Activities for toddlers and babies
The activities listed here will help you encourage interactions among the children in your group while reinforcing friendships. Even if little ones are mostly interested in parallel play, they can still enjoy special moments with their friends.
Organize your areas
Within your daycare, organize areas that make interacting with others possible for little ones. For example, set up a tent in your role play area, deposit cushions on the floor in your reading corner, set a small table and two chairs in your arts & crafts corner, arrange high chairs in a circle at lunch time, etc.
Select a wall within your daycare and display a variety of items related to friendship such as a picture of two children playing together found in a magazine, a picture of two children from your group, a collective drawing, etc. You may also write short sentences describing manifestations of friendship that you witness throughout the theme. For example, you could write: Lucas hugged Julie when she was sad. Parents will love to read these little messages.
ROUTINES AND TRANSITIONS
Lunch for two
You will need large cardboard boxes with lids. Fill them with newspaper to make them stronger. Set placemats or a pretty tablecloth (piece of fabric) on each box. The boxes will be just the right size for children to eat at. Encourage children to interact two by two at snack or lunch time. Sit two children at each "table" and let them eat together.
Photograph the children in your group as they interact together. For example, take a picture of two children looking at a picture book together or playing with a ball together. Print and laminate the pictures and display them on the wall next to your changing table. During diaper changes, discuss the interactions that you see in the pictures with children.
SENSORY ACTIVITIES (to look)
Display pictures of your group at children's eye level. If you wish, you may also work on a project together. Here are a few suggestions:
- Cut several circles out of construction paper and use them to create a caterpillar on a wall. In each circle, glue the picture of one child from your group.
- Cut out a locomotive and passenger cars. Use them to create a train on a wall. Glue a picture of a different child in each passenger car. Glue a picture of yourself in the locomotive.
- Cut flower shapes out of cardboard and use them to create a bouquet. Glue a picture of a child from your group in the centre of each flower.
SENSORY ACTIVITIES (to hear)
Recognizing a friend's voice
Here are three ways to encourage children to try and recognize the voice of another child:
- When a child is walking in the hallway and you hear his/her voice, encourage the other children to listen. Ask them to name the child who is speaking or name the child yourself.
- You can hide behind a half-open door with a toddler and encourage him/her to call the other children in your group. When they find you, ask them if they recognized the child's voice.
- Record each child's voice. Listen to the recordings with your group and try to identify the child each voice belongs to. Help younger children notice that they are listening to so-and-so's voice.
ARTS & CRAFTS
Collective projects are ideal for creating fun interactions within your group. Hang a large piece of paper on a wall. Provide crayons and let babies and toddlers draw together.
MORAL AND SOCIAL ACTIVITIES
Our animal friends
We all know that pets are very important to babies and toddlers. For this reason, fill a large container with items they can use to pretend they are veterinarians. You will need stuffed animals, bowls, combs, first aid kits, etc.
Invite a group from a nearby daycare to take part in a special activity with your group. For example, they can join you for a special snack or at the playground. Who knows? New friendships may form as a result of this activity.
Find the other half
This activity is for older toddlers. You will need large pictures or simple drawings such as a poster of dog. Glue the pictures on cardboard and laminate them. Cut each picture in two. Give each child half of a picture and invite them to search for the child who has the other half.
Introduction to "next to"
To introduce your group to spatial relationships, make a habit of naming the child sitting next to another child. Integrate the words "next to" in your daily activities as much as possible. For example, invite a child to come sit "next to" another child. This can easily be done at lunch time, during free play, when children are seated in a buggy or in swings, etc.
Recognizing friends in a picture
Photograph each child in your group. Print and laminate the pictures and display them next to your changing table. When you are changing a child's diaper, point to a child and encourage him/her to name this friend. You may also display the pictures next to your table or children's high chairs. The pictures may help little ones recognize their spot.
PHYSICAL ACTIVITY AND MOTOR SKILLS
Rolling a ball back and forth
Playing with a ball represents the best way to get two children to interact. Like in a conversation, a ball shows children how to wait for their turn and expect a response from others. Rolling a ball back and forth encourages visual contact and the formation of friendships too. Sit two children on the floor, facing each other. Show them how to slide the ball towards the other child and wait for the ball to come back to them.
An older friend
Invite an older child from another group to come "read" a story to your group. He/she can simply present the illustrations from a picture book or pictures of an activity he/she particularly enjoys.
Friends in books
Borrow books about friendship from your local library. Look at the pictures with your group and verbalize what you see. Photocopy pictures that represent friendship and display them on a wall in your reading corner.
Early childhood educator
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