Keeping a 2 year old entertained can be a challenging task at times. At this age they are walking more, talking more and looking for new and creative ways to assert their independence. Two year olds are also beginning to name and categorise objects, are learning how to dress themselves and figuring out new ways to get what they need and want. They have short attention spans, making it difficult for them to sit and focus on one task for too long. While all of these changes are taking place, their frustration levels can be higher than usual which can lead to emotional meltdowns if they feel misunderstood, tired, hungry or bored. Here are some suggestions to help keep your little one engaged, happy and entertained throughout the day.
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Two year olds love to bang on things. Direct this natural inclination toward fun and noisy activities. Make maracas by dropping dried beans or lentils into an empty water bottle. Tap the lid in place so it will not come undone and let your little one shake it. Take empty oatmeal canisters, cereal boxes and other containers and create a makeshift drum set on the floor. Have your 2 year old use wooden spoons and other utensils to bang on each one to hear the different noises they make. Add dried peas, bells and buttons to the containers for different sounds. Blow on a harmonica, play a flute or hum into a kazoo. Turn on the radio and dance. Have your child jump to the rhythm, shake his body and wriggle on the floor as fast or as slow as the music is playing.
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Children in this age group have a natural tendency to get messy. Embrace this creative expression and turn the mess into something fun and entertaining. Get out some finger paints and paper. Let your little one use her hands and feet to create a masterpiece. Fill a plastic tub with sand, bury some plastic dinosaurs or bugs into it, and let your little one dig them out using a small shovel and trowel. Give your child a small bucket of water with some paint brushes and then let them "paint" the cement outside. Pour non-toxic paint into bubble solution and blow your bubbles onto white paper. It will create a fun and unique piece of wall art. Fill three separate containers with mud, sand and jelly. Let your little discoverer feel the different textures and consistencies. This activity is best done outside. Place a blank piece of paper in front of your little one along with a bowl full of pudding. Let him finger paint with the pudding. This is best done without clothes on as the pudding may stain. Plus, it makes it easier to wash up your little Van Gogh -- just plop him in the tub when he's done.
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As babies grow into their second year, their language skills increase rapidly. They learn new words daily and enjoy mimicking your own speech patterns. Spending time throughout the day with books and other language-developing activities helps to enhance a 2 year old's intellectual growth. Read books together, naming as many items in the picture as possible. Have your little one repeat the word after you. Ask your two year old to "read" to you during story time. Have small-sized books on hand. They are perfect for little hands. Recite rhymes while acting out all of the action words. Point out letters, colours, numbers and words while you are grocery shopping, waiting at the doctor's office or standing in line at the post office. Cook a lunch that was inspired by a book read earlier in the day. A classic choice is "Green Eggs and Ham" by Dr. Seuss.
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Make believe games are a great way to ignite a 2 year old's imagination. Imaginative play is a fun way to interact and spend time with your little one. Make shadow puppets on the wall, design puppets out of socks or paper bags and have a puppet show. Pretend it's someone's birthday and practice giving and receiving presents. Talk about appropriate responses for each situation. Break out some gauze and ace bandages and play doctor with stuffed animals. Find a sheet or small blanket and pretend you are on a magic carpet ride. Ask your little pilot what she sees below as she is sailing through the sky. Allow your little one to play dress up in some of your clothes. String together a bunch of boxes, big or small, and have your 2 year old pretend she is a train conductor.
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If you are running out of ideas on what to do at home, change the scenery. Getting out of the house can be a welcome break for the both of you. Remember, a 2 year old has a shorter attention span than older children. Keep your outings to an hour or less to ensure your little one does not get overwhelmed and cranky. Go to the park for a picnic lunch. Take a ride on the city bus. Go for a walk around your neighbourhood and talk about the different sights and sounds. Go to the library for story time, or to just check out some new books. Check out a farmer's market during the summer. Visit a local farm. Take your little one to a museum. Arrange a play date.
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Children need down time and quiet moments throughout their day, and it also provides a break for you as well. Having quiet activities that they can enjoy on their own will help two year olds not get overstimulated and promotes self-entertainment. Have a backpack filled with small books, stuffed animals and flashcards. Your 2 year old will enjoy emptying the contents of the bag then filling it back up again. Give your little one a bunch of paper or plastic cups and have him stack the cups into a wall. Flashlights provide a sizeable amount of entertainment for a 2 year old, just be sure he doesn't shine the light directly into his eyes.
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Something to Keep in Mind
Whatever activities you choose to do with your child, be sure they are fun, engaging and age appropriate. Supervise all projects to ensure your 2 year old is safe, and never leave her unattended while there is water, small objects or food around. Playing with your child shows her you care and is a great way to spend quality time together.