You don’t need a wallet full of cash to entertain your little one—you probably have all the supplies you need at home. Try these to start:
Toddler Ball Toss
What you need: A foam, plastic, or felt ball, plus a flat surface to play on.
How to play: Sit and face each other, legs spread apart. (If your cutie has trouble managing this position, give him a hand.) Gently push the ball in his direction. Tell your toddler to “catch” the ball, and encourage him to roll it back to you. (Hint: The closer you sit, the easier it will be to demonstrate the technique.) Repeat—it may take a while for him to get the hang of it. For fun, add colorful large and small balls or sparkly ones that glow when you roll or toss them.
Pee-Wee Scavenger Hunt
What you need: Favorite toys and an obstacle-free room to roam around in.
How to play: Gather one or two of baby’s most coveted items, and scatter them around the room. Place them where she is likely to find them. (She’s a toddler—it’s fine to hide them in plain sight!) Ask aloud, “Where do you think your bunny is hiding?” Help her search for her it. Don’t make the hunt too hard—you don’t want to frustrate or bore her. Applaud when she finds bunny and shower her with hugs and kisses.
Dance Party Duo
What you need: Favorite tunes, a radio, iPod or CD, and room to wiggle.
How to play: Make up an easy dance—nothing harder than swinging and swaying your arms or wriggling your torso. Pump up the volume and encourage your toddler to start moving. Show him how to march to the beat. If that’s too hard for your move master, scoop him up in your arms and dance with him. Try it again and let him choose the tune to dance to.
What you need: A pared-down family or bonus room with few obstructions, and a large chair or sofa to hide behind.
How to play: Reassure your toddler first you will be right there in the room with her, even though she may not be able to see you for several seconds. Once she gets the gist of the game, tell her you are going to hide now, just like bunny did earlier. Ask your toddler to close her eyes, and then duck behind a chair or a sofa or hide in plain sight where she will see you. Say “Okay, now it’s time to find me!” Keep talking; you’ll want to prompt your child until she spots you. Repeat the game. Tell your scout it’s her turn to hide. Close your eyes and then say, I’m coming to get you! Celebrate by playing the same game with Daddy!
Junior Leap Frog
What you need: Several 12x12 squares of bubble wrap and ample floor space.
How to play: Scatter the bubble wrap squares around a room. (Tip: Place them just a few inches apart to make this game easier.) Show your toddler how to crouch like a frog and stand up again. Hold his hand as he walks and hears the bubbles pop. Encourage him to “hop” and “crouch” his way from one lily pad to another. When he’s done playing, snack on something green together.