Lot of you have been asking me about activities for younger kids. Although lot of my posts have ideas you could use with kids as young as 15 months old, here is one especially for kids nearing their 1st birthday or who just turned one. The best part is all of these activities can be enjoyed by toddlers and preschoolers too. So it can be fun for siblings to play together as well. I will try to do one such post every month or two.
Turning one is a big milestone cognitively as well as physically. 95% of brain’s development happens during first 3 years. Every time kids see, hear, touch, smell or taste something new, an association is created. And they are really alert and using all their senses eagerly at this age. So I thought it will be nice to list one activity for each sense, although some of these activities are multisensory. So here we go…
1) Finger Painting: Make some edible homemade colors and let them have at it. The key here is to remember that edible does not have to be tasty. If they do put it in the mouth there will be no harm and they will soon learn that it does not taste that great and will quit putting it in their mouth. I made mine by mixing cornstarch, food color and water. Don’t make it too thin. In fact start out with thick consistency and adjust based on how your child is reacting. Just make some marks on a paper with your fingers and paint brush or a sponge. That will give them an idea. Don’t be discouraged if they choose to just play with the paint or pour it on themselves or from one container to other and never make a single mark on the paper. They are learning and enjoying a lot by just exploring. You can repeat the activity over the course of few days and they will learn to enjoy it better. Some of them might be too apprehensive or may not like the messy feeling. If they watch you do it several times they might begin to like it. As you can see in the picture, as a newbie mom I used newspaper to protect the bathroom floor. But that made my job even messier. So invest in a plastic tarp, your child will use it well into their toddler and preschool years. This is a great visual and tactile activity which also helps with motor control. Older siblings can help mix the color and can be great role models. They will also be very proud to have taught something to the younger one.
2) Visual feast: Arrange vegetables, fruits and or flowers in varied colors on a platter and keep it accessible to the little ones. If you can let them just stumble upon it, they will enjoy it even better. Even you will enjoy the ‘look what I found’ expressions on their faces. Let them just play with and explore the goodies at first. You might want to pick up a couple things and smell them and they might follow suit. Try to choose vegetables with different textures as well as different colors. This will be a great visual and tactile activity that might even create an opportunity to smell and taste. Rolling of a potato or squashing a tomato (mess alert!) can add unexpected sound effects which will make this an activity to stimulate all the five senses at the same time. Older kids can pretend to be vegetable or fruit vendors. This can also be a great way to talk to them about seasonal produce, nutrients, etc.
3) Movers and shakers: Fill plastic bottles with beans, grains and beads of various sizes and weight. The bottle filled with rice will sound different than the one filled with kidney beans. Let them shake it randomly or you can shake it following a simple beat and some of them might even try to follow your beat. But I must warn you, most times they will just make a lot of noise. The joy they get out of it is well worth it. Make sure you seal the bottle caps with tape to avoid spillage and accidental choking. For, we all know how much1 year olds like to put everything in their mouth. If you choose different colored beans and grains, this will make a great visual activity as well. It will also give their muscles some exercise and some gross motor control practice. If playing with older siblings, let them help make the bottles and be prepared for lot of noise and lots of fun.
4) Let’s smell it: find as many different things you can wrap in a kitchen towel or soak your kitchen towel into and let them smell it. Make sure you hold the kitchen towel wrap so they don’t choke on it or accidentally get it in their eyes. You can buy aromatic oils if you plan to use it with something else but I like to resort to my pantry for it. Wrap a clove, cinnamon stick, or coffee bean in a cotton ball. You can even soak cotton in ginger juice or vanilla extract and let them smell it. If they smell various food ingredients they are more likely to try new foods as they grow up. This can be an old wife’s tale but it has worked very well with my son. Older kids can guess what each ingredient is.
5) Extreme tasting: Considering how proactive little one’s are in tasting every object that gets in their hands, there should be no need for any activity dedicated to this front. But letting them taste extremes like lemon wedge or a particularly salty cheese can be an exciting event. This will also help them develop their vocabulary around taste. They will know for real what sour is or what salty really means. Often times they will find this very funny too.
Letting them try things like ice-cream will make it a taste and touch experience. Older siblings will love to watch the baby’s expression and might get a kick out of trying it themselves.
Obviously you can do many more things for each sense but this can just be a roadmap to it. I will soon follow up with some more fun activities for all the senses. In the meantime, do share your experiences. After all we all love to hear baby stories.