It’s easy to tell when your toddler’s proud of herself. She’ll fit a triangle into the shape sorter, bang the balls through the holes in her toy castle, or yank off both socks by herself. Then she’ll squeal with delight.
Such moments of mastery aren’t just satisfying for your little one (and gratifying for you). They also help her build self-confidence. “Feeling in control of her world motivates your child to keep exploring and trying new things,” says Andrew Meltzoff, Ph.D., a Parents adviser and coauthor of The Scientist in the Crib: What Early Learning Tells Us About the Mind.
While every parent wants to raise a self-assured kid, it’s easy to go about it the wrong way. Teaching a baby skills that are beyond her ability can dampen her natural love of learning. And boring a toddler with exercises that no longer challenge her can do the same. The trick is finding the right diversions for the right age.
This activity guide makes it fun to foster a can-do attitude during your child’s first two years. The age recommendations are approximate, so follow her cues — and feel free to create your own variations.
Let the games begin!
How to play: Make a silly noise, and see whether your baby imitates it. If he responds with a different sound, mimic it.
Why it’s great right now: Around this age, a baby realizes he can move his lips and tongue to make a variety of sounds. Starting a dialogue teaches him that language is fun and stimulates his desire to speak and listen.
The next step: Try to connect your baby’s babble with specific needs. Responding appropriately to his coos and grunts will confirm that his message got through.