Play for the Stages

Melissa Caddell essentials, play

Blanket Bounce: 1 year old

A nifty game of cause and effect!

Materials: A medium-sized blanket, assortment of light-weight balls, a few clothespins or clips.

What to do: Secure one end of the blanket to chair legs with the clothespins. Place the balls on the blanket. Then, help your toddler to shake the blanket up and down to make the balls fly. Chat with your child about how their action is causing an effect.

Hint: Employ the help of an older child or an adult in lieu of the clothespins or clips. This is a fun activity for a playdate. Have the kids sit down for a less crazy version.

Variation: Have your child crawl under the blanket (you may have to secure it higher up), lie on her back and try to kick the balls up.

Pretend Pets: 2 year old

Build confidence as they care for ‘pets.’

Materials: Stuffed animals, things to take care of them (bowl, doll brush, towel, baby bath, box for bed, etc.)

What to Do: Discuss how to care for pets. Encourage your child to provide for his stuffed animals’ needs throughout the day with a pretend bath, pretend food, pretend nap (okay, that part can be real).

Hint: The idea is for your child to build confidence in his choices and abilities, but he may need direction to get started. Try to let him direct the care of his pets, but step in and encourage him if he’s having trouble.

Variation: Pet parlor, where the pets get washed in the sink with soap and a toothbrush. Hours of (slightly wet) fun.

Handy Helper: 3 year old

Harness that desire to be purposeful!

Materials: Chores, helpful kid, chore chart (optional)

What to Do: Kids love to ‘help’! Look on Pinterest for chores by age and make a list for your child to do daily.

Hint: Show her how to do one new chore correctly at a time and be super gracious about her efforts. Some tasks they can likely do: Swiffer a floor, wipe baseboards with a damp cloth, and put clothes in a hamper.

Variation: Kids love to check things off, so an actual list is fun. There are lots of printable lists or try a marker board or magnet chore chart.

Self-Portrait: 4-5 year old

A peek into how they see themselves.

Materials: Paper, pencil, crayons, markers or paint, mirror (optional)

What to Do: Talk to your child about his precious face, identifying parts of his face, colors, etc. Set out art supplies and have him draw a picture of himself.

Hint: Have your child look at himself in a mirror while he draws.

Variation: Do a ‘word’ self-portrait. Look up ‘personality words’ with your child and write his choices about himself on sticky notes that you can stick on his portrait or a photo of him.


Melissa Caddell is a writer and stay-in-the-car mom. She and her husband, Casey, are raising and driving around three chatty girls in Los Angeles. She writes from the relative quiet of her closet. Grab a cup of coffee and meet her at melissacaddell.com.


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What activity have you used to make chores a little more fun?