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From 21-24 Months

The Beat Goes On!
Drumming is relaxing and fun, and the energy created when people combine their drumming efforts is vibrant. You and your little one can hold your own private drumming session at home. It's a great bonding activity and your toddler will get a thrill out of hearing the booming sounds.

Good for age: 18 months (but older and younger kids might enjoy it, too!)
Skills developed: fine motor skills, understanding of cause and effect, rhythm
What you'll need: a couple of toy drums (or go the homemade route and try empty ice cream containers or coffee tins turned upside down, using your hands or wooden spoons for drumsticks)
What to do: Sit on the floor with your toddler. Place a drum in front of each of you and help her experiment with the different sounds she can make. Show her that if you hit it hard, it makes a loud "boom", and if you drum softly, it makes a soft "boom". You can also experiment with fast and slow.

Don't worry if she prefers to watch you instead of participating. She may feel more comfortable observing for while, especially if she's in a cautious mood. When she does start to beat on her drum, though, praise her efforts and join in. You may also want to turn on some music and drum along to it.
If your drums are different, and if she's amenable to this, you can try swapping so that she gets a turn with a different type of sound. Jam on!
Master smear-maker
Have you ever caught your toddler in the act of smearing food on her highchair tray or table? Of course you have! The textures and colours of food are interesting to toddlers, though this doesn't necessarily mean they'll want to eat it! Just think of the real art your child can create with that smearing technique. Now that their fine motor skills have become more developed, some 20-month-olds are able to draw horizontal and vertical lines, or even a circle.

Good for age: 20 months (but older and younger kids might enjoy it, too!)
Skills developed: fine motor skills, imagination, colour recognition
What you'll need: finger paints, wax paper and plain white paper. Note: For a simple, homemade version of finger paints, combine 3 tablespoons of sugar, 3/4 cup of cornflour, and 2 cups of water. Then divide the mixture into separate containers and add a few drops of food colouring to each container.
What to do: Tape a large sheet of wax paper to the table or your child's highchair tray to protect the surface. Over the wax paper, tape a sheet of regular white paper.

Start with just one colour of paint. Pour a small amount directly onto the paper and show your toddler how to dip her fingers into it and smear it around. When she gets the hang of it, add a few more colours by pouring small amounts of the other paints onto the paper and naming the colours for her. Then sit back and let her go to town.

Your child may want to paint several masterpieces or stop after just one. Either way, display her work on the window or fridge so that you can admire it together. Tell her a couple of specific things that you like (for example, "You have dots here and streaks here, that's a nice variety," or "I like how the green goes all the way along the bottom"). This will show her that you value the unique qualities in her work.
Where, oh where?
Introduce your toddler to the classic children's game of hide-and-seek by enlisting the help of her trusty teddy bear. This game will further develop her understanding of object permanence (the idea that an object continues to exist even when it's hidden from view). It will also exercise her problem-solving skills as she figures out more and more places to search. Last but not least, it's a real mood-lifter; your child's joy at finding her teddy will probably be contagious!

Good for age: 21 months (but older and younger kids might enjoy it, too!)
Skills developed: gross motor skills, imagination, problem-solving, object permanence
What you'll need: a favourite stuffed animal or doll
What to do: Show your toddler the teddy bear (or other animal or doll) and say: "Teddy is going to hide! Can you find him?" Then stash the teddy somewhere. It's surprisingly easy to do this without your child seeing the actual hiding place. Just walk around the room, wait until her gaze is averted, and slip it behind a sofa cushion. Hey, you're Houdini!

Choose easy hiding places at first, like the highchair or buggy, until your little one gets the hang of the game. Feel free to offer some hints if she's having trouble, and give her a big congratulations when she does find him. Gradually increase the difficulty of the hiding places as your toddler's seeking skills get sharper. (This might stretch your imagination, too!)
Off to market
Chances are your child has had plenty of experience with supermarkets by now. Since she loves to imitate the adults in her life (especially you!), she'll particularly enjoy this activity which allows her to be the master of her own shopping trolley domain.

Good for age: 22 months (but older and younger kids might enjoy it, too!)
Skills developed: imagination
What you'll need: a washing basket or large cardboard box to serve as a "shopping trolley", several tins and packaged foods from your kitchen and a paper or canvas shopping bag
What to do: Set up a mini supermarket by placing the tins and packaged foods around the room. Then show your child how to go shopping by pushing the trolley from item to item and placing them in the trolley.

When she's finished filling her trolley, you can ask her if she's ready to go to the checkout. Take the food out of the trolley and put it in the bag (she may want to help you with this). If you want to incorporate money, you can say something like: "That will be $10, please," and hold out your hand. See if she'll pretend to put money in your hand.

Hand her the bag and say: "Thank you for shopping. Here you go!" Of course, it doesn't end here; she'll probably want to play again. Put the tins and packets in different places this time so she gets a little variety.

When she's had her fill of food shopping, tell her that it's time to put away the food that she bought, and see if she'll help you with this. For example, she can hand the items to you as you put them back in the kitchen.
A very hungry bear
Letting your toddler "feed" a favourite stuffed animal or doll is an excellent way for her to learn spoon control. After helping to nourish her little one, she may find that feeding herself comes more easily. This activity will also help her start to explore empathy, or looking at things from another's point of view (though she won't truly understand this for another few years or more).

Good for age: 23 months (but older and younger children might enjoy it, too!)
Skills developed: fine motor skills, imagination, empathy, self-feeding
What you'll need: bowl, spoon, bib, washcloth and a teddy or other favourite stuffed toy or doll
What to do: Settle the teddy or doll into a chair, buggy or anywhere that's easy for your child to reach. Take out one of your toddler's bowls and spoons and explain: "Your teddy is so hungry. It's time for his snack. Can you feed him?" Your toddler might be able to help you decide what the pretend food is.

Hand your child the bib and ask her to help you put it on the teddy. Then hand her the bowl and spoon and say: "I think he's ready to eat now."

Encourage your little one to talk to Teddy while feeding him. For example, you can suggest: "Would you like to ask Teddy if he likes his food?" You can also say things like: "Mind you don't give Teddy too much at once," or "I can see Teddy's really enjoying this!" But most of the time, just sit back and enjoy yourself while your toddler works things out.

When she's finished, tell her what a great job she's done and then say something like: "Wow, that yoghurt went all over the place. Let's clean Teddy up." Hand your child the washcloth and ask her to wipe Teddy's face with it. See if she can take off the bib too, and ask her to help you put away the bib, washcloth, spoon and bowl. The fun of this game may prompt her to do some real eating herself, so be prepared for snack time!
Be happy, sad, angry, or glad
"If You're Happy and You Know It" has remained a top hit with children for a long time, and for good reason. Not only is the tune catchy, but the motions are simple and done standing up, which is perfect for your on-the-go 23-month-old. Another appeal of this song is that it focuses on emotions, a big issue for the two-year-old set. Being able to identify feelings will be helpful to both of you during the "terrific twos".

Good for age: 23 months (but older and younger kids might enjoy it, too!)
Skills developed: language, gross motor skills, identifying emotions, imagination
What you'll need: your singing voice and some open space
What to do: Clear an area and stand together with your child. Sing the verses and do the accompanying motions:
If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands (clap twice)
If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands (clap twice)
If you're happy and you know it, and you really want to show it
If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands (clap twice)

If you're sad and you know it, cry a tear – boo hoo! ("wipe" eyes twice with your fists)
If you're sad and you know it, cry a tear – boo hoo! ("wipe" eyes twice with your fists)
If you're sad and you know it, and you really want to show it
If you're sad and you know it, cry a tear ("wipe" eyes twice with your fists)

If you're angry and you know it, stomp your feet (stomp foot twice)
If you're angry and you know it, stomp your feet (stomp foot twice)
If you're angry and you know it, and you really want to show it
If you're angry and you know it, stomp your feet (stomp foot twice)

If you're glad and you know it, shout hooray (cup hands to your mouth and say "Hooray!")
If you're glad and you know it, shout hurray (cup hands to your mouth and say "Hooray!")
If you're glad and you know it, and you really want to show it
If you're glad and you know it, shout hurray (cup hands to your mouth and say "Hooray!")

You can also make up verses about other feelings and see if your child can help you think of motions to go with them. For example:
If you're sleepy and you know it, go night-night (lean cheek on hands)
If you're grumpy and you know it, take a breath (big sigh)
If you're silly and you know it, dance a jig (dance)

Your child may come up with a movement that doesn't make much sense, for example, dancing when you're sleepy but don't let this worry you. The important thing is that he's participating, sharing his ideas and having fun with you.
Bead necklace
There's nothing quite as absorbing as creative play and even tiny hands can make a necklace out of chunky pasta tubes or cut-up drinking straws. It's a wonderful rainy day activity, and your toddler will get a real sense of achievement from having created something from start to finish. It's also a good way of encouraging concentration.

Good for age: 24 months (but older and younger kids might enjoy it, too!)
Skills developed: motor skills, sorting and stringing, painting play, concentration
What you'll need: string, penne (or other tube) pasta and/or plastic drinking straws, children's paint, two or three empty plastic pots, a spoon, kitchen roll, newspaper and scissors
What to do: Lay some newspaper on the table, then put sheets of kitchen paper over it. Squeeze some paint of each colour you've chosen into a different plastic cup. Put some pasta into each cup, stir it around, then remove it with the spoon and lay on the kitchen paper to dry. If you're using straws, cut up two or three into short lengths. Once the pasta is dry, cut a piece of string long enough to make an adult's necklace, with enough extra to tie at the back. Hold the string at one end so the pasta tubes can't fall off, while your toddler threads the beads. (Tip: wrapping a piece of sticky tape around the end of the string will prevent it from fraying and make it easier to thread.) Tie the ends of the string together to make a beautiful, colourful necklace.

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