12 to 24 Months
By twelve months, toddlers are generally beginning to master walking on their own. You can begin to build on that skill by having your child follow you around the house while you do everyday chores, like sweeping or drying dishes. You may even be able to allow your child to participate in the activity (for example, give them a small pile of clothes to "fold"). Not only does this continue to build on physical skills, these activities begin to help foster the cognitive skill of creativity as well as socialization to family routines. For fine motor development, a sand box or finger paint time allows babies to start manipulating a medium into piles, shapes, and designs that their brains have created.
For ongoing social and language skills, puppet play can be wonderful. Whether using store-bought puppets or simple home-made puppets created from socks, felt, or brown paper lunch bags, you and your child can begin telling stories and having conversations in a fun, creative way. Asking your child to pretend to be other characters in the stories can give them practice in seeing the world through other people's eyes. As stated before, it's never too early to start reading, but this is an especially good time to make reading a daily ritual. Not only does reading together help build language skills and set the stage for learning to read alone, this special quiet family time can be another opportunity to share love and affection through cuddling or hugging.
As your toddler gets older and more agile, s/he will be more able to participate in simple ball games or running games with you or older siblings. Encourage these times, as they will continue to build and strengthen physical strength and coordination. Toddlers can also continue sand or water play and begin to use large crayons to create artistic masterpieces.
Cognitively, this is a time that you can begin to reinforce simple concepts such as colors or numbers. Using the color boxes discussed earlier, you can practice sorting objects by color as well as counting them. Or, have your child search around the house for other objects of a particular color to add to the box. In addition, a mundane chore such as folding the clothes can become a color lesson. Dad can say, "Michael, can you help me find the other red sock?" Even if in the first weeks or months, Dad has to pretend to go through many options to finally find the right match, this process will encourage problem-solving, social, and communication skills for Michael.
Children of this age often enjoy simple pretend play. Fill a box with items that are simple to take on and off such as different hats, scarves or old shoes. An old phone, microphone, or camera (make sure to remove all batteries and loose or potentially dangerous parts) can also stimulate a make-believe adventure.
This is just a small highlight of possible activities that you can do with infants and toddlers. Using these ideas as a starting point, create your own activities, or find a baby game book from the bookstore or library. As long as healthy babies are given lots of love, attention, and encouragement along with a safe place to explore and play, they will blossom and flourish.