Early Experiences Matter

Get Connected
Please leave this field empty
why should I register?

FOLLOW US! faceook linktwitter linklinkedin link


Donate - Support Us

Little Kids, Big Questions
is a series of 12 podcasts that translates the research of early childhood development into parenting practices that mothers, fathers and other caregivers can tailor to the needs of their own child and family. Click here to listen to or download the podcasts. This podcast series is generously funded by MetLife Foundation.

Activities Bonding and Learning 24 to 36 Months

  • River Walk. Cut large circles, squares and triangles from colored paper and lay them randomly on the floor (you might want to tape them so they don’t slide). Tell the children that you need to get from one point to another without stepping on the floor. You can only step on the shapes.  See how they respond to this challenge. They may step on the floor in the beginning, but will figure it out eventually. Later, you can make it more challenging by only stepping on red pieces or only on circles. Games like this help children develop problem-solving skills and also build their understanding of shapes and colors. 
  • Lighty Light. Find a flashlight with an easy on/off button for “light play” with your toddlers. Dim the room lights and shine a beam on the walls and ceiling, on the children’s arms and legs, on your face. Then let the children make the light “dance”. After a while, they will be delighted to figure out that they are controlling where the light goes!
  • Tunnel Vision. Make a box tunnel by opening both ends of 3 to 5 moving boxes and lining them up in a row. You can vary the game by adding turns to the tunnel with more boxes, substituting boxes of smaller and smaller sizes (until the last one is just small enough to wiggle through), or by adding a “door” by hanging a blanket over one end. This helps children develop motor planning (sequencing one’s movements to reach a goal), coordination and spatial awareness skills.
  • Frogs on a Lily Pad. Cut out big green circles from paper and scatter them across the floor. Suggest the children hop from lily pad to lily pad. Talk about what they are doing as they hop along. Games like this build motor skills while encouraging childrens’ imagination, creative thinking and language skills.     
  • Tea Parties for Teddies. Collect stuffed animals and set them on a blanket on the floor. Have a “tea party” with empty paper plates and bowls, an empty plastic pitcher, spoons, etc. What are the teddy bears eating? What games do they like to play? Activities like this encourage using imaginations to expand on a pretend play scenario. 
  • Mail Mayhem. Cut squares from colorful paper; write a short note on each one (“Hi sweetpea!”). Place them throughout the room and have the children collect the letters and bring them to the mailbox. You can be the “mail carrier” and hold a shoebox (with a slit cut in the top) where the children can drop the letters.  Switch roles and let the children hide the letters. Games like this encourage imagination and creative thinking, as well as early literacy skills.     
  • Fix-It-Up Fun. Use a large cardboard box as a workbench. On top, place your “tools”—wooden spoons, whisks, a fork and spoon, a measuring tape, etc. Then ask the children to choose a toy to “fix,” using the “tools” to “fix” the toy. Role-playing games like this develop symbolic thinking and pretend play skills. 
  • Open Up! Draw a large face on a cardboard box. Cut out a circle where the mouth is. Pop a ball through the hole/mouth and tell the children, “My friend is hungry. I fed him an apple. But he is still hungry…What should we feed him next?” Keep “feeding” until the children want to tip the box out and start over. Activities like this give children a chance to use their symbolic thinking skills as they pretend the different objects you feed the box are food items.
  • A House for a Mouse. Cut half-circle (i.e., mousehole) doors from a large appliance box and make this the children’s “mouse house.” What does a mouse need? Ask the children what to put inside. Think about blankets, “food” (use blocks), plates, etc. Now pretend to be little mice, make mouse squeaks, walk quickly and quietly like mice and help them ”settle" into their “house.” Watch how the children expand this pretend play idea. For example, your “mice” may ask for a teddy bear before they go to “sleep.” 
  • Make and Munch. Cut 10-15 squares (about the size of a piece of bread) from different colors and textures of fabric. Say, “I’m going to make a sandwich” and pile up a few squares. Pretend to gobble it down. See how the children respond: Do they want to make a sandwich now? Do they want to “eat” it or feed it to you? The children may even build on this game by, for example, saying they’re thirsty and asking for a cup to “drink” from. Activities like this encourage symbolic thinking and pretend play skills. 




border=0 Supporting Quality in Home-Based Child Care - The articles in this issue of Zero to Three synthesize the research on home-based child care and describe some of the recent quality initiatives around the country. More Details

Building Self-Control 24 to 36 months
Read More
Building Self-Control 12 to 24 months
Read More
Building Self-Control birth to 12 months
Read More
Effective Communication with Parents
Read More

Explore our Parenting Resources

Home   |   Careers   |   Permissions   |   Contact Us   |   Tell a Friend   |     |   Privacy Policy

Copyright © 2014 ZERO TO THREE: National Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families
1255 23rd Street, NW, Suite 350, Washington, DC 20037 | Phone: (202) 638-1144 | Fax: (202) 638-0851

All rights reserved. For permission to reprint, go to www.zerotothree.org/reprints