Toddlers have a serious amount of energy and, whether you like it or not, they need to use it all; otherwise they will feel frustrated and tantrums will follow! OUTDOOR PLAY is a necessity for them, they enjoy and learn playing outside running and exploring the world. The weather isn’t always on our side and it can make the outdoor fun quite difficult, but there are many ways to get moving indoors too. Check below for a few ideas.
- INDOOR OBSTACLE COURSE
Create a fun and safe obstacle course for your child to move and challenge him around the house while practicing gross motor skills. Use chairs or a table as a tunnel (throw a blanket on it to make it dark and more exciting to go in), use the laundry basket to throw balls in it, make X’s on the floor with duct tape to jump on them… You can play music in the background to make it more fun!
- SMALL WORLD PLAY
Create a role play scene with your child’s toys. Use an empty table, a rug or piece of fabric on the floor or a tuff tray or any large tray if you have one. Try to avoid distractions by having the TV off and the space clear. Start with a couple of toys so it’s not overwhelming and it’s very easy for him to figure out how to start playing. Use communication throughout the activity to describe what he is doing and allow him to play independently while being around. Add a container with dry pasta or rice and a spoon. Add a second and third container of different size and shape. Toddlers love emptying containers and transferring items from one to another. Let them combine this with his toys and add any other items you might have at home like cotton wool, sticks, rings, pompoms, feathers, some toy animals…. Only one at the time so he can figure out what to do at his own pace.
- MUSICAL GAMES
Music is a great sensory form of expression through words, movement, rhythm and sounds. It can help children to express the way they feel even if they have no words to describe it. Music will also engage kids to dance, move and have lots of fun no matter where they are. Play fun music and let them create with their bodies. You can also play musical statues, or action games (jump like a frog, crawl like a spider, fly like a bee…). Let them dance and move freely to release emotions and, of course, energy!
- INDOOR HUNT
Indoor hunts are so simple and they will also help your child to build vocabulary, confidence and self-esteem. When the child finds the object that he is looking for he will show you and feel so proud of himself! You can have a bucket to put the objects in it as he finds them or just tell him to bring them to a certain place when he finds them to get that little extra exercise done. You can hide any of his toys and tell him what he needs to find, or take a picture of them before you hide them and print it out so he can see what he needs to look for. To make it more exciting you can say something like “oh no! all the toys/rocks/blocks/teddies… are gone! I can’t find them anywhere… I wonder where they are! Will we go around and see if we can find them? Let’s go!”
- TODDLER PAINT
Painting, just like music, is another form of art and it allows kids to express their feelings and emotions through it. Younger kids don’t have the cognitive knowledge and skills to create something realistic (and they shouldn’t, as they learn just from the process, not the result). Babies and toddlers need to explore with their own hands how colours mix and spread on paper and other materials. When they see different colours on a tray they will probably stick their hands or brush into it from one colour to another just mixing them to see how they mix. They won’t necessarily use them to colour on the paper but just to explore the different combinations. They are learning about cause-effect and, for them, mixing colours is just like magic. Let them explore by starting with just one colour and then adding more colours slowly. Let them use their hands to paint with or offer other options too: paintbrush, cotton wool, sponge, cotton bud, stamps, vegetables (celery, bits of carrot to stamp the circles, etc.) and see what shape they make. You can also use elements from nature to paint with (leaves, flowers, sticks, feathers…). And try to paint on different materials and textures (paper, tin foil, rocks, fabric, plastic tray…).
- HOUSE CHORES
Children love to help at home (or to think that they are helping). It makes them feel useful, proud, confident and feeling like they belong to the household. There is so much that 2 year olds can do at home: load or empty the washing machine, put toys away, fold the washcloths, dust surfaces with a wet cloth or with hands in the socks, put dirty clothes in the laundry basket, help set the table… Do it as a game and they will enjoy it, it will keep them busy and they will learn it as part of a natural behavior of actions to do at home when being part of a household.
- RAIN BREAKS
Use any rain breaks to go outside for a few minutes. Give them a towel and they will love drying all the toys and walls outside. A spray bottle will also be great fun to use. If it’s not too cold and they are wearing raincoat you could have a bucket with soappy warm water and a brush for them to wash some rocks they find outside. Have a towel handy to dry their hands. Getting that bit of fresh air will really help them to get through the day happier (and I know it’s not easy to get a toddler to go out when it’s wet) and hopefully you too!