Now that your baby is a year old, the real fun begins! Play time is a great way for mom and baby to spend quality time together. While toy stores are filled with bright, flashy, expensive toys to boost brain power and facilitate learning in toddlers, they're not necessary. Try some of these educational and entertaining games with your little one today. There are almost no supplies needed!
By his first birthday, your child has likely mastered at least one form of movement and is working on others. Whether scooting, crawling, or walking, baby might seem confident when he's on the go, but he still requires careful coordination to get from Point A to Point B. He's also learning about the relationship between himself and world around him. Playing games that focus on motor skills, coordination, and even sharing can help your child develop as he grows from an infant to a toddler. These games are appropriate for kids ages 12-24 months.
Play ball: By 12 months, your little one's personality is well-developed. Playing ball and sharing a toy helps baby explore and develop a new range of motion, and teaches him good social skills. Sit on the floor with your baby, making sure the two of you have enough room to roll and move around (always make sure you are out of the way of furniture and other things that could injure your baby).
While any small ball will do, try something made of a soft material, like rubber, to ensure playtime stays safe. Start out a leg's length away from baby and roll the ball back and forth between you. Once he comprehends the game, roll the ball away from both of you and pretend like you are racing him to get it--let him win a few times so he can get a taste of victory!
What goes up must come down: Besides moving around, your baby is also fine-tuning his hand-eye coordination. By now, he knows how to pass an object from one hand to the other, and how to use both hands to handle things. He has probably also learned that he doesn't have to use his whole hand to pick up a piece of cereal (unless he's trying to shovel a whole handful into his mouth at once!). But what he hasn't yet realized is his ability to react to moving objects.
Get some old thin scarves or tissue paper (paper towels work, too), and drop them from up high. Show him how to catch these objects as they slowly float down toward him. To make it extra fun, go outside (weather permitting) and blow bubbles while you sing songs like "Pop goes the Weasel," when he catches one.
The sound of music: From the time he was a newborn (and maybe even before), your baby has heard musical notes coming from mommy or daddy in the form of lullabies or fun bath songs. Fostering your child's love for music is beneficial in many ways, and now is a good time to start teaching him about how a song can make anything fun! Start with a "clean-up" rhyme in a playful voice (your baby won't notice or care if you're tone deaf!) while you both put away his toys. Eventually, baby will look forward to clean-up time, because it has become a game.
If your tyke is a steady walker, play a modified version of musical chairs. Pop in an upbeat CD and dance around (as silly as you can), then abruptly stop the music. When you stop the music, stop the dancing and shout, "Freeze!" Then start the music up again and resume the (silly) dancing. Chances are, your child will be overcome with laughter as you add the element of surprise. As your child gets older and begins to learn the names of body parts, introduce, "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes!" He will love to combine music and his new vocabulary words!
Winding it down: Your child is developing a longer attention span--two to six minutes or more, depending on his age. Spending some time on a quiet activity could help your child's focus. If he hasn't taken an interest in books, it's probably because he was more fascinated with how the pages turned than the actual content of the story.
Find a book with larger pictures and read to him. Then, instead of flipping immediately to the next page, spend some time pointing out and describing objects in the picture. Soon, your child will be able to recognize those objects, even if he hasn't developed the ability to verbalize what he sees. If there is a face on the picture, think outside the box by pointing out eyes, ears, nose, and mouth, and then go further to tell him if the face is smiling (happy) or frowning (sad, angry). This will broaden your child's vocabulary (when it comes) and help the two of you learn to communicate more effectively. He will begin to recognize when mommy or daddy is happy with something he has done or not so pleased. You may also point to other, not-so-obvious objects on the page, like the stars in the night sky, or the mailbox at the end of the driveway. This will help him to learn observational skills and what distinguishes one object from another, which will come in handy while he's learning colors, shapes, numbers, and the alphabet later on.
Each child is unique, and each grows at his or her own natural pace. Your child may be fully entertained with a certain activity for months at a time and unwilling to try something different. Don't be alarmed by this, as there will come a day when "Peek-a-boo" no longer floats his boat.
If he doesn't seem interested in a new activity at first, try it again later. He may be fixating on a certain game or toy because he is developing confidence in his talents and abilities to master how it works. Eventually, his confidence will turn into boredom and he'll be ready to try something else. And, in every new thing he tries, always encourage your child--when he does something he's proud of and when he's struggling to learn something unfamiliar.
Praise and encouragement from you will help him feel more secure in your presence, and as he grows, he'll feel more comfortable with social and independent activities because he is reassured of your love and approval.
Christine Johnson is a freelance writer who is the proud mother of one daughter.