Toddlers 19 months – 2 years: Playing

Play is one of the best ways for children to learn language and literacy skills. Play helps children to think symbolically; a ruler becomes a magic wand, today becomes a time when dinosaurs were alive, a playmate becomes an astronaut exploring space. Play helps children understand that written words stand for real objects and experiences. Dramatic play helps develop narrative skills as children make up a story about what they’re doing. This helps them understand that stories happen in an order: first, next, last.


  • Offer a variety.
    • Provide a variety of table toys and materials that encourage toddlers to use their hands and fingers, such as pegs to place in pegboards and blocks to stack and then knock down. These are great for developing fine motor skills.
  • Hide and seek.
    • Just as she loved peek-a-boo as a baby, your toddler will love to play simple games of hide-and-seek. First thing in the morning take turns hiding under the bed sheets; at bath time, use a big towel.
  • Blow up a balloon.
    • Balloons are great for indoor play — they move slowly enough to be chased and are relatively easy to catch. Blow one up and tap it gently into the air. Count how long it takes to float to the ground or let your toddler try to catch it. This is a good game for counting skills and hand-eye coordination.
  • Dress up.
    • Provide dress-up clothes and props — hats, scarves, shoes, keys, tote bags, and pocketbooks. Most toddlers like to dress up, pack a bag, and pretend to leave and come back. They play house with pots, pans, dishes, and other household items.