Toddlers don’t have a whole lot of say in how the world works and often struggle to communicate in a fast-moving, big world. Sometimes this sense of powerlessness can bring up off-track behaviors like tantrums, whining, inflexibility, and aggression.

The games on this list are especially geared toward young toddlers, build connection and act as an antidote to feelings of powerlessness and fear as they navigate their world. The goal is for your child to feel like the strongest, most clever, quickest person in the room, at least for these few minutes of play.  Follow their laughter and lead.

By making space for this power play, most families find that off-track behaviors diminish because the root NEED for connection and attention is being met.

Peek a Boo – put a scarf or blanket over your head and pretend you can’t find your child or pretend that you’re lost. Wait for them to gleefully pull the blanket off to discover you or save the day so you can see again.

I sure hope no one…

  • Knocks over my block tower: Build a tower and either knock It over yourself to start or see if you can invite your child to gleefully destroy your work.
  • Sits in my lap: be surprised and confused when you just can’t get them out of your lap.
  • Tries to run by me: Bumble and botch trying to catch your speedy toddler. Just miss, catch just a sliver of clothing.  Every once in a while, scoop them in for a snuggle and playfully complain when they escape.
  • Climbs over this clean laundry pile: Cover them up, bounce them on the bed in the warm laundry pile. Try to fold them, be confused about why some of the clothes are already on a person.
  • Pushes me over: Exaggerated oofs and tumbles as they powerfully push you over.
  • Takes my special _____ : let your child wrestle whatever it is our of your hands then chase the down to “try” to get it back. Beg and plead in goofy ways.

Where is baby: in a silly and bumbling way, look all over the room in funny places trying to find your child.  Follow the giggles – maybe even look UNDER them.

Wrestling Match:  Get down to their level and begin playfully nuzzling and toppling.  Let their pushes and kicks dramatically topple you.  See if you can playfully invite them to push you over, bounce on your belly, sit on your head… whatever brings laughter and giggles.

I Can’t Watch: Pretend in a silly way to be so scared of a neutral toy or activity. Hide, cover your eyes… A puppet, a small jump, a toy animal, the lights being turned off or on…

Puppet run through: Before doing something new or doing something hard, have a puppet go through the experience. The puppet can be scared or anxious and be cheered on, listened to or taught how to do it.

Where does this go? Begin getting your child dressed but put pants on their head, socks on their hands, etc.

“He’s MINE!” Play tug of war with your child with another parent or caregiver. Playfully try to pull them back and forth as you battle.

Play Animals: Pretend your child is a puppy and offer to play fetch – or vice versa. Be lions on a hunt. Be cats purring and nuzzling and batting toys around. Baby Bird and Papa Bird switching up who is feeding the baby worms and making a nest. Pretend to be an animal that is scared or nervous and let the toddler animal help you or tell you how something is done. Look for ways to let your child be the leader.

Feed me, Feed me! Turn over feeding to your toddler. Ask them to feed you and let the mess ensue! Be confused about snack time and nibble their toes. Let them delight in setting you straight that they aren’t, in fact, food.

MY turn! In a goofy and silly way, beg and plead and whine to have a turn with their toy. Let them gleefully deny you.

If these sound like fun you might check out our Toddler Parenting classes at Birth Roots for more ideas about this approach called Play Listening and other Tools from Hand in Hand Parenting. ENJOY!