Let's face it. Some of us feel like we don't have time to play.
But not our kids. No. It's like they are made for it.
Well, actually, they are. Play is one of the ways they learn. And they LOVE IT. If KidLand were a country, play would be their currency. And their language. And their national flag.
So why is play so hard for US?
Well, one of the reasons is that we legitimately have a lot to do. We get sucked up into our lists of important tasks that need to get ticked off. First things first: Look at that list and ask yourself "Does this thing actually need to get done?" And if it does need to get done, does it need to get done now?"
Would it be okay if it waited five minutes? And yeah, I really mean 5 minutes.
Because here are FIVE GAMES YOU CAN PLAY WITH YOUR KIDS, EACH IN FIVE MINUTES OR UNDER:
* While most of these games are meant for kids 10 and under, they can be modified for older kids too. See my suggestions at the end.
HOW HARD DO I LOVE YOU: (Good for 2-5 players)
If you think your kiddo would enjoy it, lift them up in the air over your bed, and ask them if they want to know how much you love them! Tell them you love them so much that you want to throw them THAT hard onto the bed. Ask them if they can handle it, then let them choose a number between 1-10 and that is how much of your love you will show them. The higher the number, the harder the throw. They get to self modulate and push themselves, building confidence along the way, and also learning - and expressing - their own personal boundaries. The physicality of hitting the bed gives them a nice giggly thrill and a great way to really get your love in there.
THE ALL SOCKS OFF GAME (Good for 2-20 players)
Sit in a circle. Explain very clearly: "The object of this game is to KEEP your socks ON, and at the same time get everyone else's socks OFF. (Pause for effect.) GO!" This Game is SO MUCH FUN!! Lots of wrestling and giggling. For any of you who tend not to play super physical games especially with your girls, this is a great place to start. Grown ups: please remember to really try, but do let the little ones win. As they get older and better and stronger you can keep moving that line so they have a chance to really fight back. But start easy so they have hope and can savor the win. If you have competitive siblings who are going after each other, this is a great game to play to get them more on the same team, by joyously going after them and getting them to gang up together against you, as you so painfully accept defeat. And then rise up to go again, vowing to no way, no how let those socks get pulled off yet again by the sock demon duo or trio or quintuplet even!!
FESTIVAL OF SILLY NAUGHTINESS: (Good for 2-5 players)
Got a child who loves to be naughty? Shutting down that impulse will just disconnect them from you, and make you less viable of a leader for them, so head in the other direction: stoke that mischievous spirit in a good way! Offer to take them into a closet, car or tent, and take one minute to call each other the silliest craziest most "insulting" names you can think of. "Yam headed snail bait!" "Monkey loving pie sniffer!" "Floor licker of cupcake crumbs!" This little ritual can be very affirming for a child who needs a healthy and connecting way to channel their mischievous spirit, and let them still know you've got their back.
AIRPLANE DIRECTIVES: (Good for 2-5 players)
One Mom in one of my classes came up with this brilliant idea for getting her kids ready for school in the morning. (Thank you Erinn!) Tired of begging them to brush their teeth or get dressed, she repurposed a bunch of folded paper airplanes they had around and wrote little directives on them. When it was time for shoes, instead of begging, she found the one that said "Find your shoes, and put them on!" Her kids loved the challenge and the fun way each task floated on over to them. Mornings were much happier and more on time. Nothing bad about that!! Tip: Got little ones who can't read yet? Draw pics instead of using words.
SOCK FIGHT! (Good for 2-20 players)
Out of the blue, suddenly yell "SOCK FIGHT!!!!" Everyone rushes to their drawers and grabs all the balled up socks they can. Meet in an open play area or hide behind couches if you prefer. Anywhere without heirloom ceramics that is. :) Set a timer for two minutes, and go to town, throwing socks at each other as quickly as you can. Bonus: When the timer goes off, put on a beloved dance song and gather up all the socks in the silliest way you can - maybe just with elbows or with your mouth or any which way would make it fun. A great one for just lifting the general mood.
Got older kids? You might try some physical wrestling, or (safe) YouTube challenges, or throwing some ice down each others shirts (a perennial fave in our house!) You can also modify some of the ideas listed above by adding some gamification rules from video games they love (think Fortnite emotes) or some Truth or Dare elements that get kids talking about their lives without realizing it, and learning more about yours than you may have ever intended to tell them, lol!)
SUPER SECRET SPECIAL TIP: Got a kid who is starting to whine or being defiant? Try using one of these games to reconnect with that child and get their mind flowing towards positive connection again. I know it seems crazy counterintuitive and you might be worried that you are rewarding bad behavior. Brain science tells us otherwise. Want to know why I would say something so radical?
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