Toddler development

10 fun games to play with toddlers

The right game can boost your kid’s cognitive, physical and emotional skills. Kick off playtime with some easy toddler games that are fun and educational!

By Emily Rivas

10 fun games to play with toddlers

Photo: iStockphoto

You’ve probably heard the saying that kids are like sponges—this is especially true for toddlers. Little ones between the ages of one and three are always absorbing new things. Their main mode for learning: Playtime. They begin by playing side-by-side (called parallel play), then progress into more interactive stuff, where they engage with and absorb information from their playmates. The right game can boost your kid’s cognitive, physical, and emotional skills, so get your toddler started with one of these games:

Simon Says

A game that you can play one on one or with a group of kids, Simon Says is a classic that teaches kids how to follow instructions. The rules are easy: You are Simon and what you say goes. Call out commands—“Simon says touch your toes!—and your kid has to follow them. It’s key they listen for the words “Simon says”—if you call out a command like “Jump up!” without prefacing with Simon says, players can be eliminated. Be sure to throw in some funny commands, too—do a silly dance, wiggle your ears, hop like a frog! This game is great for teaching toddlers the names for their body parts.

A group of happy children of boys and girls run in the Park on the grass on a Sunny summer day . Kalinovskiy/ Getty Images

Hot and cold

See his favourite stuffy over there? Hide it and then have him search the room. If he’s wandering away from it, he’s cold, and as he gets closer he’s warm, warmer, hot! If he gets frustrated, you can hold his hand while he looks around. This game will sharpen your kid’s emotional skills—he’ll learn patience, perseverance and the idea that just because you can’t see something, it doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

Portrait of smiling child sitting on floor and looking under sofa while playing hide and seek. Anna Efetova/ Getty Images

One for you, one for me

Perfect for younger toddlers, this game teaches sharing (see here for more on teaching your toddler how to share). Set out a pile of objects like crayons or buttons and ask him to distribute them between you while saying “One for you, one for me.” Make sure you each have a container to hold your growing collections.

Young Mother playing with children while sitting on floor at home with wooden toys Vera Livchak/ Getty Images


Another classic, this one is super fun to play and helps your kid follow instructions and learn the names for his body parts. The song “Hokey-Pokey” is a simple one with instructional lyrics. Playing is easy (you just do as the song says) and there are no losers!

You put your left foot (you can substitute for any body part) in,

You put your left foot out,

You put your left foot in, and you shake it all about!

You do the Hokey Pokey (Raise hands, wiggle fingers, move arms—you can do whatever, really)

And you turn yourself around (Turn around in a full circle)

That's what it's all about! (Clap with each syllable)

Happy mother having fun dancing with her son at home and laughing Hispanolistic/ Getty Images


Often played at daycares or preschools, this game is best with more than two people. Spread out a large sheet (or a parachute if you have it!) and have everyone hold an edge tightly in both hands. Working together, you can slowly raise it overhead and say “Up, up, up!” then lower it saying “Down, down, down!” When you call “Under, under, under!” everyone can let go of the sheet and hurry under. Alternatively, you can get under the sheet while still holding its corners. This games helps kids develop their fine motor skills while teaching them to wait and listen.

Children playing a game with a colourful Parachute SolStock/ Getty Images

Scavenger hunt

Is there anything more fun than a scavenger hunt? Send your toddler hunting for objects around the house based on commands, such as “find me something round” or “find me something red.” Or, you could ask her to choose a bunch of random objects and ask her questions like “Which one is blue?” or “Which one is longer?”

Beautiful mother looking at a leaf her son is holding on a sunny autumn day at the park Hispanolistic/ Getty Images


Teach your little kid problem-solving skills by hiding from him! Or, if you’d rather not hide, you can always ask her to hide an object in another room or sneaky spot of her choice—it could be as simple as asking her to go put a wrapper in the trash without telling her where the trash can is.

Kid boy playing hide and seek game at home, child closing eyes with hands counting while parents and sister hide behind sofa in living room peeking out, happy family having fun with children concept fizkes/ Getty Images

Obstacle course

Promote gross motor skills, coordination and balance with a fun, safe obstacle course. If space allows, you can set up a small course in your living room or outside in the yard to get your kid rolling, jumping and running around, over or under objects or markers.

Futsal Soccer Training Court. Kids in a Group With Coaches in Blurred Background. Kids on Physical Education Class at School matimix/ Getty Images


Puzzles are great games for toddlers because they cover all bases: Physical (from making the pieces fit), cognitive (actually solving the puzzle) and emotional skills (learning how to be patient.) Building a puzzle can also boost your kid’s memory, teach him about different shapes, and help him set (and meet!) simple goals. This 24 piece puzzle celebrates the diversity of nature, while encouraging learning through play.

Shot of an adorable little boy playing with building blocks at home PeopleImages/ Getty Images

Odd one out

Place a series of blocks of the same colour in front of your toddler, making sure to add at least one block that’s a different colour (you could also do this with small fruit or veggies). Once she’s had a chance to look at all the blocks, ask her which one is the odd one out. You can make this game harder by using flash cards of shapes or plants, then ask her which ones are similar and which ones are different.

Fun activities for 3 years old Weekend Images Inc./ Getty Images

Read more: 6 fun indoor activities for toddlers 5 toddler games to play when you're sick Baby talk: Bad for your toddler’s language development?

This article was originally published on Feb 22, 2017