Confidence Games

24 Months

Mix and match

How to play: Lay out several pairs of postcards or photos from places you've been with your child. Talk to him about each image, then mix them up and see whether he can match them. You can help by asking questions like, "See the boat on this one? Where's the other card that has a boat?"

Why it's great right now: "A 2-year-old has the skill to differentiate between visual images," says Sally Goldberg, Ph.D., author of Baby and Toddler Learning Fun. Your toddler will feel proud of himself each time he makes a match.

The next step: Ask your child whether he recognizes a particular picture and, if so, what he remembers about it (but don't expect more than a single word, like "splash" for a lake you've visited). This will bolster his language skills and long-term memory.

Dress up

How to play: Fill a basket with funny hats, adult shoes, necklaces, and props such as a toy stethoscope, camera, and telephone. Then watch your child enter the world of make-believe. If she doesn't dive in right away, you might say, "This is an awfully silly chef's hat," and put it on your head to get her started.

Why it's great right now: Kids this age have a knack for pretending. Your job is simply to provide the raw materials, then delight in her budding creativity.

The next step: Make up a story using objects in the box. Although your child isn't ready to narrate her own drama, getting her to participate in yours will encourage her imaginative impulses.

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