- One for you, one for me
You can use anything you like for this game -- buttons, crayons, raisins. Give your toddler a small pile and ask him to share them out -- 'one for you, one for me' -- into some small containers or plates. Invite your partner, a little friend or his favourite teddy to join in, too, so he can practise sharing things out three ways. Your toddler will love being in charge -- and this game will help introduce him to numbers as well.
- Indoor basketball
Use sheets of newspaper to make lots of balls by scrunching them up small. Clear any nearby breakable objects before starting play. Practise by having a competition to see who can throw the balls furthest. Then play basketball -- place a wastepaper bin a metre or so away and see who can land a ball in it. Besides being lots of fun, this game will help improve your toddler's hand-eye skills.
- Odd man out
Practice this game using your fruit bowl or a plate of biscuits to begin with. Put a couple of apples and a banana, for example, or two plain biscuits and one chocolate one, in front of your toddler and ask him which is the odd one out. Gradually you can make the game more difficult with card shapes or pictures -- two squares and one triangle, for example, or two flowers and one tree -- and seeing if he can spot which one is different. A great game for helping your toddler understand the concepts of 'same' and 'different'.
- Going on a picnic
Make an ordinary day more fun by having a picnic for lunch. You don't need to go out -- just spread a blanket on the sitting-room floor and eat from paper plates. Prepare some finger food with your toddler -- mini sandwiches, vegetables sticks, hardboiled eggs, for example, and encourage him to pretend that you're somewhere more exciting, like up a mountain or by a stream. Your toddler will love using his imagination and it will also give you lots to talk about.
- Where does this go?
Using old magazines cut out pictures of pieces of furniture -- chairs, TV, cooker, bed -- as well as other things you have around the house like a kettle, towels and books. Then cut out pictures of rooms -- a sitting room, dining room, garage, garden. Lay the pictures out on the floor and ask you toddler to help put all the pictures of the furniture and objects in the right room. Don't worry too much if he doesn't know or gets it wrong -- just see the game as a great chance to have a chat and encourage your toddlers conversational skills.
- Don't fall in the sea!
Pretend the carpet is the sea and your toddler has to reach the other side of the room without getting his feet wet. Place cushions, magazines or paper plates across the floor as stepping stones. A fun game that will help your toddler's sense of balance and spatial awareness.
- Red letter day
Make one day of the week a red day. Choose something to wear that's red. Have strawberry jam on toast for breakfast. Do a red painting, pick some red flowers, have a pizza for lunch, count red cars on the way to the shops and stop for a strawberry milkshake on the way home. A fun game to help teach your toddler about colours!
An easy shop-bought game your toddler will love. The idea is to fill up spaces on a board by placing matching cards over the pictures on the board. Choose a version with big bold pictures your toddler will recognise. Matching games like this are great for developing number skills.
- Scribble away
Invest in a box of jumbo crayons, spread some large sheets of plain paper over the floor and join your toddler in a scribbling game. Don't worry about making pictures -- just marking the paper with different colours and shapes will be fun as well as helping your toddler develop his hand movements.
- 'Simon says'
Although this is usually a game for a group, it's also fun played one to one. You are the leader -- begin by calling out simple commands like 'Simon says, put your hands on your head' and demonstrating the command yourself. Your toddler has to obey you. Carry on with other commands, such as 'Simon says put your hands on your knees', 'Simon says cross your arms'. Do some funny ones, too, like 'Simon says stick your tongue out'. For older two-year-olds you could try to catch your toddler out by saying 'Touch your toes' omitting 'Simon says'. Without the magic words your toddler mustn't follow the command! A great game for learning body parts and practising observation skills.
- Hot and cold
Hide a small treat in a room and then ask your toddler to come and find it. When he gets nearer the treat he's warm, when he's really close he's hot! But if he's too far away he's cold. If he gets frustrated, hold his hand and try to find the treasure together. Keep up a running commentary until he discovers where it is. A fun game that reinforces the idea of object permanence -- in other words, just because you can't see something doesn't mean it isn't there.
- All fall down
Make a set of skittles using plastic bottles or cardboard tubes from kitchen roll. You can decorate them with paint or stickers. To begin with just set up three or four about one metre from the throwing line. Use a large soft ball or a pair of rolled-up socks. Encourage your toddler to roll the ball, or throw it if he finds rolling difficult. The more practised he becomes, the further away he can stand. When he knocks one down tell him how many he has left to help him with counting.