When it comes to learning and stimulation, adults should be part of the fun. While it’s great to have a variety of interesting, colorful playthings at home, the very best “toy” for your toddler is you! Talking, reading and singing are the most impactful activities you can do with your child, and they don’t cost a thing – or take up any space in the toy box. Sort laundry colors and make shapes out of folding towels. Clang kitchen utensils together to make “music” and sing a song as you set the table for dinner.

Toddlers are learning to explore the world at this stage. Involve them in your everyday routine, so they develop necessary understanding of how the world works. The opportunities are endless!

Engage – Let your child help you empty your pockets at night. Take out safe objects, one at a time. Tell them a story behind the object; where it came from and how you used it during the day. The world outside is a mystery your child is learning to explore, so share happy stories. You are helping the child learn about your awesome adult world and also helping them build an everyday vocabulary.

Talk – Incorporate conversation into everyday activities. When you are brushing their hair, talk to them about how it compares to their friends or family members. Ask questions and encourage them to talk about their observations. Conversations like these help children pay attention to what they see, use their memory and group things into categories.

Sing – Listening is an important skill that is developing at this stage, so sing their favorite song and let them join in. Clap and make music together. Remembering words and tunes helps build strong memory.

Build – Use household objects, like cups, to build towers and have fun knocking them down with your child. Take turns building and knocking things down. You are helping your child explore and discover new connections. The child is learning how the physical world works.

Explore – When you are doing laundry, let them explore textures of the fabrics. Ask them how they feel. Ask them what else feels that way. This helps children use their senses to understand the world around them.

Do these simple activities early and often to help build connections in the brain that will impact your child’s life forever. Keep up with their development by incorporating age appropriate activities that are not only fun, but also educational.

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Promoting early brain development is part of HealthPartners Children’s Health Initiative, which is aimed at improving the health and well-being of children from pregnancy through age five. Brain, cognitive and behavioral development early in life are strongly linked to health outcomes later in life, including cardiovascular disease and stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, smoking, drug use and depression. Learn more about HealthPartners Children’s Health Initiative.