Handling an 18-month-old and a 3 1/2-year-old requires patience, more patience and a little bit more patience. A boatload of energy helps too. And while 18-month-olds are not developmentally ready for traditional games, there are ways to include them while playing with your 3 1/2-year-old. The key is to modify each game so that both children are challenged without being frustrated.
Your preschooler is ready to practice catching a ball, but your toddler isn't quite there yet. That's okay as long as you have at least two balls. You can alternate throwing and catching with the preschooler while rolling the other ball back and forth with the toddler. If your kids are patient, you can even take turns rolling or kicking the ball to each other round-robin style. The toddler will probably lose interest well before the preschooler does, and that's okay. You can keep playing catch with your preschooler while keeping an eye on your toddler, too.
Both 18-month-olds and 3 1/2-year-olds need to be active, so why not create an obstacle course for them? This can be done inside or outside, depending on the weather and your available equipment. You'll need to remove unsafe objects like tables with sharp corners and/or large sticks first. Then use cushions, small stools, play tents or tunnels, laundry baskets, cardboard boxes and sturdy chairs to make a course. Show your 18-month-old how to go through it and let your preschooler follow. Then you can suggest ways to make it more challenging for your preschooler, such as jumping from a sturdy chair onto a pile of cushions instead of climbing over the chair and then onto the cushions. You can even let your preschooler create or modify the course for your toddler.
An oldie but a goodie, Simon Says is great for teaching kids how to follow directions as well as body parts and movements. With children this young, the focus would not be so much on the "Simon says. . . . " part, but on the following directions part. Your 3 1/2-year-old can show his younger sibling what to do and even take a turn being Simon. It's a great game when you've got just a few minutes of down time or are waiting in line somewhere.
Ring Around the Rosies
This game can be exhausting and not very exciting for adults, but toddlers and preschoolers adore it. You can sing the commonly known first verse; "Ring around the rosies, pocket full of posies, ashes, ashes, we all fall down!" alone or try the longer version. As you sing, hold hands with both kids and walk in a circle. When you get to the "all fall down" part, jump to the floor. You can incorporate this game into a longer dancing or music time as well.
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