The age between infancy and preschool is a time in which children learn very quickly. They are fast discovering themselves and the world around them. Their own bodies and abilities are a wonder, and they develop skills that they will find useful throughout their lives. Toddlers are curious and hungry for information. They are often fickle-minded and have a short attention span, though. Therefore, you will need to give them stimulating activities to do, from which they can both learn and enjoy.
Preschools usually divide skills and abilities according to mental, physical and emotional development.
Motor skills. Motor or muscle skill is usually divided into two aspects: gross motor and fine motor development. Gross motor involves large movements, like walking, jumping, and the like. To help your toddler develop his skills in taking strides, jumping or running, you can get him a beach ball, a play bowling set, or just about anything with a ball that he can throw around. These will help stimulate and strengthen his muscles. At first, he won’t be as adept at throwing, kicking or catching a ball, but as he gets used to it, he will be able to throw and catch the ball with ease.
As for fine motor development, these will involve your child’s being able to manipulate small objects, such as pens and crayons. This also includes his being able to pour out liquid from bottles into a glass, and also catching a ball with his hands (and not his arms). Children love trying out something new. Ask your toddler to help you with pouring liquids into glass. For example, you can have him pour his milk, or water. These will be new to him, and he will find it an interesting activity.
Cognitive development. Children are very curious and will ask about anything around them. You and your toddler can play word games while you’re walking or driving around town. For example, you can play opposites. You say a word, and he says the opposite of that word. Or you can point at objects and ask him to describe these. You can ask about color, shape, height, and just about anything descriptive.
Another way to stimulate cognitive development in your toddler is by playing pretend. Keep his imagination healthy, and he will learn to be creative by trying to actually live what he is imagining or pretending to be. You can also help stimulate his memory and logic skills by playing with jigsaw puzzles (with large pieces), or by playing “Simon says.” This will not only help him learn how to follow directions, but he will practice his active listening skills, too.
Creativity. Children like to express themselves. A toddler is at a time when he should be exposed to the arts, such as music and the visual arts. Give your toddler a lot of art materials, like paints, crayons, paper. He will enjoy being able to manipulate three-dimensional objects like clay and play dough. Ask him to create objects with shapes. You can also get him involved in the kitchen when you bake cookies, for instance. He can work with molding the dough into interesting shapes.
Dancing and singing are, of course, excellent ways to encourage creativity in your toddler. Have him listen to a wide array of musical genres. Listen to kids’ songs, but also expand to other genres, like pop, rock and roll and the classics. He will gain an appreciation for the different kinds of arts this way.