Children at this age still like to play by themselves with things or engage with adults in simple interactive games or rhymes and songs. They are increasingly interested in other children and will play beside them, occasionally watch them and try to copy what they see others do. They enjoy children a few years older than them and will often enjoy interacting with them as much or more than with adults. Increasing the social circle of children who seem to have lags in development is a simple way of enriching their lives and giving them natural opportunities to learn. Use interactive games like building in sand, and action songs, as ways to involve children in interactions, build language and social skills.
Encourage lots of movement experiences – run with the child on your back, jump together with the child on a springy mattress, walk on different surfaces – sand, tiles, grass – and give a lot of experience of different levels – walk on slopes and stairs. Teach them to use sturdy furniture for support and move around safely and independently. Encourage the child to play hide and seek by standing behind doors, under tables, inside a cupboard to give them lots of experiences with their body and space.
Give children simple toys that fit together and come apart, and boxes with holes of different sizes into which they can push things so they start to appreciate size and shape. Expose children to simple books with pictures of everyday objects or a photo album of family members. Spend time exploring these together. These activities will help develop their perceptual skills and help them understand three dimensional objects and how they relate to two dimensional drawings.
Spend time with children talking to them as they play. Use simple, short sentences to describe what they are doing. Children will start to understand words that describe actions and salient features of an object – colour, shape, size. Songs and rhymes coupled with actions are excellent ways to help children understand and learn words and their meaning. Children love nonsense sounds and you can incorporate lots of oral motor exercises with games of making faces and funny sounds.
Children love to be in charge of their own lives and a part of adult activities and these are great ways to give them exposure to a range of textures, concepts, hand and body skills and of course, language. They can experience and learn about soap while washing together, cloth while dressing, sand, mud, clay, plants and flowers while working outdoors – all these offer the child numerous experiences rich with smell, touch, sounds and sights that are meaningful and relevant in their life. It is also a great way to build their self-concept and sense of independence.
Ideas for homemade toys are available in “toys” and in Disabled Village Children: Chapter 49: A children’s workshop for making toys. Chapter 35 has suggestions for early play activities and toys.