Your 18-month-old child can be so busy exploring her world that it's hard to keep up; language is exploding, little hands can open cabinets and doors, and she's unable to remember the rules you just told her. Here are some developmentally appropriate activities to do at home that require very little setup time or expense and help focus that fountain of energy called a toddler.
Children this age love to imitate adults, according to Lesia Oesterreich, M.S., family-life extension specialist at Iowa State University, and pretend-cooking is a familiar place to start. This is a high-interest -- but slightly messy -- activity, so sit him down in the middle of a plastic table cloth to contain the spills. Surround him with a metal pot or plastic bowl, flour, rice, small beans like lentils and a salt shaker. Water is optional. Ask him to cook a little lunch for the two of you, or just let him play with the materials.
Write a Letter
Long before your child reads, she is developing reading skills by engaging with language. A simple reading-readiness activity involves writing a letter to a favorite adult. Sit together at the computer, setting the font size to "Large" and changing it to a bold, bright color that helps hold her attention. Ask simple questions like what she ate for lunch, what her favorite toy is, if she likes to take naps. While you're likely to get one to two-word answers, the National Institute for Literacy reports that you will build her vocabulary by filling in the missing words to form a full sentence. Speak the words aloud as you're entering them on your keyboard.
Simple pretend play is another top choice for an 18-month old child, who never seems to tire of repetition. "Mail carrier!" can keep her busy for an hour. Set out a newspaper and ask her to find a toy or other object to surprise you with. Show her the basics of wrapping it up in newspaper, grab a cup of tea and go sit down in a nearby room. When she's ready, have her knock on the door and announce, "Mail Carrier!" Invite her in, unwrap the package and reward her with your enthusiasm. Repeat.
You don't have to go any farther than your living room to go on a camping trip -- simply make a tent by throwing blankets over tables, couches or chairs. Crawl inside with snacks, some basic camping supplies and your imagination. The "tent" can change into a castle with knights and a moat, a ship on a trip to the North Pole, or a barn filled with animals.
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