Suggested Activities 0-5 years

The following sample activities may be used with children ages 0-5 years. These activities in no way represent the vast developmental skills that children acquire during this life stage. It would be very helpful to purchase or borrow a book from the library for more activities during this important period in a child’s development.

Ages 3-5 Months

The child interacts with things around her by mouthing, banging, patting, and touching.

  • Use a variety of different textured toys that are easy to grasp and safe to put in her mouth.
  • Allow the baby to experience various baby safe toys that have different temperatures, such as a frozen teether.
  • Be sure to clean the toys on a regular basis.

Ages 5-9 Months

The child reaches for and obtains toys and objects that are out of his reach.

  • Encourage the baby to work for toys out of reach by placing items outside of or within arms reach, but within sight.
  • Be sure to use toys that the baby is very interested in.

Ages 8-10 Months

The baby engages in simple games such as Peek-A-Boo.

  • Changing time is one of the best times to play peek-a-boo with the baby.
  • Cover the adult’s head with a light blanket, allowing the baby to remove it, and the adult says “peek-a-boo!”

Ages 6-11 Months

The baby learns language concepts of familiar people and pets as well as follows simple commands.

  • Repeat the names of family members and pets at every opportunity. Use the person’s name while speaking about them to the baby.
  • Ask the baby simple questions, such as “Where’s daddy?”
  • Use simple and concise commands with gestures such as “Wave bye-bye.” Model and physically prompt if necessary.

Ages 8-12 Months

The child learns about cause and effect relationships with toys.

  • Provide the baby with toys that make a sound or perform an action when she plays with them.
  • Model how to use the toy by pulling a string, pushing a button, banging on keys, etc.
  • Provide verbal praise, such as “Good Job,” when the baby performs the task independently.

The baby learns how to complete simple inset puzzles and match by shape.

  • By 10-12 months he will be interested in simple inset puzzles that require matching by shape.
  • The inset circle is the first piece that children at this age can place in a board.
  • Present the board without the puzzle piece and point and verbalize regarding the empty circle slot and the circle puzzle piece.
  • Typically the large puzzle pieces with the knobs are the easiest for babies to handle.
  • Demonstrate where to place the puzzle piece in the board and then present it to the baby.
  • Provide immediate praise for the baby’s placement of the puzzle piece. Have her repeat without demonstration.

Ages 10-14 Months

The baby is interested in books and begins to understand that pictures represent real objects or things.

  • Present simple picture books that have a few familiar objects or animals. The pictures should be bright and interesting to him.
  • Limit the time looking at the books to a few minutes and typically only two to three pages at a time.
  • Texture books (Touch and Feel) should also be used for the baby to explore.
  • Observe the baby’s interest in the pictures and talk about the pictures that capture his interest by labeling, telling a simple story, or singing a simple song.

Ages 10-16 Months

The baby begins to play with objects as they are intended to be used in her play.

  • Pretend play is one of a child’s most important cognitive skills. Foster pretend play by offering a variety of play scheme activities, such as using the telephone, stirring with a spoon, and brushing a doll’s hair.
  • Yes, boys enjoy simple play schemes involving dolls or stuffed toys!
  • Provide the baby with materials to use appropriately in simple pretend play- brush, telephone, cup, bottle, doll, etc.
  • Model and provide praise when he uses the objects appropriately!

Ages 15-18 Months

The child begins to match objects in play. This is a cognitive and language based skill that teaches your child similarities and differences.

  • The foundation for skill development in this area involves the child being exposed to ongoing descriptions about objects in the child’s environment. These descriptions should involve how objects are similar and how they are different. The child will initially only be able to understand one attribute of an object at this age. This may involve matching by color, shape, or size.
  • Present three toys-two that are the same and one that is different. Examples: two identical cups and a spoon, two red ducks and one yellow duck, two large balls and one small ball.
  • Talk about how the objects are alike and ask the baby to give “one” that looks like the one being held by the adult.
  • Increase the level of difficulty as the child gains mastery with this type of task by reducing the differences between the objects, such as two cups of different colors and a spoon.
  • Model and provide praise when the child matches the objects appropriately!

The child is able to identify at least one body part.

  • Teaching body parts should begin earlier than this age range. Naming body parts through play, during bath time, dressing, and while the child is eating is the most natural approach.
  • By this age the child will be able to point or show at least one body part.
  • Encourage body part identification through finger play or simple interactive games like “Your Happy and you know it, clap your hands!”
  • Use a doll and point put the dolls body parts. The baby will be able to identify body parts on himself, then on parents, and finally on a doll.

Ages 18-21 Months

The baby learns how to complete simple inset puzzles and match by shape.

  • By 18-21 months the toddler will be interested in simple inset puzzles that require matching by shape, i.e. circle, square, and triangle.
  • Present the board without the puzzle pieces and point and verbalize regarding the empty circle slot and the circle puzzle piece. Repeat for each puzzle piece as the child gains mastery over the circle, the square, and then triangle.
  • Typically the large puzzle pieces with the knobs are the easiest for the child to handle, but he may be ready for the large chunky pieces without knobs.
  • Demonstrate where to place each puzzle piece in the board and then present to the baby.
  • Provide immediate praise for the baby’s placement of the puzzle pieces. Repeat with the child without demonstration.

Ages 18-24 Months

The child is able to make a variety of animal sounds for familiar animals.

  • Utilize picture books of animals to teach the child the animal and associated sounds that the animals make.
  • There are a variety of toys that also reinforce this skill for children that are available in local toy stores and online.
  • Sing songs with animal sounds!
  • Bark when he sees a dog and meow when the child spots a cat!

The child uses toys that she sees cause an action.

  • Provide a variety of toys that the child can figure out how to work, such as pushing buttons to activate a toy, pulling a string to make a doll talk, etc.
  • Allow the child the opportunity to figure out how their toy works before you demonstrate how to make it work. Provide verbal praise when the child figures out how the toy works independently.
  • If the child is having difficulty, then verbally explain how to make it work rather than jumping in to show the child. If it still proves too difficult, offer to help!

Ages 22-24 Months and beyond

Children love to play with a variety of textured mediums.

  • Provide a variety of mediums for the child to experience now and through his preschool years, such as play dough, finger paints, sticky glue, sand trays, and bean trays.
  • Allow the child to use paintbrushes, cookie cutters, Q-tips, and other utensils to play in these different texture mediums. Don’t worry about the mess. Use child safe paints, play dough, markers, etc.

For Fantastic Play Dough Recipes visit the following site!

This is an awesome site with many different types of play dough. More play dough recipes than you can imagine!

24-30 Months

The child is now able to identify small details in pictures.

  • Initially use simple picture books that have simple details other than a main picture. Point out the details by pointing and commenting on them while looking at or reading the book to the child.
  • It is best to use books that have a main character with supporting details about the theme of the story so that attention is drawn to the main character and then to the supporting details.
  • Ask the child to show details in response to a question about the main character.
  • Provide a hint for the child to find the detail requested by tapping a finger near the detail she is requested to find if she does not respond to the question.

24-30 Months and Beyond

The child engages in pretend play and imaginative play.

  • This is a great time for a parent and the child to engage in pretend play together. Everyday household items or purchased toys facilitate make believe play such as tea sets, playing doctor, playing house, etc.
  • Be sure to provide plenty of props for the child as he needs to begin combining toys in make believe play rather than focusing only on one scheme, such as feeding the baby a bottle. For example, the child should be encouraged to feed, bathe, and prepare the baby for bed. This of course is only one example, but this is a wonderful stage of development that sets the stage for cognitive and social growth.

28-30 Months

The child begins to understand the functions of objects when asked.

  • As an introduction to this concept it is important to talk to the child everyday about how and why objects are used. For example, if cooking in the kitchen talk about using a spoon to stir with, a pan to cook in, a cup is used to drink from, etc.
  • Play games with the child such as sorting objects by function. For example: all types of cups and mugs that are used to drink.
  • Play a sorting game with the child with two different items by function.
  • Ask the child during daily activities such as eating, bathing, or going to the park what objects are used for. If the child’s expressive language is limited use the following statement in this format:

“Show me what you use to drink with.”

30-36 Months

The child sorts objects by shape.

  • The child is now able to sort shapes rather than just match objects. Provide opportunities throughout the day to promote sorting by a variety of shapes in the everyday routine.
  • The child will now be able to sort shapes such as circles, squares, and triangles. These items may be purchased or can be made by hand. This activity promotes development of shape discrimination and sorting.
  • Discuss the shapes of various objects as well as the specific attributes of the shapes. Shape sorters are a great place to start.

The child learns about part to whole relationships by completing connected puzzles

  • The child is ready for 3-4 piece connecting or segmented puzzles at this age. Inset puzzles with knobs are a thing of the past.
  • These types of puzzles may be purchased or can be made by hand. Begin with segmented puzzles of a specific object or shape, such as a puzzle of a ball cut in half- 2 piece puzzle (with no background details). This may be accomplished as follows: paste a picture of a ball on cardboard, cut out the ball, then cut the ball into three pieces.

36-60 Month

This developmental period is important because children are developing readiness skills for learning for entrance into kindergarten.

Emphasis should be placed in the following areas through exposure to a variety of activities that promote reading readiness, math readiness, and writing readiness. Social development is another important area that requires special attention.

Social Development

Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you. ~Robert Fulghum

  • Encourage manners such as “please” and “thank you” on a daily basis.
  • The child should complete simple chores and clean up after herself.
  • Remind the child of the skills for being polite, such as not interrupting adults when they are talking or saying “Excuse me” if it is necessary to interrupt.
  • Encourage task completion by providing activities that can be accomplished at this developmental age. Children 3-4 years of age should be able to complete 50% of a task with minimal reminders.
  • Appropriate table manners are also taught at this age in terms of using utensils, a napkin, and beginning to chew with lips closed.
  • Give lots of praise and acknowledgment for the child’s efforts to please in this area!

Reading Readiness

  • Books, books, and more books! This is the best approach to helping children develop reading readiness skills. Children by nature love books and will amaze you with the words they will read by sight that you did not even realize that they knew. As a side note, the human brain is wired to acquire reading skills, but of course, there has to be refinement and learning those great decoding skills that the child will be expected to learn in school.
  • Promote reading readiness by encouraging activities that promote left to right scanning. There are a variety of readiness materials and websites that provide activities to promote reading readiness through worksheets, software programs, and other activities.
  • Work with the child to match and identify letters and words through the daily routine and in directed activities.
  •  See Clink N Kids for a great website that LifeStages has reviewed. See Banner on our Website to visit this great site for reading skill development.

Math Readiness

  • Math readiness is promoted through counting, matching, sorting, and identifying similarities and differences. All those puzzles, blocks, and other manipulatives your child had access to in his earlier years are important to the development of math readiness skills.
  • Orally count with the child through songs and games and in everyday routines.
  • Let the child assist in sorting items at home such as the laundry.
  • Help him begin to identify concepts such as long, longer, longest- tall, taller, tallest.
  • Provide opportunities to talk about and demonstrate weight- such as determining which is heavier, lighter, etc. for various objects in the child’s environment.
  • Begin to assign value to numbers by counting objects with the child everywhere he goes!
  • Provide opportunities for the child to experience math concepts through worksheets, software programs or computer sites, but remember that manipulatives are essential as they allow the child to use all senses to gain skills in this area!
  • See product section for great resources for enhancing math skill development.

Cowboys Count, Monkeys Measure, and Princesses Problem Solve
Blocks and Beyond

Writing Readiness

  • Learning to write may be the child’s greatest challenge. Fine motor activities should be introduced using multi-sensory experiences using hands, toys, and writing instruments. Writing is not a natural process for children, but will be an essential mode of communication as children enter school and are required to demonstrate knowledge through written expression.
  • Allow the child to use a variety of writing instruments including paintbrushes, crayons, washable markers, and anything else to encourage the use of instrument to paper or other surface. Sidewalk chalk is great because it gives children the opportunity to write on a surface that they might not otherwise use!
  • Provide opportunities for the child to draw lines- vertical, horizontal, diagonal, and then a +Cross shape. Make it fun because is takes lots of effort and may not interest the child. Playing is really more fun, but learning to write is essential!
  • The child should not be holding a writing instrument in a fisted grasp at this age. You can encourage a proper grasp through modeling and verbally praising the child. If the child continues to have difficulty, there are crayons that are three-sided or you can purchase a grasp to put on a pencil or marker that will only allow for use of fingers.
  • Encourage the child to draw recognizable pictures such as a face, then a body, and then limbs.
  • Encourage the child to draw shapes such as a rectangle, triangle, oval, and diamond.
  • Provide opportunities for the child to trace letters and words and then to copy letters and words.