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From 11 Months

Pour It On
There's a reason Montessori-style preschools feature so many activities that involve pouring: It's a great way to explore concepts like "full" and "empty" and develop dexterity as well.

Appropriate for: 11 to 20 months
Skills developed: Hand-eye coordination, spatial relations
What you'll need: A large dish tub or bucket; some plastic cups, bowls, and other containers

Because it's messy, try this activity outside, or in a kitchen or bathroom with a bath mat or towel on the floor. Fill the dish tub or bucket about halfway with water, and set out the various pouring implements next to it.

Show your baby how to scoop water out of the bucket and pour it back in. She may not be able to do this without help just yet – but she'll enjoy trying! When she has the technique down, show her how to transfer water into a larger cup or bowl using a smaller one as a tool. Funnels, measuring cups with spouts, and plastic bowls also make for great water play.

Safety note: Never leave your baby unattended around water – even a small amount of water in a bowl or bucket – for even a moment.
The Hokey Pokey
Chances are that before you became a parent, the idea of singing "The Hokey-Pokey" would have struck you as, well, unbearably hokey. But now that you have a budding toddler along for the ride, you’ve probably found that the hokier your activities, the easier your day. This cheerful song and dance will help your toddler practice his musical skills, develop his physical coordination, and learn about different parts of his body. Most important, he’ll get a natural mood lift as he giggles in delight at your antics. And believe it or not, so will you. Give it a try -- you’ll see!

Appropriate for: 11 months and up
Skills developed: Music, rhythm, gross motor skills, language
What you'll need: Your own voice

Hold your child on your hip and start singing slowly and softly, so as not to overwhelm him.

You put your right foot in (put your own foot forward, raising it high enough so that he can see it)
You put your right foot out (put your foot back down)
You put your right foot in (put your right foot forward)
And you shake it all about (shake it vigorously)
You do the Hokey-Pokey and you turn yourself around (turn around in a circle while holding him)
That's what it's all about! (clap once)

As your child gets used to the silliness, you can help him participate more actively by placing your hand gently on his foot (or other body part) and moving it “in,” then “out.” And if he’s a movement-lover, feel free to go faster and faster with each verse until you’re both breathless with laughter at the end.

If your little one is able to stand independently or with minimal support, he might be game to try the Hokey-Pokey on his own two feet. Kneel so that you’re on his level, face him, and hold his hands in yours while you do the dance together. But don’t expect him to do the motions; he’s just as likely to prefer his own improvisational dance -- which is great for his body awareness, self confidence, and ever-ready sense of fun.
Water "Colouring"
When it's a beautiful day and you and your baby need some fresh air, try this simple activity. It'll keep an older baby engrossed for a surprising amount of time and develop all the fine motor skills of painting (without the mess).

Appropriate for: 11 months to 3 years
Skills developed: Hand-eye coordination
What you'll need: Some inexpensive paintbrushes, a plastic bowl, and water

Outdoors, fill the bowl with water and give your baby several real paintbrushes – either bristle or foam is fine – in a variety of widths. Set him up so he's sitting in front of a wall or low piece of outdoor furniture, such as a step stool or bench, then show him how to "paint" it with water. Never mind if the water is going everywhere but on the object to be painted; your baby will feel very proud that he's helping you get such an important job done.

If he's not yet ready to use brushes, encourage him to make patterns on the ground or wall by dipping his hands right in the water.

Safety note: A young child can drown in less than an inch of liquid – so don't leave him alone for a moment with a container of water.
Classified Information
In recent months your baby has developed the urge to categorize. But playing with plastic shape sorters has its limits if a baby hasn't mastered the spatial skill of fitting the shapes through the correct holes. This homemade alternative helps him sort things out on his own.

Appropriate for: 11 months to 2 years
Skills developed: Sorting, fine motor
What you'll need: A muffin tin and groups of rubber balls or other objects, all more than 2 inches in diameter

Collect a few large groups of related objects such as large seashells, rubber balls, or toys. Show your baby how to put an object into each cup of a muffin tin. Then, after you've helped him fill the tin and dump it out a few times, sort the same types of objects into their own cups.

This is a game you can continue to play for years, making it more sophisticated in terms of sorting and matching, grouping items, for example, by colour and shape.

Safety note: Don't use any objects that are small enough for your baby to swallow or choke on. (A good rule of thumb is to avoid anything small enough to fit through a toilet-paper roll.)

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