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Let's Play A Game!!

Ann E. Butenas


Okayso you are sitting there on the floor with your baby, toddler, or preschooleror perhaps with all three, like I have at one point. They are looking to you for pure entertainment. What is a mom (or dad or grandparent!) to do? You could turn on the stereo, pop in a lively CD and dance around the room for them, but the thrill of that (for both the child and you) would last, oh, about 30 seconds. Believe it or not, there are actually some fun games in which to engage with your young child. I have tried some of these with my three sons (now ages 2, 4, and 5), and they have proven to be quite fun for them. Of course, you may want to add your own twists to some of them. Read on to see how your young one might enjoy an afternoon of fun and games with you. All of these games are things that I have done with my boys. I realize there exists a variety of games, appropriate for all age levels, but I am merely sharing those activities I have discovered and enjoyed with my children.

When my boys were infants, it was fun for them to just hear my voice in a whimsical manner. I would hold them and point to various things on their bodies, and say in a singsong voice, "There's your nose." "I see your eye." "I've got your ear." "I'm kissing your tummy." They just loved this one-on-one attention. It was fun for me, too. Games like this are great brainpower boosters. Of course, when I try this now with my 2-year-old at a time when he is cranky and I want to cheer him up, he shakes his head and yells "NO!" while he puts his hand to my mouth to make me stop.

Don't forget the familiar patting and clapping games, such as "Pat-A-Cake" and "This Little Piggy." To make these more special for my boys, I would personalize the rhyme by singing something such as "This Little Noah" or "Pat-A-Zach." Little ones love to hear their names!

When my boys were around 6 months of age, I used to put them in their infant swing and just sit in front of them and play the classic "peek-a-boo" game, with my own twist: everytime I took my hands away from my face, I had a new and unusual expression on my facefrom eyes crossed to cheeks puffed out. They loved it and often attempted to imitate me in a fashion that was much more amusing than my own expressions. Get the video camera out for this one!

Once the boys became mobile and were crawling around on the floor, I would leave several age-appropriate toys out for them to investigate. I would then take one away and place it behind my back to see if they could discover where I had put it. They would laugh as they crawled around behind me to "find" the missing treasure. Large, plastic building blocks are fun for babies at this stage, too. Imagine the thrill of stacking them as high as you can without making them fall, and, when they do fall, that is all the more fun! Have baby help you re-stack them again and again in different formations. Be sure to mention the color of each one as you do this. Although they might not pick up on it right away, the repetition of this will surely sink in and one day, as you are playing this game, you will be pleasantly surprised when the child says, "Blue." My youngest did this one day, but he kept pronouncing it as "boo." Thinking he was wanting to play "peek-a-boo," I started to do so. He got a bit frustrated, as I obviously was not following his lead. I soon discovered he was trying to say "blue," and delightfully praised him for his learning efforts. The rest of the day, whenever I saw an object the color of blue, I would ask my son, "What color is that?" Sometimes, I got the right response. Other times, I got a look of confusion as if he was thinking, "Has Mommy gone mad? Doesn't she KNOW the color blue when she sees it?"

Once the child is walking, it is a thrill to engage them in physical types of games. This not only helps them to develop their motor skills, but it is the first step in demonstrating the life-long benefits of exercise. The traditional "Ring Around the Rosie" is a favorite, but sometimes, instead of saying "we all fall down," we say, "we all jump up!" This makes for a different version of the familiar favorite, allowing for more focus on the physical aspect of the game. We also enjoy a good game of Follow the Leader. We march around the room and single-line formation, each doing what the one in front of him is doing. You can do this with yourself and just one child, and have the child take the lead. You may find yourself doing a military crawl under a chair, but just remember how much fun your child is having!

Toddlers and preschoolers love to do games that imitate what the "big people" do. My boys each have their own duster, used under supervision, of course, and when it is time for me to dust their rooms, we see who can dust the most furniture first. We go from room to room doing this. When it is time to pick up their toys, we have a race to see who can do it the quickest. With three small boys, one can imagine that our playroom resembles a "Toys 'R Us" warehouse. I have developed a system where I have color-coded buckets into which the toys go.trucks and cars into one; balls into another; action figures into another, etc. Each boy and I are "assigned" a pick-up duty, and whoever fills their bucket first is the winner! Games that involve action and the responsibility of cleaning up can teach children that they can have fun and get things done at the same time, and it is always more fun when you can make a game of it!

Above all, I have discovered that my boys enjoy the types of games that incorporate and simulate adult chores. What we consider "work," they see as fun. That is why the clean-up game works for us. Also, Dad gets some of the action, too. When it is time to mow the lawn, he is the Pied Piper of Turf, as "mowing" right behind him in single-file formation are his three little boys, each with his own toy lawnmower, and they will follow him throughout the whole procedure. Our neighbors get a kick out of this one! And I get a much-needed break!

Whatever you do with your child, just have fun. Before long, the one-on-one games in which you engaged with him will soon be left behind. My five-year-old is now mesmerized by video games, most of which I cannot even master. I have to remind him that he cannot sit in front of the TV for too long. I think it is time for Dad to mow the lawn again!

Ann E Butenas is a stay-at-home mom of three preschool-age boys. She has an undergraduate degree in Communications, a post-bachelor paralegal certificate, and a Master's in Business Management. She earned the latter during her first two pregnancies while running an at-home business at the same time. She has been professionally published as a writer since the age of 12.

Ann currently owns and operates ANZ Publications, a publications business specializing in family-oriented projects. Her most recent project includes a very unique medical and dental records binder.a great way to keep track of a child's complete medical history from birth through adolescence. Visit the site at ANZ is an acronym, by the way, for her son's Alec, Noah, and Zach. It is pronounced as "Ann's," for her first name, but spelled as such to include the boys!

Her website showcases her new book.

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