You don’t need bells and whistles to stimulate your toddler and ensure that they are school-ready. Try these simple things for a few minutes each day…

Daily. That’s how often we get bombarded with the latest and greatest gadget that is guaranteed to land our little Johnny in NASA one day when he’s a grown up.

The price tag is normally enough to send me to the moon right there and then. Seriously, we don’t need bells and whistles to stimulate our children and get them school-ready.

Do these simple things for a few minutes every day and I assure you, they will do better than most kiddies in school, and in life.

Here are some of Little Bo Babies’ tips on how to stimulate your toddler (click through the gallery)

WIN a R 2,000 Woolworths Voucher

Subscribe to our Free Daily All4Women Newsletter to enter

Floor time

It’s pretty simple: you just sit on the floor and play with your child. Here are some fun things to do on the floor:

  • Roll a ball back and forth to each other.
  • Build… build anything; towers, stacks, heaps, tents made from bits and pieces, pots and pans, mats, blankets, towels, Lego, blocks. Building does amazing things to the brain for logic, maths, ordering and grouping, as well as for fine motor skills.
  • Play with animals, stuffed toys, anything that involves both of you in interaction, conversation and focused attention.
  • Toy cars – you can build a ‘track’ with your building blocks for you to race in.

Table time

Teaching your child to sit and stay on a chair at a table (not a high chair or car seat) takes the kind of self-discipline that will stand your child in good stead in the school years. Learning how to sit still and focus is a skill of such value, that it should be called a ‘gift’ rather than a skill.

Fun things to do during table time:

  • Puzzles – fantastic for logic and maths and a sense of accomplishment. Peg board puzzles are great for little fingers, and when they are two or three years old you can start expanding to three-to-15 piece connected jigsaw puzzles
  • Play dough – cheap to buy, super easy and even cheaper to make
  • Drawing – ‘fat’ wax crayons or coloured pencils are great for little fingers. Chalk is fun as well
  • Painting and finger paints (cover the table with newspaper first!)
  • Tea party with you and the dolls

Outside time

Scheduling some outside time every day does great things for health and imagination.

Here are some fun things to do, even when it’s cold outside:

  • Fill a basin with soapy water and let them ‘wash’ their tea set, or small items of clothing. Don’t worry if (when) they get wet; it’s part of the learning process
  • Water painting – use a paintbrush and water to ‘paint’ on the outside wall, driveway or paving around your house
  • Pavement chalk – such a fun way to use art outdoors
  • Kick a ball
  • Climb a tree
  • Have a picnic
  • Play peekaboo or catch
  • ‘Camp’ with a blanket tent or a real tent
  • Treasure hunt with their toys

Outing time

Do you:

  1. Buy your groceries and then fetch the kids, or
  2. Fetch the kids and then buy your groceries?

I know most of us do option one. It’s just so much easier!

Sadly, we rob our children of valuable tools in life if we always do the hard work while they are away. Tools like:

  • Social skills: Ask your child to smile and say ‘hello’ to the cashier, and thank you to the packer.
  • Task order and completion: They will see you with a shopping list, keeping to the list, and finishing the shopping with groceries in hand from the list.
  • They will learn that different rules apply in different places: The shops, church, granny’s house, the library all have different rules that we need to abide by.

You don’t have to buy groceries every day, so find other things to do to get you out of the house with your kids:

  • Go to the library
  • Visit family and friends
  • Go to the park

Reading time

This is ‘love’ time so please don’t farm this out to the nanny or to granny. Your child sitting on your lap, hearing you read a well-loved story is priceless and fills up their love tank like nothing else.

This is also invaluable for speech development.

Reading should happen every day. The public library is a limitless, free source of great reading material. Use it.

Chore time

Packing away toys is more than just keeping a tidy room.

Sorting toys into the right boxes is fundamental for maths and logic. Lego goes into the Lego box, zoo and farm animals go into their own box, and so on.

Side note: Try and get boxes that are not perfectly matched (you can use ice cream containers and shoe boxes as well as beautiful boxes. This will help minimise the ‘disease of perfectionism’ which will help them in adult life, you’ll agree.)

Teaching our children to be kind and thoughtful is not something they learn by osmosis, but rather by a deliberate teaching of what is kind (put the toy softly into the box because granny bought the toy for you and she loves you, and she will be sad if it breaks) as well as cause and effect (who will pack this toy away if you do not? Show mommy how nicely you pack it away. That’s so kind.)

Determine in your mind how many toys they must pick up (like five or six while you do the rest) and be content with that. Lots of praise goes a long way.

Room swap

Back in the day, toddlers used to follow their mommies around from room to room as the moms did their chores throughout the house. They learnt what not to touch in the bathroom, where daddy’s cupboard was, where they were allowed to play. Essentially they learnt the rules of each room.

Nowadays, housekeepers tidy the house and kids are in day care or playgroup where there is normally one large room with free access to everything in that room.

Take your child with you into the various rooms of your house, and patiently and kindly explain what they can and cannot touch, with reasons why. This teaches them to be considerate of others and their belongings.

Bored time

This is a funny one, isn’t it? Don’t stimulate your child every minute of the day. Boredom is the parent of creativity.

Embrace it. If need be, plan it.

TV time

I don’t expect you to throw out the TV. It’s a great tool for if you need to make supper or get something done quickly and need a bit of help keeping your child engaged.

Here’s the rule however: 30 minutes a day or less for under twos.

Sit with your child and explain what they are seeing, naming and labelling the images and scenarios on the screen. “Oh look at that green grass with the happy baby. The baby is laughing! What a happy baby.” You will be sick of your voice by the end of the day, but your child’s vocabulary and emotional ‘interpretation’ will be your reward.

You can gradually increase TV time the older they get, but try not to let it exceed two hours until primary school.