Your 2-year-old shows her growing independence and physical ability each day. Her increasing stability and coordination allow her to play basic games that enhance these skills. She needs a minimum of 60 minutes of physical activity each day, but that hour of activity can be divided into smaller play sessions, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. The AAP recommends that most of a 2-year-old's play is unstructured, but there are simple, outdoor games you can play with your child if you keep rules to a very minimum, keep competition out of it and allow for lots of creativity and lapses in attention. The main purpose is to help your 2-year-old use and develop skills in a fun away while getting fresh air and sunshine.
Movement games help toddlers improve balance, coordination and gross motor skills. Because by the age of 2 years, a child can follow simple instructions, as well as copy others, Follow the Leader and Simon Says are good games if age-appropriate skills are taken into account. Incorporate movements such as balancing on one foot, walking backwards, tip-toeing, walking like a penguin and squatting down and hopping like a frog. When playing these "follow me" games with your 2-year-old, temper the use of movements your toddler is developing with ones she has already mastered. While children this age are more apt to play alongside other children than with them, they do enjoy tagging games. If you have a group of similarly aged children, lead some rounds of Duck, Duck Goose. Or play hide-and-seek with your child in the backyard.
An outdoor obstacle course improves a 2-year-old's gross motor skills, which include running, crawling, jumping, tip-toe walking and climbing up on structures, the latter a skill that may be developed just enough to be dangerous, so ensure playground toys in your yard are age-appropriate. Things you might add to the obstacle course: a toddler slide, small items to jump over and a tunnel made of boxes with tops and bottoms removed and taped together, lying horizontal on the ground. Depending on your child's ability and safety precautions, a tricycle obstacle course can be fun. Many children can handle tricycles by about age 3, according to Zero to Three and the AAP, but ensure the tricycle is the toddler-friendly type, low to the ground with fat wheels, recommended by the AAP, and don't let your tot ride without a helmet. If your 2-year-old has a toddler-friendly trike and helmet and has mastered the skill, make an obstacle course with cones or sidewalk chalk.
A tub of sidewalk chalk creates more opportunities for outdoor toddler play. Draw large circles in four or five different chalk colors down the length of the driveway, invited your 2-year-old to help with this. Or draw various shapes. Call out a color or shape and have your tot jump only in those colors or shapes to cross the driveway. She'll likely still hop with both feet together. If she hasn't mastered hopping forward, just have her walk or run from one shape to the next. This game helps your two-year-old continue learning to identify different shapes and colors -- a skill she's starting to grasp.
When the weather is warm enough, water games help your tot stay happily active while building skills. Toddlers need constant supervision anytime water is involved -- even with a shallow, inflatable pool. Always be within arm's reach. Provide your tot with a hat to keep the sun of her face. Avoid water play when sun rays are at their strongest -- from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Allow your tot to make her own games with containers of different sizes, such as plastic measuring cups, clean plastic food containers and funnels. This allows her to play, explore and relax in the water. Since two-year-old children like to copy others, she can have fun pretending to do the things she sees you do in the kitchen. Standing outside the pool, have your 2-year-old try tossing a ball into the water from varying distances, going for accuracy or the biggest splash.