Keep your little one out of mischief with these games that are fun to play and simple to learn.
You're in the kitchen cooking dinner and suddenly notice the house is quiet -- too quiet. You check on your tot to find she has emptied the entire contents of her closet and toy bin onto the floor. Why? Because she was bored.
Bored toddlers tend to be extra curious (and occasionally destructive) in their quest for fun. Whether you need to fill a rainy afternoon, beat the midwinter weather slump or are just hoping to find new ways to have fun with your kiddo, these easy-to-play toddler games are sure to fit the bill.
- Play With Water
Kids love playing in water, so what easier game is there than pulling a chair up to a kitchen sink filled with water and unbreakable kitchen utensils and dishes? You'd be surprised how long a ladle, some measuring cups, a wooden spoon and a plastic cup will keep her busy. Add soapy bubbles for extra fun! This same activity can be done outside with a bucket of water on a hot, sunny day.
- Where's My Toy?
Lynne Noel, former preschool director and co-author of "The Grammie Guide," recommends a new twist on hide-and-seek in which you hide a few of your tot's toys while she covers her eyes. Help your child search for the toy until she gets the hang of the game, then switch places and allow her to hide toys in the room for you to find.
- Take a Discovery Walk
Even a short trip around the block -- or to the mailbox -- can be made into a game. Take along an empty egg carton and help your toddler put little treasures she finds in each egg cup. She'll be proud to show off her collection to friends and family. Remember the walk later in the day by inspecting each object and asking your child where she found it, what makes it special and where it may have come from -- especially interesting if she finds lost buttons.
- Paint With Water
Let your little one test out her artistic skills by "painting" with water. Noel recommends giving your budding Picasso a container of water and real paint brushes and letting her paint your fence, deck, sidewalk or outside furniture. Your tot will get a kick out of painting with water and might even clean things up for you!
- Can You Guess What I'm Thinking?
"The best games are the old-fashioned ones that require carrying nothing," says Dr. Fran Walfish, child psychotherapist and author of "The Self-Aware Parent." This verbal game has many variations and can easily be played as a car game. The first player simply says what category she is thinking of, and the other players take turns guessing what specific object it is. Whoever gets it right becomes the "thinker" for the next round. Walfish recommends using categories like food, desserts, books, friends and so on. This game is also a fun learning tool for your preschooler to review objects, animals or other categories to improve her vocabulary and classification skills.
- Play Detective
Walfish created this game for children with social skills deficits, and it can also be used for toddlers to bond with their parents and learn communication skills. Take turns asking each other get-to-know-you questions like "when is your birthday?" or "what's your favorite color, toy, movie, etc.?" "This game stimulates curiosity in children and teaches them how to make friends with their peers," says Walfish.
- Go on a Scavenger Hunt
A scavenger hunt is a great activity to do with kids of all ages. Make a list of random objects, and help your child hunt them out. A scavenger hunt can be indoors or outdoors -- or you can be sneaky and do a "grocery store" scavenger hunt to keep your child entertained while filling your cart with found objects. You can also make a picture list, rather than using words, so your child can be the keeper of the list and cross off found items. Cut pictures from magazines or sketch simple drawings.
Do your kids like hunts? Here are 8 more scavenger hunt ideas to try.
Want more toddler games? Check out these fun activities to do with toddlers.
Victoria Georgoff is a freelance writer and therapist who enjoys writing about parenting, helping other parents and, of course, being a parent herself.