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Toddler Party Games

Material kids
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.

Water works
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.