Children learn through play, and they must spend time playing each day. Free play and guided play both have benefits, and it’s great for your child to have a mix of play styles throughout the day.
Playing doesn’t come naturally to all parents, however, so we’ve compiled a list of fun and easy educational games you can play at home with your toddler.
These games don’t rely on expensive equipment or up-to-date technology; they are good old-fashioned games you can play easily and readily.
If you’re interested in learning more about the importance of play for your child’s development, look at our article Child’s Play: Why It’s Such A Big Deal.
According to a study carried out by the Minnesota Children’s Museum:
‘In the short and long term, play benefits cognitive, social, emotional, and physical development. Children learn cognitive skills such as creativity, problem-solving, divergent thinking, mathematics, and language. They learn to negotiate social relationships, regulate their emotions, and control their behaviors.
‘Play also fosters the development of fine and gross motor skills. When play is fun and child-directed, children are motivated to engage in opportunities to learn’.
Toddler fun learning games
As a parent, you’re in charge of teaching your kids about the world. You’re going to help them learn to face their fears, read great literature, and maybe create a better world.
If you worry you aren’t teaching them enough or spending enough time on educational activities, fear not. Children learn through play at their own pace. There’s no such thing as wasted playtime.
Every time your children play, they’re mastering important life skills – from communication skills and fine motor skills, to social skills and problem-solving.
Playtime is always invaluable for children. You don’t need to spend ages setting up a Pinterest-worthy activity; your children will learn just by playing with the toys they have access to every day.
Educational games for toddlers
Reframe how you think about education, especially when it comes to younger kids. Education doesn’t need to be quiet and orderly or take place at a desk. Education might be loud and messy, and can happen halfway up a tree. There are so many skills to teach your toddler, and the best way to do this is through play.
Don’t underestimate your own value. Each interaction with you is teaching your toddlers important skills. The more time they spend interacting with you, the better.
Setting aside time for play is a good way of giving your child one-on-one attention. Leave your phone in another room and ignore any household tasks that need doing.
Toddler learning games | Age 1
One-year-olds are truly wonderful. They’re funny and strong-willed, and naturally curious about the world around them.
If you spend your days looking after a one-year-old, you might be looking for some educational games you can play to keep them entertained. Just remember, one-year-olds love repetition, so you’re likely to get bored with the games long before they do.
Here are some fun games you can play with them at home:
One-year-olds love music and dancing, so nursery rhymes are bound to be a big hit. You can sing the nursery rhymes from your childhood or search online for a modern nursery rhyme to learn. Your toddler will love doing the dance moves with you and will probably ask you to sing it again and again.
Hide and go seek
Your one-year-old might not be old enough to hide in the cupboard under the stairs while you count to 100, but he’ll love this game of seeking out hidden objects.
For younger toddlers, you can cover a toy with a blanket and ask them to find it. Then, as your child gets stuck into the game, you can start hiding things further afield.
Toddler learning games | Age 2
Two-year-olds get a bad rep, but they’re lots of fun to hang out with. As their communication skills and fine motor skills improve, you’ll be able to play more complicated games together.
Here are some fun games you can play with your two-year-old today:
There are lots of ways to teach your child to sort by color. You can spend a small fortune on a beautiful wooden color sorting kit or you can simply use the toys you already have in the house for this game.
Another idea is to take a muffin tray and put a colored circle in each muffin hole. Then ask your toddler to fill the holes with the right colored pom-poms/beads/crayons or whatever you have to hand.
As your toddler gets older, you can add in some giant tweezers for him to use; this helps improve fine motor skills.
Toddler preschool learning games
Preschool-aged little ones can play more complicated games with you. Three and four-year-olds need lots of stimulation, so you’ll want to play lots of games with them throughout the day.
Here are some suggestions for games to educate and entertain preschoolers:
Indoor obstacle course
Use the sofa cushions, the furniture, and anything else you can find to create an indoor obstacle course. Your preschoolers will love leaping around the room. You can time them to see how fast they can do it.
This great game will help to improve their coordination, balance, and motor skills. Be sure to move any breakables, though, and child-proof the area before you play.
This game is great for improving memory skills in preschoolers. Take a tray and put a variety of objects on it. Start with four items, but increase the number as your toddler masters the game.
Give your toddler 30 seconds to memorize the objects on the tray, then cover it with a tea towel and remove an object. See if your toddler can figure out which object is missing. It’s a simple game your toddler will love.
Look at your toddler face on and copy everything he does; he’ll probably find this hilarious. You can switch roles and have him copy you, too. Get creative with your facial expressions and poses to make this great game even more fun.
Everyday learning opportunities in the home
Your children don’t only need to learn to read and write; they also need to learn how to look after themselves.
Little ones are easily pleased, so the following list of what you consider to be chores will seem like playtime for your toddler:
Emptying the dishwasher
Yep, it’s no fun for you, but emptying the dishwasher is exciting for your kid. A young child can help unload the cutlery drawer (as long as you have removed any sharp objects first). He’ll love passing you the clean spoons.
Be sure to talk through what you’re doing so he’s learning fun new words in the process. An older kid will be able to place the cutlery in the correct drawer, too. It isn’t the fastest way to empty a dishwasher, but it turns a chore into a game.
Sorting the laundry
Laundry is a never-ending job or a super fun toddler activity, depending on how you look at it. Realistically, a one-year-old is just going to make a mess and slow you down, but he’ll love helping out, and you can talk him through the different types of clothes as you go.
An older toddler, however, will be much more helpful. For example, he’ll help with pairing socks and figuring out which item of clothing belongs to which member of the family.