Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Fun Activities To Play With Toddlers

Today at work I had a blast! I knew I had won the heart over of a new toddler client when he gave me a zerbert...you know, a slobbery kiss with tooting noises. The goal of the OT session today was to help with his poor balance and upper body strength. But he didn't know that, he just thought that some lady came to play with him. You know that a toddler had fun with your activities during the therapy session when they don't want you to leave. Even though this family had lots of toys and a big house, and parents willing to buy any toy that would help this child improve with his developmental delays in motor and speech skills, I opted for fun activities for a toddler that are free. I did this by searching the game room and his bedroom for any toy, game, or activity that could be used to help his balance. Then, we played things that require absolutely no equipment, just our bodies. Some fun activities for toddlers that we played were:

  • Animal walks with animal noises: donkey kicks as we said "eh-oh", bear crawl as we growled (the downward dog yoga pose), slithering on the belly like a snake as we hissed, and jumping like a frog as we said "ribbit"
  • Obstacle course: we had a step stool to jump off of, a tunnel to crawl through, a large tall table to slither under, and a large pillow to crash onto after a 5 foot bout of "wheelbarrow walking". Although he had fun and was giggling, we had to help with sequencing. Don't add too many items to the obstacle course of a toddler.
  • Lap play: as he sat on my lap and I bounced him, I encouraged him to act like a cowboy riding a bull. As he had his arms in the air and I bounced him, I also "threw" off his balance to the sides to encourage him to use his arms to protect himself. Without protective extension, the toddler will have lots of bo-bos!
  • He wanted to play chase, but I discouraged this for him, although it may be good with other kids. This little toddler has a habit of running off when things become too difficult either at home, community, or at his preschool. So, I didn't want to feed into this. But I did however encourage other reciprocal activities such as turn-taking, rolling or kicking ball back and forth
  • "rough housing": him and his Dad rough house, so I showed the family how to do this where this toddler boy could be building up trunk strength (core stability) and improving in his upper body strength
  • I encouraged him to sing songs and perform novel motions. Examples, "If You Are Happy & You Know It, Clap Your Feet"- this really takes trunk balance to sit on the floor as your feet clap together. Another song was "Jump Around the Rosies" instead of "Ring Around the Rosies".
  • Be creative when playing toddler games...the sillier the better. At home with my own toddler, I turn on the TV to a toddler music station, and he loves to move and dance to the music as he plays in the living room
  • I encouraged the mom to take the little boy to the park and swimming pool, 2 really good activities to build strength and coordination
  • I suggested that after he has got out the "wiggles" to encourage him to sit in a chair without a back and play with puzzles, stringing beads, Mr.Potato Head or other 2-handed activities. This lil' toddler has difficulty crossing the middle of his body or using 2 hands at once due to mild low muscle tone in his trunk and extremity muscles
  • I suggested the parents use their exercise ball to have the lil' tot balance and bounce on in different positions: sitting, lying on back, lying on belly, sidely, or stand
  • Water art out on the sidewalk as he squats: get sponges or paint brushes and play away! the water dries quickly (or at least where I live because it is hot here!) and they can start all over again!
  • The final tip, was to have him help with yard work such as using the water hose or watering can to water the flowers. This is fun and buids upper body strength. You might even get lucky enough to see a butterfly or lady bug!

The possibility of toddler games is endless and so often the activities can be played for free. This is such a fun age because they are usually redirectable and easily distracted, even if they can be stubborn from time to time.

1 comment:

  1. Hi -- I just found your blog and think it would be valuable to readers of the BLOOM blog. BLOOM is a magazine on parenting kids with disabilities that I produce.

    I will list your blog on our blog, and wondered if you would consider listing our site under your links? You can check us out at:


    Thanks! Louise