Games Toddlers Play
Checkers anyone? Not with a toddler or preschooler. Board and card games are great ways to engage young children in activities that challenge their developing minds and entertain at the same time. But most games require strategy and rules that are beyond their ability to grasp.
The rules of a game are usually the hardest part for small children to learn. In fact, for toddlers, they take all the fun out of it, according to Margarita Perez, Ed.D., associate professor of early childhood education at Worcester State College in Massachusetts. "Developmentally, toddlers don't accept rules like taking turns," she says, adding that the best games for young children allow them to react to things they know about the world, not structured games that involve memory and strategizing. Those will come later, as they build the necessary skills.
In the meantime, here are some age-appropriate games developed by Sheila Ellison, author of 365 Games Toddlers Play (Sourcebooks, Inc.):
Two-Year-Olds: Hands-On Playing
Sorting pasta is another tactile activity that involves a toddler's growing ability to see differences in things. Ellison suggests mixing a variety of different pasta shapes (corkscrews, elbows, bowties, etc.) and colors in a large bowl. Show your toddler how to make a pile of same-shaped or same-colored pasta. As she sorts, tell her the names of each shape.
Three-Year-Olds: Playing by the Numbers
Four-Year Olds: Brain Boosters
When younger children want to play games intended for older ones, let them --but bend the rules as you need to. Four-year-old Megan Hassi of Jacksonville, Fla. can't read yet, but that doesn't stop her from "playing" Monopoly with her sisters, who are six and eight. "We usually find ways to accommodate Megan, by playing in teams or having the older girls cover their ears when we read a card to her," says her mom, Catherine. And sometimes, even the big girls need to bend the rules: "They don't get that they have to give up their pretty-colored money if they want to play the game."
Patricia Berry is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Working Mother, This Old House, New Jersey Life and The New York Times and has also served as an editorial consultant for the online resource, ClubMom.
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