Try some of these five games to help your toddler practise listening to and following instructions:

Treasure hunts

This is a great way to disguise a lesson as a game! Draw your toddler a simple map of your home. Mark out a start and finish point, and draw arrows pointing in the way they need to walk. You can circle places where you’ve hidden ‘treasure’ like toys.

If your little one is still quite a young toddler, you may need to walk through with them, which will still help them learn about maps and left and right. If your toddler is a bit older, they may be able to follow your map on their own while you loosely supervise.

Simon Says

A classic game for a reason. Simon Says is a great game for learning body parts (head, shoulders, knees and toes…) and then following random instructions, such as ‘Simon says jump up and down!’

Remember to explain that if you don’t say ‘Simon says’ before the instruction, your little one is not to do it. This requires focus and listening skills while still being fun and silly. You can change it up by choosing a different character instead of Simon, perhaps your little one’s favourite book or TV character.

Do Three Things

This is a simple game. You play exactly how it sounds. Tell your toddler you’re going to play the Do Three Things game. Act very excited, so they know it’s going to be fun.

Then, simply give them a list of three things to do in a row. This can help with listening and memory. You could even try sneaking in something like ‘pick up two toys from the lounge room and put them in your toy box.

Take turns with your little one and let them suggest three things for you to do. This can help to build confidence and decision making.

Red Light, Green Light

This is a great game for small groups of toddlers. Find some red and green paper, or something red and something green you can hold up. Explain that green means go, and when you say, ‘Greenlight!’ and hold up the green object, they are to dance or run around. When you say, ‘Red light!’ they have to stop and hold very still. The first person to move sits out of the next round (or you can keep everyone in and just keep playing for a while).

You can introduce another colour with a new meaning like ‘yellow means do star jumps. This can help toddlers learn colours and listening skills while they follow directions and get some activity in! Once they’ve played a few times, you can try removing the coloured objects, so they have to rely on listening.

Follow the Leader

This is an easy copying game. Pick a ‘leader’ (try being the leader yourself first to demonstrate). Then simply ask your toddler to copy whatever you do. When you say, ‘You lead!’, then you start copying them. This is great for groups, so everyone gets a chance to practise making up directions and following instructions.

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