It goes without saying: Playing with a child holds its own intrinsic joy, regardless of the activity. But it’s also understandable that after 20 rounds of patty-cake, you’re ready to call it quits.
Instead of ending the play session, switch to a different kind of play, one that’s as fun for you as for the child. Children clearly can be too young to be a worthy opponent at gin rummy or other adult-friendly games, but there are plenty of activities that can get your smile as big as theirs. Here are some suggestions:
1. Earth and moon
Bill Herbert, father of three and longtime 3rd grade teacher at Pioneer Elementary School in Union City, California, invented Earth and Moon with his 4-year-old daughter Melanie.
Arm yourselves with a flashlight and a laser pointer (warn your child never to aim the laser pointer directly in anyone’s eye; it can damage the retina), and lie face up on the bed in a dark room. Make the Earth, or the flashlight beam, move in large circles around the ceiling.
Your child’s job is to keep the moon (the laser pointer) orbiting the Earth. Start by moving the Earth slowly, speeding it up as the game continues, to challenge your child to continue his moon’s orbit.
2. Collect the fun…
…in a “scrap box.” On your favorite daily outings — a walk around the neighborhood, a stroll along the beach — gather things (if permitted by the park) to help both of you remember why you like a particular locale or stroll. Be prepared to take pictures if your child picks up a really beautiful leaf or a special seashell.
Once you’re home, help your child decorate a shoebox with construction paper, crayons, glitter, or anything else that makes it unique. Keep both of your collections inside. You might have several different boxes for each outing.
On rainy days, snuggle up on the couch with your child and sift through the box. Chances are you’ll be able to relive your favorite outings as you dig through the treasures.
3. For the birds
Bright colors, delicate movements, the ability to defy gravity — it’s no wonder that birds fascinate kids and adults alike. Gail Pfister, mother of three from Robinsville, New Jersey, offers these easy instructions for making a bird feeder with your child to attract the fanciful creatures to your backyard:
Rinse and dry an empty, plastic milk jug.
Cut out the side opposite the handle, making sure to leave a couple of inches at the bottom so the birdseed doesn’t fall out and so that the birds have a place to stand. Try for an opening about 4 inches wide.
Leave the cap on and tie a string or wire around the neck of the container.
Fill the inside with birdseed and hang it outside your window.
Then grab a book on birds, and sit and enjoy the view. Help your child look up different types of birds and read about them so you can both identify which birds are visiting your homemade bird “restaurant.”
4. Sand cities
Think you need a beach to make a sand castle? Not necessarily. Grab the buckets and toys and go to a local park that offers sand. While your child digs out roads and lakes, you can assemble the buildings. During the winter, substitute snow as a building material for sand.
5. Food art
Tired of drawing with crayons and building with blocks? Get creative and turn nature’s bounty into a work of art.
Cut up carrots, tomatoes, celery, or other fruits and vegetables, and help your child arrange the food into pictures on a large plate. The two of you can create a clown, train, or a beautiful piece of abstract art. You can use olives for eyes, round crackers for wheels, slices of cheese as windows — the possibilities are endless.
And then the real fun begins: Eating your masterpiece!
6. Bubble magic
Bubbles are a blast whether you’re 3 or 30. Make your own bubble solution by mixing one part dishwashing detergent with 10 parts water, and a little glycerin or corn syrup to make the bubbles hold.
Your child can use almost any open-ended object to make bubbles, including the rings from a six-pack of soda or a clothes hanger (with sharp ends bent back for safety). Try making bigger and bigger bubbles, but be careful he doesn’t drink the solution!
7. Living room camp-outs
Campouts are always fun, but the living-room variety has the added benefit of being temperature controlled and replete with carpet, cushions, and the all-important access to the kitchen and bathroom.
Pitch a small pup tent, or make your own by placing blankets over carefully arranged furniture. Then pull out the sleeping bags, pillows, flashlights, and s’mores for a real camping experience. The “tent” can stay up for as long as you want, making it easy for you and your child to go camping anytime.
8. Cloud Watching
Grab a blanket, lie on your back in the back yard or in a park, and watch as the clouds float above, morphing into all kinds of interesting shapes. Be sure to get your child talking about what he’s noticing, and compare notes: Where your child sees a pony, you may see a whale. Feel free to get silly (“Is that a dog with an umbrella?”) or contemplative (“That cloud looks like love.”).
9. Shake, rattle, and roll
It’s a no-brainer: Turn on the music and move! It’s one activity that’s guaranteed to get you all laughing. You and your child can jam to the Funky Chicken or make up your own moves.
10. A story with a soundtrack
Kids love to hear you make up stories, and you can get your inspiration from your own record or CD collection (and increase your child’s appreciation of music to boot). Start out simple with a recognizable, no-lyrics tune and storyline, like Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf.”
You don’t have to tell the story exactly as you remember it — embellish a little, replacing the main character with your child, or introducing a new character your child will be fascinated by, like a dinosaur. Ask your child if he’d like to add anything to the story.
You’ll be amazed at how the music helps you both move the plot line along. Beating drums sound like someone trotting through the forest; a flute is a little bird in the sky telling the animals which direction to go; a violin means the sun is setting. Before long, you’ll hit on some favorites that both you and your child will enjoy recounting.
*Article reprinted from: www.babycenter.com, by Melissa Sandness.