Scarves, towels, sheets, pillowcases, or scraps of fabric make for multipurpose playthings. They can be draped into forts, fashioned into costumes, transformed into doll-size baby carriers, and hung from doorways, where they make fabulous props for peekaboo and hide-and-seek.
My daughter Anna and I have cut squares out of sheets, painted them, and then glued one edge of our creations onto sticks or wooden dowels for customized flags, perfect for waving on a walk around the block. An old pillowcase has become a canvas and then a cape, the two side seams opened and a circle cut out at the top for the head.
A silky scarf in hand transforms toddler dances into wild blurs of color and movement. Have your child twirl with scarves to a recording of her favorite songs, then tell her to freeze in place when you pause the music.
Even the simplest unexpected moments thrill toddlers -- from pulling back the bedcovers to reveal a beloved stuffed animal underneath to changing the venue for lunch to a blanket on the porch. At our house, I'd place a treat -- often something as unassuming as a graham cracker or as simple as a toy that a cleaning had recently unearthed -- in a small basket we kept hanging on the kitchen door within Anna's reach. Checking the basket throughout the day provided her and me with an ongoing game as I sneaked things in and she squealed with delight to find them there later.
The fun of painting at this age is moving the brush and seeing the change this creates -- no messy temperas required. For your child's first painting experiences, join her in a session with water. With an ordinary paintbrush and a cup of water, she can decorate rocks and see the new shades of brown and gray the wetness brings out, darken pieces of construction paper with brushed-on water, even do disappearing foot- and handprints on brown paper bags.