Keeping a toddler occupied and happy throughout the day is not always easy. They want to be their own boss (and yours), and they have short attention spans. But they also like to feel important, so ordinary tasks can have considerable appeal. This activity lets you get something done that you have to do anyway, and offers tremendous learning opportunities for your child.
Take your basket of clothes and invite your child to help. “Let's sit here on the couch and sort the laundry. You look through the basket and find me all your socks.” If he dredges up a matched pair, praise him heartily. If he produces just one of a pair, suggest “Can you find the one that matches that?” Ask him to find other things. “Where are your underpants?” “Where is daddy's shirt?” Ask him to point to the place on his body where the things go.
As your toddler gets older, you can:
- Ask him to find items by color (“Find a blue one”) or size (“Do you see any BIG socks in there?”).
- Help him develop classification skills—what goes with what. Hold up a towel and say, “Find another one like this.”
- Label what he does. “Great! You found another towel. They go on the same shelf.”
- Let him put some things away. Show him where they go, then later ask him to find the correct drawer or shelf.
Once your child discovers that this is “real” work, he will, alas, lose interest in doing it. So enjoy it, and let him enjoy it, while you can.
Dr. Bettye M. Caldwell Ph.D. Professor of Pediatrics in Child Development and Education
Our parenting advice is given as suggestions only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent or about a medical condition.