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Activities to Encourage Your Toddler to Play


Dad and toddler play with blocks and toys


Play may seem like the most natural thing in the world for toddlers, but your participation and encouragement are important - it's best when your child has options to choose from. Let play be directed by your toddler, but feel free to be playful yourself!

If you like to sing or dance or put together puzzles, do these things with your toddler.  It's also good to use your imagination during play. For example, suggest that you and your toddler pretend to be animals by making animal noises.

Here are some other ways you can encourage your toddler to play:

  • Follow the cues your toddler gives you, such as "Roll ball, Mommy."
  • Provide a variety of toys appropriate for your toddler’s age.
  • Set aside time to play with your toddler each day. If you're rushed, play singing, word, and guessing games while you do other things.
  • When you put toys out, put others away, instead of having them all out at once. Your toddler may find it overwhelming if there are too many toys to choose from.
  • Encourage a mix of both active and quiet play.
  • Read to your toddler every day.
  • Take your toddler outside to crawl over logs, inspect insects, pick grass or stones, and explore nature.
  • Let your toddler help with household chores like washing dishes, tearing lettuce, digging in the garden or making beds. What looks like work to you may seem like play to your toddler.
  • Encourage your toddler to create individual artwork. This may be gluing clippings of colourful paper onto a board or finger painting. Your toddler may need your help to get started and to understand what to do with the materials. Then, let your toddler be creative.
  • Show your toddler that you value play by giving lots of praise. Tell others how good your toddler is at climbing, painting, or building with blocks, and proudly show your toddler’s work.
  • Gently stop playing if your toddler looks away or cries. Your toddler may be tired, hungry, or over stimulated.
Last Updated: August 14, 2013