The following post is by contributor Emily Carter of The Pilot’s Wife.
I may have a degree in Early Childhood Education and years of experience in childcare and teaching, but I’m going to admit something today: keeping young children entertained and occupied can be challenging!
My son is currently 2 1/2 and a ball of unending energy. I turn around for just a moment to fix a snack and find a trail of destruction through the house.
Adding to the frustration, popular media would have you believe that you constantly need something new and shiny every few weeks to keep up with your child’s developmental needs.
In my search for ideas, I’ve come across a few wonderful resources that will help you breathe new life into the things you already have in your home.
A Book to Spark Ideas
A few months ago, I stumbled on this book in my classroom. I’d bought it years ago, before I had my son. The title jumped out at me, Unplugged Play: No Batteries. No Plugs. Pure Fun. I’m sure I picked it up looking for games for older kids, but the tagline boasts “For ages 12 months to 10 years”.
I’m so glad I rediscovered this gem! It’s a fantastic resource for games and activities using things you probably already own.
It’s organization also makes it a winner for me. It’s divided by age group and then broken down into individual games, partner games, and group games.
There are a lot of activity books on the market, but the age span, and quality of this book make it a must-have, in my opinion.
Toys That Last
The market is flooded with cheap toys that are broken or obsolete nearly by the time you make it home from the store. I’ve been hunting for things that are well made and that will hold my child’s attention for more than one season.
I’ve discovered that many times, it’s possible to make more simple rules for games and toys to make them appropriate for toddlers, gradually increasing the difficulty as they develop.
1. Memory Games
Begin by only pulling three or four matching sets of cards out and see if your little one can find the matching cards (don’t turn them face down!). Add more cards at a time as their skills increase.
If you have older kids, you’ve probably already got a Memory game around your house, but if not I highly suggest the eeBoo Life on Earth Memory Game pictured above. It’s really beautiful and well-made.
2. Card Games
So your child may not be ready for complex card games, but there are some fun things to do with cards even for the toddler crowd.
One of my son’s favorite games from Unplugged Play used a set of playing cards and a empty coffee can. I cut a slit in the lid big enough to slip cards through and let him put the cards in one by one, empty the can, and then start over. Endless fun!
A company that makes not-so-average card games for kids is Bird Cage Press. They make beautiful card sets featuring animals, famous artists, and more. Geared for slightly older children, I could still envision my toddler enjoying matching animals from this Baby Animals Around the World game.
Card games are great for kids of all ages to encourage math and critical thinking skills.
Keep It Simple
Of course, the simpler the better. The weather in my part of the country was gorgeous this week, so we’ve loaded up and headed to our local park two or three times to enjoy the sunshine. A few hours of simple outdoor fun was the perfect cure for cabin fever!
What are your favorite games and activities for really young children?