1 to 2 years old: Identifying and Naming Others In a small basket or tray gather five pictures of members of the family, relatives or friends. Sit down with your child, look at the pictures, say who everyone in them is and say their names. Talk about the way they look or what they do, what role they have in your child’s life, and how they interact. Make the pictures available for as long as necessary until your child knows who the people in the pictures are, and then replace them with new ones.
2 to 3 years old: Creating a Story from Pictures In a small basket or tray gather pictures (5-10) from a trip that you recently took together. Make sure that they show different places you visited or different moments in the trip, also that everyone who participated is illustrated. Looking at the pictures, talk with your toddler about this trip, making sure you emphasize all aspects mentioned above. You may lay the pictures to show the chronological order of your trip or to show your favorite places/activities. Make stories/plans for future trips starting from these pictures. Make the pictures available for as long as necessary, and then replace them with new ones
1 to 2 years old: Imitating Facial Expressions All you need for this activity is you, your toddler and a mirror. Sit in front of the mirror with the child next to you. Draw the child’s attention to the mirror by touching first your reflection, then the child’s, and naming what you see. Then, looking directly at the child, make a face – for example, open your mouth wide or purse your lips. Wait for the child to imitate your expression. Repeat, varying your facial expressions: happy, sad, silly, frowning, and movements: blinking eyes, sticking your tongue out, etc. Continue the activity for as long as the child shows interest.
Extension 1: Add sounds to your facial expressions, such as making a clicking sound with your tongue, or boo-hoo, waa-waa, etc.
Extension 2: As the child acquires experience and skill at imitating facial expressions, make this a group activity by inviting the siblings to participate. Take turns!
2 to 3 years old: Recognizing and Describing Emotions After practicing the activity presented above, you may add some language to it, by naming the emotions the expressions illustrate. If you have, you may add cards showing a different emotion. You could also use illustrations in a book or pictures in a magazine. These pictures should show a wide range of multicultural, different ages and a mix of male and female children. Include more complex emotions like surprise and apprehension, as well as basic emotions like sadness and happiness, but don’t show pictures of children looking extremely frightened.
Announce the focus of the activity by saying: “These cards show pictures of children who have different feelings, let’s look”. Name the emotion and imitate it in facial expressions, sound, and upper body movement. For example, say: “This child looks happy. He is laughing. Here is what I look when I am happy.” Allow the child to join in if she wants. Repeat with the other cards, and then allow your child to do the activity.
1 to 2 years old: Listening To and Following Instructions Choose an area of your house where there is space for movement. Announce that you are going to make a particular body movement and invite the child to imitate you. Choose a movement the child can easily imitate. For example, say: “Let’s touch our noses. I am going to touch my nose. Then you touch your nose”.
Slowly and deliberately make the movement, and give the child ample time to make the movement. Offer help in case she doesn’t try to make the movement, then gently guide the child. Announce another movement. Examples: stomp your feet, tap your hands on your shoulders, hold your hands in front of you and clap once, wiggle your fingers, touch your toes, jump, wave, etc. Invite the child to suggest a movement.
Invite siblings to join you and turn the activity into a version of “Simon Says”. Introduce specific words; for example, use words for contrasting movements, such as high/low, big/small: “Lets’ swing our arms high/low.” Or “Let’s stand big as a bear/Let’s curl up small as a mouse”. You may add sounds by making movements imitating things that make interesting sounds. For example, trot like a horse. Other animals that make interesting sounds: snakes, frogs, cats; or vehicles: fire trucks, trains.
2 to 3 years old: Practicing “Please” and “Thank You” This activity gives you and your child a chance to practice manners. Make sure you model the manners both in this activity and in every day behavior. Prepare a bowl of food (a snack, such as popcorn, gold fish, cut fruit), and invite your children to sit down for a snack. Offer a food item to the child, by saying: “Sonya, would you like to take a piece of popcorn?” If the child takes the item without saying “thank you”, ask if you may have a piece. Say: “May I please have a piece of popcorn? Thank you.” Encourage the children to offer the food items to you and each other and to accept it from you and each other, saying “please” and “thank you”. Practice as long as the children are interested, clean the leftover food and the bowl or plate you used. Make this a practical life activity by preparing the food together, then sharing it.