When toddlers play games, there are several developmental benefits—not to mention the fun! Unfortunately, the amount of time dedicated to playing has decreased over the decades due to tight schedules, school, rising media use, and more. The average preschooler watches 4.5 hours of TV every day!
It's safe to say that it's time to put down the devices and play. There are so many games for one-year-olds, two-year-olds, and three-year-olds. You've got plenty of options depending on your schedule, your wants, and your needs. We rounded up some of our favorites. The best part? They're not only fun, but they keep your child’s milestones in mind. The following offline games can teach your children all types of things — who knows? Maybe you’ll learn something fun, too.
Games for One-Year-Olds
The following games are fantastic for teaching your twelve-month-old the fundamentals.
That's right—this game is as simple as having two hands to cover your face with!
Get your child's attention and simply cover your mouth and eyes with both hands. Then, open your hands like window shutters and say, "Peek-a-boo!" with a silly, fun expression. Watch the smiles ensue!
2. Mirror, Mirror, On the Wall . . .
It may not sound like a game, but for a one-year-old, it certainly is!
Grab a handheld mirror and hold it up to your child's face. Enjoy watching them change their facial expression as they explore what they look like. You can add your face to the mix — or hold the mirror in front of them so they can enjoy the solo experience.
3. Play with blocks
Blocks provide many learning opportunities. They could be different colors and sizes, and you can do many things with them!
Stack blocks up as tall as you can, and count them when they fall. Divide blocks by colors or sizes. Of course, most of this work will be done by you, but your one-year-old can watch and absorb as much as possible.
Games for Two-Year-Olds
If you're running out of things to do with little ones, look no further! Two-year-olds are beginning to grasp language, develop motor skills, scribble and draw, and much more than their 12-month-old selves. Below are games for two-year-olds that keep development, learning, and playful, unstructured fun in mind.
4. Hot and Cold
This game is like hide-and-seek, but with an object. Take your two-year-old's favorite toy or stuffed animal and hide it (but not too good!). Let them search the area for their toy. As they get closer to the object, tell them they're getting warmer; the farther away they get, the "colder" they get.
This is the leveled up version of peek-a-boo! Are your little ones ready? It's a classic game that's fun, but this version requires a bit more effort—and patience, too, which is great for emotional development.
Let your toddler hide and pretend to seek them out. When you find them, switch roles. Try to choose a hiding spot that's not too difficult!
6. Puzzle Time
Puzzles are the perfect way to develop cognitive and physical function while still enjoying oneself.
Buy a puzzle that utilizes a small number of large pieces, and help your two-year-old put it together. Let them try a few wrong options and understand why those don't fit. Reward them with praise when they find a match.
Games for Three-Year-Olds
As your child ages up and hits the three- to four-year-old range, their development becomes particularly obvious and magical! This stage of life is imaginative, curious, and eager to learn. Take advantage of their budding vocabulary, color-matching, story-telling skills, and more, by playing games that encourage these behaviors.
At this age, your toddler is likely more confident on their feet, able to bend over without falling, and maybe even a pro hopper too!
Put these skills to the test with a little, easy version of hopscotch. They can even help you draw out the hopscotch with chalk on the sidewalk, as they are likely beginning to draw a little more clearly. Make a simplified hopscotch game and show them how to play. Depending on their development, you may want or need to hold their hand(s) as they navigate the game. Have them hop from one foot to the other, spin in a circle at the finish, and more.
Your child might even start kicking a ball a bit! If so, play a friendly game of kickball with them.
Use an age-appropriate, lightweight ball and kick it back and forth in a safe environment (no potential for falling or broken objects around). You can even set up little cones and try to have them aim the ball for inside the cones, like a soccer game!
9. Act out a little scene
Story-telling is an innate behavior, and your child is likely starting to tell stories themselves or remember parts of stories you tell them. One way to make story-telling a fun game is by acting it out.
Assign characters to yourself and your children and play a role. Go through a story-line. Later, you can even ask them questions and see what parts of the story they remember, testing their cognitive abilities.
These games are fun to read about—now imagine playing them with your growing and learning toddler. All of these games are educational, entertaining, exciting, and more. Give yourself the gift of fun memories and play one of these today. You'll be glad you did—and so will they!
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