Tips for Playing with (and teaching) a Toddler

As a Dad one of the most gratifying things I get is to play with my son. The health and developmental benefits aside, it’s a whole lot of fun. We get to learn about each other’s personalities and I get to teach him what I’m interested in and try to follow along on his interests.

I’m going to break this down into a few general tips focused around one of the things he likes the most: pretending to be a pirate!

Tip #1 – Learn together

When your kid asks you to dress him up like a pirate, you answer the call. The first thing we did was figure out how to make him a pirate hat (I found a tutorial about how to make an origami hat and we worked through it together).

It turned out that he loved the origami part more than the pirate part! So what did we do? He became an origami pirate and we built some paper ships and had an entire battle on the high seas (his bathtub).

I also suggest making obvious mistakes sometimes so that they can correct you. If they don’t notice, that becomes a game of its own!

Tip #2 – Engage in structured play and free play

According to the National Association of Sports and Physical Education, toddlers should have at least half an hour of a structured activity (physical and adult-guided) and at least an hour of unstructured free activities.

They also shouldn’t be inactive for more than 60 minutes at a time (unless they’re asleep).

Tip #3 – Engage in real dialogue

One of the best tools for helping your child develop is having a real back and forth dialogue. Don’t talk to teach, talk to learn from one another.

I’ll try to add to this article from time to time as I continue to learn from him. Feel free to contact me with ideas for future articles or other tips you think might be useful.

Tips for Cutting Paper

My day job involves working with paper crafts, so I’ve learned a fair bit about how to cut paper by messing up and making messes. I figure I can help out the world by sharing a bit of what I’ve learned. Don’t be afraid to make some messes of your own, that’s how you’ll learn.

For cutting paper, it’s important to start with the right supplies. With a lot of DIY projects there are places you can make do with whatever you find cut corners, use what works. But when we’re talking about actually cutting corners, this is the necessary equipment that you shouldn’t skimp on:


  • Self-healing cutting mat. Absolutely essential. A cutting mat will protect your work surface without dulling your blade. (So you can stop cutting on a pile of old magazines)
  • Craft knife. X-Acto knife, cutting knife, scalpel, whatever you’d like to call it. This will be the handle for your blade. It should hold blades that come to a fine point and are a little flexible. I use an X-Acto knife with #11 blades, but it’s best to find one that is comfortable for you to hold.
  • Blades. You will need replacement blades for your craft knife. Make sure to write down what size blade came with your knife, so you can buy more of them in the future.
  • A metal ruler. A wooden ruler with a good, strong metal edge works as well. You need a straight edge to cut along. And if your blades are sharp enough you’ll shave off pieces of anything plastic, wooden, or cardboard that you try to use.

Fundamentals and Tips

  • For straight lines, cut along the metal ruler. Hold the ruler firmly in place with one hand, and pull the blade carefully towards you with the other.
  • For curved lines, it works best to rotate the paper around your blade, rather than moving your blade around.
  • Go slow. Especially around curves. Take your time, and work one section at a time.
  • Don’t press too hard with the blade or you may tear your paper or break your blade.
  • It may take multiple passes to cut all the way through the paper.
  • Box cutters are not flexible. This means they work okay for cutting straight lines, but they aren’t great for curves or any delicate work.
  • Blades are cheap. If you think your blade might be dull or isn’t cutting quite right, change it out for a fresh one.
  • Use a giant cutting mat. At least have one that’s big enough for your projects. You shouldn’t have to keep moving your project to get it onto the mat. I like to have one that covers my entire table top.
  • Practice like hell. Yes, the best practice for cutting paper is to practice. Don’t expect to be great right at the start.