I've been providing private childcare for infants and toddlers (3 months - 2 years) for the past six years and during that time I've come up with a wide range of activities that I've used to keep these little people busy as they discover the world around them. Some of the activities may be ideas you've never tried and others may be things you do regularly with your own child. Whatever the case I hope that other childcare providers and parents will find inspiration in this Instructable to challenge their babies with creative new experiences.
Step 1: Playing With Water
Playing in water is a classic experience that nearly all babies enjoy. An outdoor kiddie pool is great when the weather is warm but there is no need to stop the wet fun when the air outside turns chilly. Just bring your kiddie pool inside to a warm room (with a water proof floor) and let the tots sit in the pool and play with warm water from a basin. They love using cups and funnels to fill clear bottles with warm bubbly water and to mix pots or bowls of water with spoons and whisks.
One novel variation on this theme that I've tried successfully is to add a couple drops of food coloring to large clear containers of water. The colored water adds a new twist to the play and provides another opportunity to teach the names of colors. (As long as the food coloring is diluted you won't have to worry about staining problems, just make sure a tot doesn't get a hold of the little bottle of concentrated dye.)
- When it's hot outside your toddlers will naturally want to drink the water they are playing in. Be ready with fresh water to quench their thirst.
- I don't recommend filling the whole pool with water when you have it indoors because 1.) it's difficult to empty the pool out and 2.) it's more likely the children will become excessively wet and chilled.
- For safety sake keep pool water shallow and maintain constant supervision.
- For comfort use warm water (even outside sometimes.)
- When using a kiddie pool indoors you may want to surround the pool with towels to absorb spilled water. This will make cleanup a little easier and will also help prevent slips and falls when toddlers climb in and out of the pool.
- Add bubbles to the water.
- Try bubbling the water with a straw or baster tube. Older toddlers can do this too, just watch the straw on the first time and make sure they understand the difference between blowing and sucking.
- If you let your tots play right at the sink beware of scalding danger if they can reach the faucet handle. As an added precaution you can turn your water heater down to 120 degrees. That will still hurt but won't cause real damage.