won't be too hard to capture his attention. As soon as you pick up the balloon, he'll be watching you. Model the activity first, by gently bouncing the balloon on your hands. Then, let him try to bounce the balloon himself.
At first, the child will just shoot it off in a random direction, and then chase it, sometimes popping it on the grass in the process. Get another balloon, and repeat.
I was astonished at how quickly my son mimicked my motion and got the balloon to go up, not away. I could almost see him developing motor skills as we played — a most amazing experience for me, and a lot of fun for him.
Go out on the street with your toddler, and tell her she is in charge of which way you will walk. At the end of the block, ask her which way to go next, left, right or straight ahead, pointing to each choice. Ask what you might see by going that direction. Will you see a green door, a tall tree, a mailbox? the child will quickly get the idea that her choice means something — what she sees will depend on what she picks.
With each choice the child will be developing decision making skills, and learn to think about her surroundings. When she tries to find what she predicted, she will develop observation skills.
It's a really fun exercise, but with a great learning component. When it is time to head home, suggest that the toddler find the way back to your house, and let her begin to work out how to do that. Let her ask for help on which way to go.
It is very satisfying to enjoy activities with your children, and when they are toddlers, it is especially fun. Simple activities provided a lot of bonding for Mom and child, and a few learning experiences along the way. It’s a time to enjoy while it lasts — they move beyond that phase so quickly (sigh).
Becky Flanigan is an avid gardener – and even helps friends landscape and decorate their yards. She was an English major in college, and now enjoys writing freelance articles for Intheswim.com. Becky has a great time on family weekend trips.