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fun playtime for toddlers

Playtime for Toddlers

How Can I Make Playtime Better for My Toddler?

Music is an important part of playtime for toddlers. It stimulates their imagination and creativity, builds vocabulary in a natural way, and has been shown to improve brain power.

The saying goes, music makes everything in the world better. Toddlers are no exception to this rule. Playtime is important for them to learn and develop their basic motor skills, speech, and language. Music during playtime helps your toddler develop these skills; it also builds their imagination and creativity when they use props (household items or toys), or ability to pretend when they take their cues from the music.

Research has shown that all children, including toddlers, have a natural drive to explore their surroundings and interact with others – this is called intrinsic motivation. Through play, toddlers develop imagination and creativity in addition to physical skills such as balance, coordination and problem solving.

Ways to Use Music During Playtime for Toddlers

There are many ways to include music in your toddler’s playtime. Music can be a central theme, where you sing songs and use props with your child. It can also be a background to other types of play such as blocks, legos, cars and trucks; however this method is best for older toddlers who have an understanding of the correlation between music and character. Here are some ideas to include music in your toddler’s playtime that is fun and stimulating!

1) Sing fun songs

Songs with actions and simple words are a good place to start. The most important part of singing is participation. Singing without any action isn’t as much fun for young children who can’t talk yet.  

“Head, shoulders, knees, toes” or “If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands” or “Patty cake, Patty cake” can be good places to start.

This may be one of the easiest ways to include music in toddler play; however it is also one of the most effective. Songs are a great way for children to learn rhythm and rhyme, which is an important part of language development. Older children also develop language skills and benefit from singing childhood songs.

2)   Incorporate music toys into playtime

playtime for toddlers

There are many toys your child can use to make music. Think about the types of sound effects that each toy makes and incorporate those sounds into songs.  Providing a sensory bin during toddler play will provide opportunities for little ones to explore new textures and sounds.

For example you may place a few toys, a small kitchen pan, plastic dishes, wooden spoons or other household objects that are safe for young children in a basket for babies and toddlers to explore. This unstructured playtime allows children to explore and not necessarily use the toy or object “correctly”.

Explore the world with them! Encourage your toddler to play and nurture their interest in the world around them. This will help develop their curiosity, and engage them in learning how and why things fit together. It will also help them develop problem-solving skills.

Parents can help with pretend play. For example, if you sing “The wheels on the bus go round and round” while pushing a car or truck toy as the child pushes along with you, you help your toddler’s development in correlating the text of the song to the activity. This demonstrates pretend play for your child which they will later copy.

3)  Play percussion instruments with your toddler

Another great way to incorporate music is to play instruments with your child. Parents playing an instrument during playtime helps kids copy what their parents are doing. They can then develop physical skills such as keeping a steady beat or learning short or long rhythms. Learning to feel a steady beat is so so important and I talk more about it in this blog post.

One way I love to play percussion instruments with children is to play an instrument along with my favorite song. I am not a huge fan of tons of screen time for young children, but I do think having access to great quality music important. Having several playlists on a device ready at a moment’s notice is ideal for parents. You have the music you need the moment you need it. Children older than toddlers may have a device especially for educational content and music playlists. I have several playlists for toddler playtime and other activities than just playtime. You can check them out here:

15 Songs That Get Your Toddler Moving

Rainy Day Music and Movement Songs

10 Songs That Get My Kids Cleaning

4) Turn on some nursery rhymes

playtime with toddlers song

Parents can start with music they are familiar with such as “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” “This Little Piggy Went to Market,” or “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.”

Toddlers love repetition! So singing songs that are familiar over and over are great for them. They will get familiar with the tune and want to sing along even if they don’t know all the words.

One tip is to have one favorite recording of each nursery rhyme. If you have these songs in a playlist, you can turn these on as you watch your child play. I love watching their facial expressions as they learn to sing these rhymes and I can tell right away which ones are their favorite.

5) Play an instrument together

Stringed instruments such as a ukulele can be fun because toddlers enjoy using their hands to “strum”. The rhythm of this instrument can also be fun to dance along to.

Every child who has come to one of my early childhood music classes is interested in getting their hands on a ukulele. I use one to accompany myself as we sing together, but I also have several toy ukuleles. They do not sound as good as a real soprano ukulele, but kids love playing them. This play helps them desire to play a real musical instrument when they get older.

Parents often ask me about getting a ukulele for their child (and also one that they can learn to play) and I usually recommend this one for preschoolers.

Remember when I mentioned that kids explore instruments and often do not “play them” as they are intended to play? Well, playing an instrument together is a wonderful way for you demonstrate the correct way to play a instrument. Kids will eventually copy your modelling.

There are plenty of other musical instruments you can use to play together. Bongos, drums, bells, maracas, etc. would fit this category too.  Having a variety of musical instruments available during toddler playtime is beneficial.

6) Play a simple instrument yourself

Play a simple instrument yourself while the child watches. A kazoo or maracas are simple instruments that toddlers can learn to play. They will be excited and proud of themselves for “making music”. It’s a good chance to work on taking turns since the child will want to make music too!

If you don’t feel you are musical and feel you are not qualified to play an instrument, just start simple. Sing a song. Shake a maraca as you sing, or ring some bells. Even playing peekaboo with a receiving blanket as you sing a simple song is fun for kids and sets the example for young children.

For more ideas on how you can work with kids ages 0-5 years old, watch my free toddler music class. It will demonstrate how you can interact with your child and use your favorite music in playtime for toddlers!

7) Use music as a setting for unstructured play

playtime for toddlers music

Music doesn’t have to be the focus of playtime as long as it is playing in the background. It can help create a peaceful and lively atmosphere for toddlers which makes them feel more relaxed.  

During free play, music that isn’t too loud or distracting will allow children to use their imaginations.  You can even use music during outdoor play.

By incorporating music into the background of physical activities such as playing with building blocks or toy cars, children learn to be able to create a story line for themselves!

Do I Need a Lot of Musical Toys?

A simple set of musical toys is enough to get started when you want to focus on improving your playtime for toddlers.

If the toy makes a noise or plays music, it’s likely to be fun for your toddler. Set these items in the play area and see what types of games they want to make up!

Music playtime for toddlers can also include stuffed animals for kids to bounce in their lap. This fun activity will help them learn to feel a steady beat, and also inspire their imagination. In today’s world, there is so much stimulation so it is wonderful when toddlers learn that they can they can enjoy music with their favorite stuffed friend without creating loud noises.

If you are worried about having too many toys or creating an overwhelming environment, try removing the majority of toys and keeping only a few out at a time. This will make it easier to clean up at the end of playtime instead of being overwhelmed by excess things.

Incorporating music during playtime is an easy way to improve your relationship with your toddler. It’s good for them too! It will create a positive, joyful environment that everyone can enjoy.

How much playtime does my toddler need?

Use your toddler’s interests and abilities to design playtime. As your toddler grows, she may need less structured play time. By encouraging her interests and abilities, you can adapt playtime for best results. You will see below ways that you can incorporate playtime and toddler activities into your everyday life.

fun playtime for toddlers

Talk to your child

Ask about their activities during the day, such as eating a favourite food or playing with friends. Listen carefully so that you can respond to their interests. Use your child’s interests as a springboard for the types of music and songs you select. Even babies, kids age one, and two year olds show preference to the things they like. In fact you can even begin to share music with your child before birth, and then modify your music selections later to their preference.

Change the way you think about playtime

Use the knowledge of your child to plan activities that will capture their enthusiasm, encourage language skills, and provide creative as well as physical activity. For example, if they’re interested in vehicles, imagining a car wash or a traffic jam. This pretend play involving cars and trucks provides a story line for for them to act out.

If your child is interested in playing house, then encourage play by having them set up a picnic at the same time as you are making a lunch. Or let them play with a sponge, water, and soap bubbles in the kitchen sink when you are cleaning.

Finding music that captures their imagination will help support them in unstructured toddler play.

Plan variety

A wide range of experiences promotes development and creativity in addition to encouraging language skills and social interaction. Use your knowledge of what interests your child to build on what they already know while encouraging new activities.   To encourage these skills, focus on providing your child with rich experiences.

Make playtime active

Include activities from your child’s daily routine, such as feeding the dog or setting the table for a meal. These will help develop better communication and social skills with you and others. During playtime, encourage physical activity by encouraging outdoor and creative activities. Explore how to use everyday objects to move around and have fun.

Vary the space

Playing in different rooms of the house builds a toddler’s spatial awareness. It also helps children understand that objects still exist even when they are out of sight. This is the same for toddlers playing in various indoor and outdoor locations.

Changing rooms (such as outside), bedrooms and kitchens is like providing language activities via real life stimuli. Find out what interests your toddler most about different places, such as water in the bathtub, books in the corner of the living room, a laundry basket from the laundry room, or the sandbox outside. Their favorite places are wonderful environments to add music to inspire higher level creative play. By the way, kids often enjoy playing with their outdoor toys inside too!

Use materials you have on hand

Encourage your toddler to play with everyday objects such as pots, pans, food containers, or big empty boxes. Have you ever noticed that kids will play with a box all day and leave all the best toys untouched. Playing with everyday objects can increase physical activity as well as language ability. I would recommend placing several household items and some stuffed animals in the sensory bin (mentioned earlier) that you create for your child.

Involve your child in household tasks

Accompany simple activities like setting the table for dinner with language and songs about the meal, encouraging imitation. For example, if you sing a song like “Apples and Bananas” then you can be silly and change the lyrics to the foods you are serving. This makes the chore of setting the table super fun!

When parents present chores as “play” and incorporate music to heighten the experience, kids develop a natural love for helpful behavior. I think this is a long-term “win-win.”

Playtime for Toddlers

How can I make playtime better for my toddler? This is an important time to teach your child valuable skills through play. If you provide them with the right toys and allow them to let their imagination run wild, you can create a stimulating world of learning that all children deserve!

I hope you find a few helpful tips in this article. Let me know in a comment what ideas have helped you or inspire you to make some simple changes in your parenting!

And if you’d like to be guided through a music class for toddlers that I have created go ahead and click the link below! Watching my music class will help you with ideas on how you can have fun and incorporate music into your toddler’s playtime.

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