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Your Kid’s Favorite Learning Toy Is…

hero-play-with-mom

If you’re anything like I was while pregnant, you had visions of everything you wanted to teach your child to do once they came into the world. Learning sign language, then dancing in The Nutcracker, and perhaps even finding time to beat a few Olympic records before the age of ten. Come on, you know you’ve had the same thoughts! So while we may be fully engaged in the digital age of tablets, on-demand learning, and extremely high expectations, it doesn’t actually take any fancy gadget when it comes to engaging your children and helping them develop!

In fact, you don’t have to look too far for their favorite toy. It’s you!

Here are some easy ideas for how to play with baby that will both nurture her development and engage her senses!

Hands on Playtime

playing-checkers

0 to 12 months old: Peek-a-boo might seem like a cliche activity to play with babies, but it’s really an amazing way to engage them! In the early months it will start as just a way to make eye contact and get their attention and might seem like more fun for you than for her, but soon you’ll hear giggles emerge, and finally imitation will come into play! 

1 to 2 years old: Don’t worry about the amount of toys your child has, as he’ll probably just want to use the same one over and over and over again! This age of repetition allows you to excite your child with ease, and also to settle into routines and familiarity. He’ll love the fact that he’s in control, and you’ll love seeing him master skills as he tries again and again to perfect everything. 

2 to 3 years old: Did you love quiet time just coloring as a kid? Well you’re in luck because you get to spend time doing it again! Take a seat at the table and spend time drawing and coloring to your heart’s content! Perhaps you’ve missed cuddling up with your favorite book? Now is the time to open your paperback and encourage your child to snuggle up on the couch with you and do the same. Quiet time helps your child expand their imagination and be on their own, but you can encourage their habits by joining along!

Age 3 and up: Dust off those old board games from your childhood and spend a night with the whole family playing a game together! Games help reinforce skills like counting and let everyone participate in an equal way. And if you’re like me, get ready to lose a lot to your child who has more luck with a spinner or pair of dice than you ever had!

Getting Active

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0 to 12 months old: Hand your child a ball early on and watch her gross motor skills expand and stretch over time. You may just be rolling it or picking it up again and again for her at the start, but you’ll see her talents expand and her concentration heighten each time you bring the ball out to play! 

1 to 2 years old: Forget about joining a gym when you have a toddler, because you’ll be running after him nonstop! Instead of trying to quell the energy, run along with him and get into the action with games and climbing and more! Pretend to be superheroes in the backyard, or engage your pets in a fun game of tag that gets everyone up and running. 

2 to 3 years old: Break out your acting skills and help your child enter a world of pure imagination! Have a prop basket handy full of hats, discarded clothing, or costume pieces, and join in on the fun instead of just watching your child put on a show each day. You’ll enjoy the break from reality, and they’ll love the fact that there’s another actor in the room instead of a silent stuffed animal. 

Age 3 and up: You don’t have to spend a lot of money on organized sports or leagues in order to teach your child important coordination skills. Instead, just invest in a soccer ball, head out to a grassy area, and kick the ball back and forth, or take a soft Nerf ball out to play catch. Or map out a mile or other short distance and have them join you on a jog/walk. 

Sing a Song

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0 to 12 months old: Singing songs to your child, no matter if you’re pop-star caliber or not, helps him with his language development. Live music coming from you helps him to recognize new words and to hear rhymes and rhythm, and also helps him with his communication skills down the road! 

1 to 2 years old: Once you have a repertoire of different songs, start to sing together and allow your child to finish where you leave off. This type of sing-a-long will help her recognize patterns and work on her language as well. 

2 to 3 years old: This is the perfect age to start doing “The Hokey Pokey” or a rousing round of “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes.” Any songs that have activities with them are fun for everyone to sing together, and the dancing is lots of fun too! 

Age 3 and up: You’ll be surprised how quickly your child will start learning new songs and lyrics in the world all around you. Help them clap along to the beat of the songs in the car, or toot along using a whistle or a horn. Also, plan plenty of dance parties at home for everyone to join in and move to the music! I can’t think of a better way to develop self-expression and motor skills!

images: Getty

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