Supporting Learning and Curiosity
Toddlers love to play and explore. The more a toddler plays, the more he develops knowledge, memory, creativity, physical coordination, balance and strength. Your role is to support that exploration and learning while meeting your toddler’s changing needs. It can be exhausting and confusing. But stay the course. The rewards are great—for both of you.
Here are some things you can do:
- Support your child’s play. Does he like to build with blocks or stacking toys? Does he like certain books? Does he seem to prefer to play and explore outside or inside? Does he do well with other children playing in his space? How does he handle noisy environments? Does he like messy play? Does he ever sit still? There is no right or wrong. It is all about using what you know to make play fun and engaging.
- Take advantage of your toddler’s need to be moving. That constant energy and movement is helping develop balance, muscle control and coordination. Every skill that he develops will lead to more complex skills in the future. For example, how he throws a ball as a toddler will influence how he can throw the ball overhand later on. So give him lots of opportunity to “practice” these emerging physical skills in everyday play while making sure that he is safe and supervised.
- Be creative about toys. Toddlers like to push and pull; pour and fill; build and knock down; imitate adult behaviors in play such as “cleaning,” caring for a “pet” or “baby”; putting things together and taking them apart; throwing and catching; and “drawing”. Most of these can be done with everyday objects: plastic measuring cups, plastic nesting bowls, cardboard boxes, a sock rolled into a ball. It’s all about finding what interests your toddler and having fun.
- Join up with other toddlers. Libraries and bookstores often provide free story times. Look for playgrounds designed for toddlers where your child can play and explore. There are also toddler playgroups and family resource centers in many communities.
- Take care of yourself! Playing with your toddler takes a lot of your time, energy and creativity. When you need a break, ask a trusted family member or friend to help out for a couple hours. This will help to “recharge” your batteries. If you find that your patience is running thin or you are feeling anxious or bored and you just can’t recharge, talk with someone you trust.