7 Simple Games to Boost Your Toddler’s Brainpower

Aside from being lots of fun, games enhance your child’s cognitive development by helping them strengthen their problem-solving skills, memory, attention span, and logical thinking skills.

Here are five fun and simple games to boost your toddler’s brainpower!

1) Copycat Dance Party

Have you ever noticed your toddlers copying your mannerisms and the things that you say? It’s because they’re learning by watching you. One of the main ways that toddlers learn is by copying.

Copycat games help toddlers improve their memory, attention span, listening skills, and problem-solving skills.

Play some music and have your toddler copy your silly dance moves. This game is excellent for helping your child improve their balance as well. 

Once your toddler gets the hang of the game, they can be the leader, and you can copy their moves. They’ll find this really funny!

2) Color Scavenger Hunt

Teach your child beginning math skills by taking them on a Color Scavenger Hunt! By learning to recognize and match colors, toddlers are developing early math skills like classification, sorting, and pattern recognition. They’re also learning the concept of groups and categories, which is an important foundation for later math skills like counting, addition, and subtraction.

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You can have a Color Scavenger Hunt indoors or outdoors. Pick some toys or child-safe objects that are all one color. Hide these toys in your home or out in the yard or park. Help your child find the color by holding a toy that’s the same color and pointing out when you see the color in the environment. Act really excited and repeat the name of the color several times. Your toddler can collect the toys in a bag or bucket, which is an additional fine-motor skill activity.

Start with one color at a time. Once your toddler has mastered a color, you can introduce a new one to the game.

3) Where’s the Baby?

This is a really fun game that my toddler students all loved. I would grab a blanket and cover one of the students or a few students with the blanket while singing “Where is (insert kid’s name)?” to the tune of “Where is Thumbkin?”

So I’d sing, “Where is Jessie? Where is Jessie?” Then I’d pull the blanket off the kid and sing, “There she is! There she is!” All the kids would laugh and want to hide under the blanket. This is a more fun version of Peek-a-Boo.

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You can put the blanket over yourself and over some of your kid’s favorite toys and dolls while singing the song; your child will start to sing along, too, and will love hiding under the blanket.

4) Stacking Blocks

Blocks are excellent toys for toddlers because there are countless ways to play with them. Stacking blocks is great for your child’s hand-eye coordination, spatial awareness, focus, problem-solving, and even language and communication skills.

This activity works with any block, even large Lego-style blocks, since they will fall over once it gets to a certain height. Your child will have so much fun building high towers and knocking them down.

5) Pretend Play

Pretend play boosts your toddler’s brainpower because it stimulates their imagination while they practice a wide range of skills such as social, communication, problem-solving, and planning.

Many toddlers don’t like wearing costumes because it can be really constricting and uncomfortable, but they do love wearing hats, headbands, and sunglasses. You can set up a dress-up area in your child’s room if they like dressing up; if not, they can still have fun playing a variety of pretend play activities using props and toys.

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Toddlers love to pretend to cook, so setting up a little pretend restaurant would be a lot of fun for them. You can turn their play kitchen into an ice cream parlor, pizza restaurant, or cake shop. Your toddler can serve play food or play dough, and you can print out menus or use colorful to-go menus from local restaurants. Some restaurants will let you take home some empty pizza boxes and containers with their logo on them so that you can use them at home.

The pretend hospital was a hit with my students. They enjoyed pretending to be doctors by putting band-aids and gauze on toy animals and dolls and even each other! Our learning space also had doctor coats and stethoscopes as well as toy doctor kits which you can find at any toy store. You can also set up little beds for the patients using blankets and pillows.

6) Puzzles

Toddlers love solving puzzles because they like to fit things together and enjoy the challenge of figuring out where things go. Once they finish solving a puzzle, they feel a real sense of accomplishment.

Puzzles help develop your toddler’s spatial awareness, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills while improving their hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills.

Start with simple wooden puzzles that do not have too many pieces, where your toddlers can see the pictures on the puzzle tray to match the puzzle piece correctly. This wooden animal puzzle is a good beginner puzzle game. You can even buy them in bulk. It’s also an excellent way to teach new vocabulary words.

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Avoid buying puzzles with numbers and letters. Toddlers don’t need to know numbers and letters at this stage and are not able to understand those concepts yet. It’s better to buy puzzles with pictures and vocabulary words that they can understand easily.

Once your toddler has mastered the beginner puzzles, they can move on to more complicated, but not too complicated, puzzles, like these animal puzzles with different pieces. Make sure that the puzzles are not too difficult or too easy for your child.

7) Hot Potato

Hot Potato is a fun and easy game that will help your child improve their hand-eye coordination, reaction time, attention, and focus. By changing the rules, you can improve your child’s cognitive flexibility, which will help your child learn to adapt to change.

Any object can be a potato. A soft toy works really well. Pretend the potato is really hot, make funny gestures, and blow on the potato. Quickly hand the potato to your child, and encourage them to pass the potato back to you. Once they get the hang of receiving and passing, you can sing the “Hot Potato Song” or any simple kid’s song and yell “STOP” at any time.

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Shout “Oh no!” whenever someone is still holding the potato. The one with the potato can blow their hands to cool them off since they’re too hot from holding the potato, or they can do another silly movement. You can go faster and slower and change the rules once your toddler understands the game.

Playing games with your toddler is a great bonding experience that will teach them many valuable life skills while having a blast. What simple games does your toddler like to play? Let us know in the comments below!

Tracy Lowe

Tracy is a writer and filmmaker from Los Angeles, but Thailand has been her primary home for over a decade. She has more than 13 years of experience teaching young children and is a major proponent of the Reggio Emilia approach to learning.

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