11 Games To Entertain a Toddler AND a Baby

PicMonkey Collage

Try these 11 simple games to keep both your toddler and baby happy and stimulated.

Introducing…Baby H

Hello everyone, and Happy New Year!

This is a very special new year for me, as our family of three has now become four! I am very pleased to announce the arrival of the latest addition to our boy-heavy household: our enormous, beautiful H.  Wow – was I ever glad to meet him!  It was a long, uncomfortable Summer for me.   I found pregnancy with a toddler so challenging that I pretty much stopped writing.  Those of you who wrote lovely supportive comments when I felt well enough to write again – thank you for making me feel useful and not alone. For me, carrying a baby has felt a bit like transporting ‘The One True Ring’ to Mordor – it is the most precious thing any woman can carry, and the burden is SO heavy.  My first thought when I wake up every morning now is: YES! I’M NOT PREGNANT! I literally think this will continue until the day I die.

Well, I have reached the end of my arduous journey, and I have my gloriously chubby reward.  I really cannot tell you how refreshing it is to have some energy again, and to be back on the scene.  And now I have some fresh inspiration for the blog – in the form of a gorgeous,  cuddly baby!

Mum-of-two Land

There hasn’t been much time to recover from pregnancy this time around.  I have been thrown straight into Mum-of-two Land, without even a Rough Guide for navigation!

Mum-of-two Land  is very similar to Mum-of-one Land, only everything is more intense.  There are more nappies to change, more mouths to feed, more laundry baskets to empty, more beds to change, more wriggling legs to get into the pram, more tears to soothe, more wardrobes to rotate, more brains to stimulate, more tummies to tickle.  This results in less time to do any of these jobs, less time to myself, less sleep, and, inevitably, more of that dreaded Mum Guilt.  Each day is a flurry of activity, yet nothing really ever seems to get done.  I used to enjoy planning little projects but there is no chance of that now.  I give myself a virtual gold star if I manage to get through the day having fed, clothed, changed and exercised both boys without losing the plot.  If I expect anything more of myself, I go a tiny bit mad trying to achieve it.

Managing all this practical stuff is tough, but I can (just about) cope with it.  By far, the biggest challenge for me has been keeping the two of them entertained at the same time.  T and I had got ourselves into a very comfortable routine.  Now that little H has arrived, our world has had to shift to include him, and there is less time in the day for playing.  I find this incredibly frustrating, as I want them both to be happy and stimulated, and I love playing with them both.

I have installed what I call ‘Mummy and T Time’, which happens while H has his nap, but for the rest of the day we are all together, so H rarely gets his own ‘Mummy Time’.  In the first few weeks, I would get to the end of the day and realise that I had barely spoken a word to H.  On a few occasions, I found myself in tears when daddy came home, worrying that I wasn’t spending enough quality time with the baby, and fantasising about his inevitable future drug habit/jail sentence caused by my neglectful parenting!

Toddler and Baby Games

As time has gone on, my hormones have settled down and H has become a bit less nocturnal, I have calmed down.  And I think I have found a way to ease the Mum Guilt a little: we have come up with a few games and activities that are really quick and easy to set up, where both the boys are learning and having fun.  Here they are.  I hope they work for you too :-).

1. The Song Bag

songbag 3

You may have read my post about how to make rhyme time a bit more fun at home.  We made a song box in which we put a selection of props for our favourite songs.  Well the song box has now become a Song Bag.  T loves getting the props out and being able to choose which song we sing.  The one we are singing in the picture is ‘Five Little Speckled Frogs’ – we have five plastic frogs, a bit of shiny blue card for the pool, and half a breadsticks tube painted brown for the log.  What would you put in your Song Bag?

Learning taking place:
Toddler: singing, speaking, memory and fine motor skills
Baby: language, tune, rhythm

2. Ready, Steady, Go!

readysteadygo

My T is just as active as any other toddler and most days seems to want to just RUN.  I think if he could, he would run all day.   As we do not own a toddler-sized treadmill, I try to get outside at least once – sometimes twice – a day to let him stretch his muscles.  But sometimes, when it is raining or cold, or I am just too tired, I have to stay in.   It occurred to me recently that I could just incorporate running into everything we do inside.  So now I get him to run to do the following things:

– Get items of clothing to get dressed (he doesn’t always want to put them on but still enjoys fetching them!)
– Fetch a piece for his puzzles
– Fetch his various Thomas trains (as I name them)
– Post a letter in his post box game (read here on how a fellow mum inspired me to set up this fun orchard toys game)
– Fetch a number for number ordering on his whiteboard
– Pick up stickers to stick on his collage

The beauty of these running games is that H loves it too! Babies are fascinated by movement and big brother running at full pelt across the living room floor is one of H’s favourite forms of entertainment.  Once he has the instruction, I call out “Ready, Steady, Go!” and he’s off.

Variation:
When we are out, I’ve noticed H loves watching T run around and play football or splash in puddles.  So we pop him in the sling facing forwards and then we can all have a kick-around together!

Learning taking place:
Toddler:  gross motor skills, auditory processing skills and vocabulary (from following instructions), colours/numbers/letters/shapes/adjectives depending on what he is running to get!
Baby: visual tracking, vocabulary

3. Guess The Sound

guessthesound

This was one of my favourite, last-minute games when I taught in a nursery.  First, we would go through all the musical instruments in the music box, naming them and playing them.

Then, I would put them all inside a bag, make a noise with each instrument (enough for each child to have a turn) and ask: “what’s making that sound?”.  T LOVES this game so much I am kicking myself for not remembering it sooner! When he isn’t sure, I just supply the answer when I pull it out of the bag (“it’s the bells!”) and then let him have a good old shake/blow/bang!  Once he has had a turn, I get him to show his baby brother how to play the instrument.  That way, he gets to demonstrate how the instrument works, and the baby is enjoying listening to the different sounds, and watching the movement.

T loves the guessing element of this game, and the big reveal of each instrument.  And he especially loves loudly demonstrating how to play each one!

Variation: use other things that make a noise – a piece of paper, a bottle of water, a squeaky toy, a packet of rice

Learning taking place:
Toddler: fine and gross motor skills, new vocabulary, differentiating between sounds
Baby: an awareness of different sounds, vocabulary, grasping skills, hand-eye co-ordination and cause-and-effect.

4. Mystery Box
This is the same idea as the sound game above, but here you just use your sense of touch to guess the object.  We used to call these Feely Boxes at school.  Next time you get a delivery with a decent-sized box in it, hold on to it! We just cut a hole in it and then I experimented with various “flaps” before settling on some craft foam, for stiffness and durability.  Ours looks like this:

We had fun hiding (baby-friendly) objects inside and putting his hand in.   He had a guess at what the object was, then I tried to get him to describe it by asking: what does it feel like? Is it big/small/round/flat/soft/hard? At the moment, he doesn’t have the patience to hold on to it and guess, he just wants to pull it out for the big reveal!  But when he does, he loves shouting out what it is!  I then ask him to hide something for me and I model how to guess what it is.  This game is great for teaching opposite adjectives, language that describes texture (shiny, soft, bumpy etc.) and just for getting children to talk.  With a reluctant talker on my hands, I am very into these games right now!

Learning taking place:
Toddler: describing language, adjectives, nouns, turn-taking
Baby: sensory awareness, vocabulary, hand-eye co-ordination, grasping skills

5.  Balloon Games

Have you ever met a toddler that doesn’t love balloons? Nope, neither have I.  And the best thing is, they are cheap and easy to find.  I play a few different games with balloons.  Sometimes we just play catch.  Or I blow up 5-10 balloons and throw them up in the air, one at a time, saying can you catch the yellow/blue/red balloon? T has been showing lots of interest in numbers recently, so I now write numbers on the balloons with a sharpie, place them around the room  and have him find the numbers I call out! When he finds them we whoop and cheer and show it to his baby brother! The other day we had some boxes in the room so I got him to throw them in the box when he had found the number I asked for.  He loved it! Then it turned into an investigation of capacity which really got him excited.  (If anyones interested, we discovered that you can fit 10 balloons into a big box and 4 balloons into a smaller one!).

Learning taking place:
Toddler: hand-eye co-ordination, turn-taking, colours, numbers, auditory processing (following instructions)
Baby: visual tracking, sensory awareness, hand-eye co-ordination

6.  Pop The Bubbles
Bubbles are another easy toddler-pleaser.   Popping them is fun and uses up lots of energy too – so we play this game regularly.  Bubbles are also a lovely sensory activity for babies, who just enjoy watching them float around, and disappear.

Learning taking place:
Toddler: hand-eye co-ordination, counting skills (if you count the pops)
Baby: visual tracking, sensory awareness

6. Puppet Show

One of my favourites! Puppets have been such a hit in our house for over a year now.  They are great for encouraging toddlers to talk.  We use them to make up stories and also to re-tell T’s favourite stories, so he is having fun and also practising his memory, sequencing and speaking skills.  T loves doing different voices for the characters.  In the photo at the top of this post, we are retelling the story of the Gruffalo’s Child with a shoe box we painted, some finger puppets and other bits and bobs.

So far, we have only been using pre-made finger puppet sets.  But it is easy enough to make your own on lolly sticks or socks and some googly eyes – then your toddler is also practising those great skills learned through crafting: fine motor skills and creativity. Here are 6 easy ways to make puppets with household materials.

What does your baby get out of it? An entertaining story-telling session! The puppets bring the story to life for him, and reinforce vocabulary.  My little H also loves just trying to grab the puppet when it moves up and down in front of him.

Learning taking place:
Toddler: memory, sequencing and speaking skills, fine motor skills, creativity (creating own endings and different voices for characters)
Baby: vocabulary, story language, grasping skills

7. Mr Tickle

T still loves a tickle. He especially loves a chase and a tickle!  When we play this game, he is presented with a tickling hat”,  I call
him “Mr Tickle” and it is his job to tickle me or the baby in different places.  I had to model how to tickle gently at first, and now he has the hang of it.  We take turns so he is the tickl-ee as well as the tickl-er.

Learning taking place
Toddler: turn-taking, fine motor skills, listening/concentration skills, vocabulary of body parts
Baby: sensory awareness, vocabulary

8. Action Songs (that involve body parts) and Fingerplay

actionsongs

I believe that body part action songs or rhymes involving finger play are the best to share with babies and children, as they will get to know their body so well over the next few years and will use it to understand so much. Our bodies are an instant, portable tool for telling stories, singing songs, investigating, exploring, counting and communicating.   Here are our favourite action songs (involving body parts) and finger play rhymes:

Head, shoulders, knees and toes

I am The Music Man

Incy Wincy Spider

This is the way we wash our…

If you’re happy and you know it, touch your…

Clap your hands and wiggle your fingers (tune of bobby shaftoe, supply different actions involving body parts eg tap your knees, nod your head, etc.) repeat line x 3 then sing “now we’ve made a pattern”!

Wind The Bobbin Up

There’s a Spider On Your Head (arm, knee etc.)

One Finger, One Thumb, Keep Moving

Tommy Thumb

I have this amazing book at home called Okki Tokki Unga, with a great collection of action songs and rhymes.  We keep it with the instruments and get it out daily for a bit of fun!

Learning taking place:
Toddler: memory skills, sequencing patterns (language, tune and actions), speaking skills, gross motor skills, auditory processing skills
Baby: visual tracking, auditory processing skills, vocabulary of body parts and actions

9. Reading books and filling in the gaps.

This is a game we’ve started playing to help encourage T to try saying new words.  I read some simple, familiar books, and miss out words so T can fill them in.  This works well at H’s bed or bath-time – it’s easy to fit in then and has started to just become part of the routine now.  I read the books to H and T “helps” me.  It has really encouraged T to try saying new words, and H loves being read to, so everyone’s happy!

Learning taking place:
Toddler: speaking skills, vocabulary, memory skills
Baby: vocabulary and grammar, visual tracking, sensory awareness, (especially if feely book), hand-eye co-ordination

10.  Hide and Seek

hideandseek2

No explanation needed, I am guessing? I know this is an obvious one, but I have to admit I needed a friend to remind me how much they love it! H just loves being taken around the house for a ride :-).

Learning taking place:
What they are both learning really is how to have fun by playing games together, it’s that simple! I found this interesting article that explains exactly why Hide and Seek is such a popular game with all children:

11. Sensory Memory Basket/Tray

This is another one of my all-time favourites.  I haven’t met a child who doesn’t  enjoy this game.  And in my book,  it’s never to early to start playing memory games.  I believe that if you can help a child build their memory, listening and concentration skills, they have the building blocks for a life-time of learning.

All you need for this one is a tray, some baby-friendly objects and a muslin.  (We used a shallow basket as we do not own a tray). You can use any dish really, as long as it is easy to see all the items.

Choose 3-10 objects (depending on your child’s age and ability) and put them on the tray together, naming them.  With younger children, I tend to go through each one a few times and get them to repeat the names.  With older children, after naming them, I give them 20 seconds to look at them.  At home, I cover the objects with a muslin, get him to close his eyes (no peeking!), and remove one object with the muslin, then ask: “what’s missing?”.  When I have revealed the object, I get him to show the baby so he can explore it with his fingers and mouth.

Learning taking place:
Toddler: speaking skills, memory skills, vocabulary, turn-taking
Baby: visual tracking, vocabulary, sensory awareness

Well, that’s the end of this list.  I am sure we will come up with more games as baby H gets older, and is able to access a wider variety of activities.   I hope some of these work for you too!

What games or activities do you use to entertain two under-threes? I would love to hear any new ideas.  In my book, there can never be too many ways to keep these two occupied! I love all the games on this list, and so do the boys, but it’s nice to try new things.  Post below in comments if you have any to share!

If you are new to the blog, and have a young baby, you might be interested in my post on low-prep games for babies under 1, using household objects here. or these four hide-and-seek games for babies.  If you are interested in the reasons play will benefit your child, check out this post too.  And if you  would like to build your baby’s fine motor skills, here is my list of fine motor activities using common toys and objects.

Have a fantastic week everyone 🙂

Marianne  x

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6 thoughts on “11 Games To Entertain a Toddler AND a Baby

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