10 Activities To Improve Your Toddler’s Development

Renaissance Child You know the child — the gifted one able to go anywhere, do anything, make friends with anyone. She’s destined to move mountains, cure all the world’s ills and flash a million-dollar-smile all the while. Even her name is snazzy. Chances are, she’s not yours, and neither is her male counterpart. Children range the full spectrum of “I don’t know how” to “I want to do it myself,” and their confidence levels and results are equally as mixed. Experts keep trying to unlock the secrets of IQ, the intelligence quotient, but the final analysis points to two different Qs: emotional quotient and imagination quotient. Most successful children had the benefits of a secure, loving environment and plenty of opportunities to discover who they really wanted to be. Give them opportunity, and set their minds free.

  1. Pretend With Purpose Buy all the expensive educational toys you want, Erik will still go for the huge cardboard box. Why? That box has no expectations, no demands. It has no right or wrong answers, and it can become anything he wants it to be. That brown box has no limits. It can become a garage where he can fix broken toys, a kitchen where he can whip up treats or a spaceship to Mars. You might have to help with a door or window and supply some accessories, but Erik will probably use and re-use the box until it falls apart. That’s when he’ll ask for another one.

2. Make Musical Instruments and Recycle Even if Sasha takes formal music instruction, making musical instruments from odds and ends offers a fun chance to brainstorm through re-using and repurposing what she has. Find glassware that rings different tones, and experiment until you have eight that will ring a scale. Put little items inside a larger one for percussion. You can even construct a guitar with rubber-band strings; adjust tensions so they sound different tones. Regular exposure to music offers significant cognitive benefits. After all, it’s based on mathematics, it appeals to the senses and emotions and it helps build coordination. Check out the local instrumental music store. Listen to all kinds of music. Let Sasha march and stomp and dance until the music is part of her.

3. Have a Ball The sooner Jared becomes comfortable with handling a ball, the more at ease he’ll be later at school or social sporting events. He may never be a Dallas Cowboy, but learning how to throw, kick, hit and catch a ball has implications for not only motor development but also self-confidence and social acceptance later on. Start with rolling the ball, passing it back and forth, and progress from there. A big plastic bat and a ball tee will give him the chance to learn how to position his bat without the ball being in motion. Play with soccer balls, basketballs, footballs, and ping pong and tennis balls. Take him to the park or the local stadium, and let him watch the big boys — and girls — play. Play with him. He may look at you, shake his head and say, “Gee. You can’t throw, can you?” but you’ll be glad you tried.

4. Mail Thank Yous and Correspondence No one expects Matt to write long letters or thank you notes, and forcing him to attempt it will most likely make him dread even seeing a present. However, most people would love receiving a piece of Matt’s artwork in the mail as a thank you. Cut out a small heart, and let him cover it in buttons or stickers. Make or decorate an envelope, stamp it and take it to the mailbox or post office. If he draws a great picture, help him send it to someone he loves. Matt learns about the simple act of giving and that loved ones matter even when they’re not within view. Recipients keep those original mini-masterpieces for decades, and most will make an effort to thank him for his thank you.

5. Explore on Toddler Level Exercise offers toddlers lots of cognitive, emotional and physical benefits — but only if it’s voluntary. Walking and biking are great opportunities to show Annie something new and let her explore at her own pace. Annie will walk or even bike with you, but count on constant stops to investigate. Bring along a magnifying glass, a collecting basket or even a bug box. Count on her finding some special stones that she’ll have to decide whether she can carry. Let her play with binoculars, and see if she can spot some birds. Splurge on a little bug vacuum; you’ll be using it, too!

6. Document a Day Do you want to see Joseph really, really love a book? Document a day. Get out that camera or smartphone and start clicking away. Start with a picture right before you wake him up, and take a full day’s worth of frames. Include everything from brushing his teeth in the morning to climbing back into his bed that night. Send the photos to be printed, and pick up an inexpensive flip album. Let Joseph help you sort his pictures. Chances are, he’ll love seeing himself over and over, and he can help order them into the album pages. You might want to tape the open ends shut so that the photos can’t slide out, but once it’s together, it’s Joseph’s to have and to hold and to look at any time he wants.

7. Play Board and Card Games Help develop Ginny’s sense of fairness, turn-taking, attention span and conversation skills by playing games with her — no cheating allowed. Children who play board games tend to do better in math than peers who don’t, and verbal skills usually gain benefits, too. Take the time to play a few games of Candyland or Chutes and Ladders. Play a few hands of UNO, Old Maid or I Spy. Pretend to forget the rules, and ask Ginny to explain them again. When she becomes good at the game, blatantly cheat, and get her to call you on it. Make her explain the rules again. Approach it with humor, encourage good sportsmanship and don’t let her always win.

8. Take a Catnap Just having 10 minutes to do absolutely nothing together may become one of Steven’s best memories of childhood. Taking the time to simply relax in a hammock or on the sofa together, with no TV, no place to be and nowhere to go, can be a precious moment where Steven finds himself listening to your heartbeat and trying to match his breathing to yours. If you’re outside, encourage him to listen for birds, the whisper of an airplane overhead, the lawnmower down the street or the train whistle in the distance. Help him to tune into his environment and become aware. It just might be the key to his adulthood success or save a life one day.

9. People Watch When you go out, encourage Lauren to watch the people, to really look at them and consider who they really are. Why does Lauren think that woman has three 30-pound bags of Dog Chow in her shopping basket? What about that elderly man in the hat relying on his cane as he walks down the street? What did he do before he retired? Where is that family in the old 70s wood-paneled station wagon going, and why are they going there? Help her to spot clues, and see what she comes up with. Be careful to point out that the two of you are making your best guess, and it’s all most likely complete fiction. However, it teaches her awareness of her surroundings, and one day Lauren may be a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. 10. New or Different — Do It Again If you want Porter to be a true Renaissance child, expose him to the new and different. Let him explore anything he can safely handle with your assistance. Right now, his brain is growing as quickly as the synapses can form. The brain, however, might as well be muscle. It, too, operates on the concept of use it or lose it. Synapses and pathways are forming, but if Porter never gets the chance to use them, his brain will eventually prune them away. Take him to all kinds of places. Let him experience all sorts of activities, tastes, smells and emotions. Let him decide which he wants to keep, and help him to figure out why. Chances are, the new or different won’t prompt the dreaded fear response. Porter will know that you’ve got his back, and one day, he’ll have yours.

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