Feeding Your Toddlers Brain

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Children benefit exploring their own interests and surrounds while playing and a variety of structured and unstructured activities are encouraged. Structured activities are wonderful to help develop new skills, while unstructured play gives your child the opportunity to master those skills, explore their imagination and the world around them.

Spending time playing with your toddler is especially good for their cognitive development. We all know that play is fun, but it also serves an important role in your child’s physical, social, emotional and intellectual learning and development. Playtime helps children to develop physical motor skills and gives them the opportunity to learn about themselves and how they fit into the world. Play helps to shape how a child grows, how they relate to people, what skills they develop and how confident they feel with those skills. Playing with your child is great for building your relationship and it sends them a powerful message that we want them to take with them through life - “You are important to me”. 

Structured play

This is play that happens at a particular time or involves following directions or rules. It is often adult led and it helps children to learn specific skills, to develop logic, to follow directions and to problem solve. 

Here are some ideas for structured play activities for you and your toddler:

Water familiarisation classes for toddlers, or swimming lessons for older children.
Storytelling groups at the local library.
Dance, music, drama or gymnastics classes.
An organised craft activity.

Unstructured play

Have you ever had an imaginary cup of tea lovingly prepared and served to you by your toddler? This is free play that isn’t planned and is not directed by an adult. It happens depending on what takes your child’s interest at the time and is known as unstructured play. 

When children have the time and space to play freely, their imaginations wander, they can explore ideas and creatively engage with each other and the world around them. Try giving your little one free access to materials like cardboard boxes, simple musical instruments, drawing and craft materials and see what they do with it. This can inspire lots of valuable explorative and creative play even when you don’t have a lot of space. 

Here are some ideas to inspire activities that will help develop your toddler’s cognitive, physical, and emotional skills through play. You don’t have to spend lots of money on toys, games and books for children, homemade toys and free activities are often the most creative ways for you and your little one to have fun together while learning through play.

Creative play including artistic or musical activities.
Making cubby houses with boxes or blankets dressing up or playing make-believe.
Exploring interesting play spaces like cupboards, the backyard, a garden, or playground.
Musical chairs and musical statues.
Make an obstacle course.
Act out stories.
Pretend to be an animal.
Hide and seek.
Throw a soft ball, bean bag or cuddly toy into a bucket.
Make nature art with sticks, rocks and flowers.