Adorable 5-Minute Games for Babies and ToddlersBy: Elizabeth Sanchez Quinones
Movement is essential for your baby’s growth and development. And although tot-friendly exercise may seem like a far-fetched idea, rest assured the activity kids need looks nothing like the workouts adults require to stay active.
To gain big benefits, make sure your tot gets plenty of safe, age-appropriate movement. With you right there to support your child, they will acquire muscle strength, coordination, heart and bone health, cognition and self-esteem.
Each of the activities below are fun to do—at home, at a park or on the go, and they take 5 minutes (or less) to complete. Have fun, and don’t forget to cheer on your little athlete each time they finish a game.
Game 1: So You Think You Can Dance
Looking for a fun way to get your child moving? Pump up the volume with a kids’ or pop radio station on your phone or home audio system. Then, hold your tot and let the rhythm be the inspiration. If your toddler can stand or walk independently, encourage a little footwork: show your child how to move their feet to the beat, step forward, step back and so forth. Rustle up pots, pans and utensils for younger babies. Demonstrate how to use them as drums and cymbals and encourage your child to get their arms and torso moving. Younger tots can bounce to the beat from a sitting or standing position, or crawl toward you or a favorite object.
Game 2: Hide-and-Seek for Toddlers
Grab your youngster’s favorite sound-producing toy and hide it in plain sight—or wherever it can easily be found. Encourage your toddler to crawl or walk toward the sound. Once your child finds the toy, cheer, explore the toy together and hide it again to keep the game going. No sound-producing toys? No problem. Hide, and make a few fun sounds—a moo or a woof, for example—to help your child find you. Increase the distance gradually. Show your child how to bend, squat and stretch to find the toy (or you) and engage all muscles.
Game 3: Family-Room Obstacle Course
Place toddler-safe items around a pared-down room (remove breakables, sharp objects and other impediments beforehand). Scatter objects, including a couch cushion, a pool noodle, a Hula Hoop, a colorful plastic storage bin, a blanket or a stability ball. Then show your baby how to crawl, walk, wiggle or work their way over, under or around them. Let your child explore color and texture. This activity will help your child learn how to overcome obstacles (literally) and move their body to get to the finish line. Add or subtract obstacles based on your young one’s ability and/or stamina.
Game 4: Indoor Basketball
A DIY game of hoops that you and your child can play while they sit in their high chair (pulled toward the kitchen table) is a great way to boost coordination. Make it super fun: set out one or two extra-large, unbreakable cups, and show your child how to toss a ball or favorite toy into them. (See-through cups let your toddler monitor progress; solid color cups boost the where-did-it-go factor.) Move cups closer or farther back to increase or decrease the challenge. If a cup is too hard for your toddler, use a bowl or colander instead.
Game 5: Bubblemania
Here’s a fast way to turn dishwashing liquid and water into an incentive for aerobic activity. In a park, backyard or open area, blow bubbles and encourage your toddler to reach for or catch them. Wave the wand to get your child popping as many bubbles as possible. Stuck indoors? What kid doesn’t love the sound (and feel) of bubble wrap popping? Place a 3- to 6-foot strip of bubble wrap on a firm, flat surface, and let your toddler touch, crawl or walk on it. Running and jumping boosts muscle strength; the pop is an instant self-esteem booster. And you don’t have to wait until the next time you purchase a delicate item to get bubble wrap. Buy it online or at your local post office and stow it away until the next time you play Bubblemania together. And remember to keep the bubble wrap out of reach after playtime for safety reasons.