How to play: Set up a toy farm, garage, or dollhouse. (Find one that has kid-safe little animals, parts, or people.) Then act out a story until your toddler takes over.
Why it's great right now: "This type of play gives your child a sense of mastery," says Claire B. Kopp, Ph.D., author of Baby Steps: A Guide to Your Child's Social, Physical, and Emotional Development in the First Two Years. It also helps him understand how people interact.
The next step: Introduce a new player to the scene, like a pet dog. Then spark your child's imagination by asking questions such as, "Where will the doggie sleep?" "Where will he eat?" and "Will he get along with the other animals?"
How to play: Cover a shoe box with construction paper of a single color. Then fill it with kid-safe objects (such as a plastic cup, ball, block, and board book) of the same color. Set the box in front of your child, and identify each item as she takes it out ("That's a red ball").
Why it's great right now: Toddlers love to empty and refill things, and this exercise is a good way to broaden their vocabulary and teach them about colors.
The next step: Count the items as you put them back into the box. Also try introducing a box -- and objects -- of a different color. Then see whether she can sort the items into their correct containers.