Here's What We're Doing!
Help a baby experience actions reinforced with words. For instance, say, "I'm picking you up," as you lift him up, and "Now down you go," as you put him on the floor. Speak slowly and let your voice emphasize the words. "Your socks are on and now they're off", "Let's close the door; let's open the door." Linking words with motor experiences helps children make connections.
Offer a small toy to a baby to hold in her hand. Offer another that she can hold in her other hand. Now offer a third toy. The child may put one toy down in order to hold the new one; try to hold two toys in one hand, or even hold all three in both her hands. Whatever the choice, she has participated in her own version of problem solving. Describe to her the choice she's made.
Here It Comes!
Use yarn or stiff netting to make large, lightweight pompom balls. Invite the infant to explore the balls either lying on her back or sitting up. Kneeling close, hold a ball and tell her you are going to drop it. As you do, ever so gently, say, "Here it comes!" Encourage the baby, if she wants, to pick up the ball and explore it. Repeat the activity, each time telling the infant what you are going to do, so she can begin to anticipate the action.
Think of some sounds that the baby may be familiar with. Then say, "Here's a sound a doggie makes" and make a barking sound. When you make the sounds, go slowly and pause, allowing time for the infant to contribute sounds she's thinking of. She may watch your mouth and repeat the sounds you've made or prefer to say some of her own.
Disappear and Reappear
Set out cardboard tubes and balls or cars that can fit through the tubes. (Make sure items are not choking hazards!) After the toddler has had time to explore, lay a tube on the floor and roll a car or ball through it so that it disappears. Now pick up one end of the tube so the item rolls out the other end and reappears. Encourage the toddler to explore making the items disappear and reappear.
Shine My Bright Light
Have a flashlight on hand and darken the room. As you move the beam of light around the room, sing or chant a little song: "I have a light. It is a shiny and bright light. Shine my bright light on ..." And stop the light so it illuminates an object. Encourage the toddler to call out the name of the object. if he doesn't, say the name yourself and continue on with the game. After some experience, toddlers will probably want to shine the light and have you name the objects.
Picture Match Ups
Cut large, clear, appealing pictures from old calendars or magazines. (This works best with photographs of objects or scenes that are familiar to children's lives.) Cut each picture in half and cover each piece with clear self-adhesive paper. Give the toddler four pieces at a time (two different pictures) and ask him if he'd like to try matching them up. As the toddler becomes more skillful, add more pictures.
In, Out, and Around
Try this outdoor activity. Use chalk to draw a large circle on the ground. Ask toddlers to stand inside the circle. Now ask them to stand outside the circle. Now walk around the circle. Take turns calling out what to do. Then try drawing another shape, doing the same things, and then moving between the shapes.
This activity originally appeared in the March, 2001 issue of Early Childhood Today.