Two-year-olds-flush with the pride of having "aced" Walking, Running, and Climbing 101 -- are eager to test their newfound physical capabilities. With warm weather beckoning, all it takes is some simple equipment and close supervision to help your child make the most of her new motor skills. Here's the recipe for summertime fun and activity:
- Balls. For just a few dollars, you can provide your 2-year-old with an entertaining, skill-building toy. Look for large, light plastic balls that are easy for your toddler to kick and throw (and, perhaps, catch, when tossed gently from short distances). Beach balls and foam rubber balls can be used in a playroom, provided there's nothing breakable around. Tossing balls into a laundry basket or cardboard box can also be a fun and challenging diversion for your child on a rainy day.
- Swings and slides. Scaled-down plastic slides with small ladders are a big hit at this age. Do supervise closely, however: Your 2-year-old lacks the common sense not to stand precariously at the top or even leap off. The back-and-forth motion of a swing will also delight your toddler, though he's unable to pump himself into action by himself. Look for a sturdy toddler chair-swing with a safety strap, and fasten it securely to the designated tree or ceiling. (And never leave your child unattended in the swing.)
- Wheels. Ride-on toys and four-wheel vehicles that employ foot power instead of pedals are probably the safest bet for a child who's just turned 2. In the next year, though, your child will likely be ready to move on to that staple of childhood-the tricycle. But don't buy an oversize model with the idea that he'll be able to use it longer. Instead, choose one small enough to allow your toddler to reach the pedals easily and climb aboard quickly. It will be safer than a larger model and more gratifying to your child, who will likely master a smaller model sooner. Unless your toddler is unusually tall, a 10-inch front wheel usually suffices. Small wagons, miniature shopping carts, wheelbarrows, and trucks can also inspire activity, in addition to fueling imaginative play. Every 2-year-old loves the repetition of filling -- and dumping out -- a wheelbarrow or shopping cart with blocks, leaves, or small toys.
- Boxes, tunnels, and other hiding places. Twos love nothing more than to climb into a large, empty cardboard box. Turn an oversize one into a "house," with windows and doors, but first make sure that all staples and masking tape have been removed. Several smaller boxes can also make a marvelous train for a child and her playmates. A more expensive but durable option: a sturdy plastic playhouse, or a castle or log cabin. Fabric-covered tunnels are also winners, but make sure the fabric is flame-retardant and that no wires are protruding.
A great recipe for pure delight? A 2-year-old, a chunky crayon, and a piece of blank paper. The resulting random scribbles may seem meaningless to an adult, but to the young artiste, they can be a source of great satisfaction. And look out! Once this future Rembrandt discovers that his actions control what appears on the page, the whole world will suddenly seem to be at his fingertips -- or at least at the tip of his crayon or pencil.
Despite his enthusiasm, a 2-year-old isn't likely to spend more than a few minutes at a stretch at such endeavors. But by age 3, time spent in solitary play or artistic expression increases to 15 or 20 minutes at a time.
All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.