Between the ages of 12 and 24 months a toddler is usually mastering the art of controlling one’s body. They are learning how to stand, walk and run, how to grab, hold and manipulate objects and how to orient themselves in their environment. These skills will be invaluable later in life and how well they develop will impact future sporting activities that kids undertake and even their school work. The early learning games and activities listed below will help kids develop and improve those skills in fun and playful ways.
Line up and push together 2 or 3 chairs to create a tunnel. To add a bit of magic, cover the chairs with colourful scarves and use a torch or a desk lamp to create a luminous effect. Now crawl through the tunnel to the other side!
Manipulating clothes pegs is a great developmental exercise for little fingers – it really helps develop pincer grip and hand-to-eye coordination. To make things more fun and interesting use multi-coloured pegs and you can learn the names of colours in the process.
Attach the pegs to the edges of a plastic bucket and count them
Cut out a circle out of a yellow piece of cardboard and attach pegs to the side to make a sun or a flower
Tie a rope between two chairs and make a pretend clothes line; put socks and undies on the line and attach with pegs
Playing with Paper
Playing with ordinary paper can be so much fun and some of the activities can serve a dual purpose of being a fun game and a great developmental exercise. Best of all, every household has some sort of paper lying around that needs recycling. You can use printer paper, newspaper, old drawings, anything you can find.
Tearing paper is lots of fun – you can tear it into long strips or small pieces – it is a great exercise for developing manual dexterity
Take sheets of paper and scrunch them into a ball. Try to get the child to scrunch the paper with both hands first, then with one hand at a time
Put a hat or a shoe box half a meter away from where you are sitting on the floor and try to throw the paper balls into it
Games with Sand
Games in the sand are fun and entertaining at any age and best of all – they can be played at the beach, in the sandpit on the playground or in your own backyard. Some of the fun and educational things you can do with sand:
Build sand castles
Feel up sand buckets using a spade
Make shapes out of sand moulds
Write letters and numbers in the sand; draw various shapes
Hide and find objects in the sand
This classic game never goes out of style, it is easy and fun to play. Younger kids do not have to jump on one foot and can use both feet to jump from square to square. Using chalk draw ten squares on the ground, number them from 1 to 10 and use a marker (such as a small rock or a bean bag) to jump and count the squares. This is a great game for improving coordination, developing gross motor skills and learning how to count to ten! Rules can be modified for younger kids if they cannot master the idea of jumping back to square 1 and picking up their marker on the way.
If it is raining outside and hopscotch is not an option, there is a similar game that can be played with kids inside the house. Cut out large circles of equal size from different colour cardboard (try to use primary colours). Write numbers from 1 to 10 on each circle. Spread circles evenly around the room and yell out random colours/numbers – the child needs to run to the correct colour/number circle and jump on it. You can swap with your child and get him or her to yell out instructions while you do the exercise. Turn on some music to make it more fun.
The simplest and one of the most effective activities of all for developing coordination is a game with a ball. Sit on the floor and roll the ball to the child, try to get the child to roll the ball back to you. When they get the hang of the rolling game you can start gently throwing the ball to your child and try to get them to throw the ball back to you. To increase the level of difficulty even further, try clapping in between the throws.