Monday, September 30, 2013

11 playful parenting ideas

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11 playful parenting ideas == Hobo MamaBeing a parent has taught me an important lesson: Kids love a ham. {Tweet me!}

Fortunately, parenting has also taught me how to become one.

Here are some more of our family's playful parenting ideas that work on toddlers, preschoolers, and elementary-age kids. (Try it with tweens and teens, and let me know….) Some kids will need a warmup period if they're not used to this kind of silliness; others will jump right in, so take it at your and your child's pace.

I've mentioned some of these before, but here are my kiddos' current favorites at 6 and 2, a mix of old and new.

  • Baby washing machine

    I came up with this one randomly. I sit Alrik on my lap and tell him he's very dirty and needs to go through the washing machine. You know how you crack an "egg" on someone's head? You (gently) tap your fist with your other fist against the person's skull and then spreeead your hands all down their head and shoulders as if the egg is smearing all over. Well, I decided that worked just as well with fake soap and water. So I crack a detergent egg on his head: "Gotta get soap all over you!" And then: "Now it's time to get you wet!" Back the hands come to spread the water all down his head.

    Then, the fun part: "Agitate! Agitate! Swish-swish-swish-swish." I take him by both arms and (gently) shake him back and forth, back and forth.

    "Now we have to rinse you off!" Back with the water "egg" on his head. And then, the coup de grĂ¢ce: "And now into the dryer with you!" And I blow on his head till his hair flies.

    Alrik is astonishingly patient during this whole process. He thinks it's funny and yet apparently something he needs to sit very still for. It cracks me up. So, enjoy — Baby Washing Machine!

  • Stop scaring me!

    Alrik likes to pretend to be a dinosaur or other monster and jump out to scare us. Woe betide us if we roar back or do anything but pretend to be terrified.

    I'm thinking you could initiate this game with a kid if you give the suggestion that the child is a dinosaur (or something equally ferocious) and then feign stark terror.


  • Don't eat this!

    I wrote recently about our skinny minnie kidlet and how we're conscious of how much (or little) he's eating. One tactic we use at mealtimes to bring him back to the table out of his distraction is to play the game of waving a fork around and saying, "Don't you dare eat this bite." Mikko gets into this, too, which I think is a nice way for him to feel protective and nurturing of his little brother while having some fun.

    My mom took it a step further and introduced the idea of pretending to be just about to eat the bite in a very exaggerated manner and then letting Alrik "steal" it from her. Well-fed kid, happy parents, peaceful mealtime. Win.

  • That's not right!

    Getting dressed can sometimes be a struggle between the forces of Righteous Parent and Nakey Child. When Alrik's squirming around or away from a diaper change or bout of getting clothes or shoes on, I often inject a little silliness into the exchange, like so: "Where does this diaper go? Oh…that's right…on your head." And I put it there. "No, that's not right," I say in befuddlement. "Oh, I know! It goes…on your elbow." Pause for giggles. "No, that's not right." Eventually Alrik is chanting the line with me and dissolving into laughter, ultimately letting me put the garment on the correct body part.

    As a variation, try your mightiest to put the object on yourself. I've tugged and nearly toppled myself over trying to put a baby shoe on my ear, or a shirt onto my own foot or his pants onto my arm. Oh, the (mock) frustration I express! Oh, the peals of laughter from my audience!

  • Stop swinging!

    11 playful parenting ideas == Hobo Mama
    See? You can tell he's evil just by looking at him.
    I've mentioned this one before, because it's one of Mikko's (still) favorite playground games, but now Alrik's into it, too. While standing in front, very purposely set the swing far back (well, as far back as they're comfortable with) and say firmly, "Now, stay there." Then let go, and exclaim in mock horror that they're disobeying a very clear command by swinging toward you. The nerve of some children! Push them back, saying, "No! I said to stay back!" As they swing toward you again, "Aaagh! You're not listening to me!"

    You can also play a similar game by letting them kick you as they swing toward you while pretending to be highly offended by it. (You control how hard the kicks are by how close you stand to them.)

    I've gotten some funny looks from other kids and parents when we play this game, but my kids think it's hilarious. It gives them a chance to exercise their own power in a safe way.

  • Kitty cat

    Alrik has spontaneously begun this game by himself. He'll pretend to be a cat (we have two cats) or a frog (he loves frogs), and he'll do it pretty much anywhere we are. We'll be in a restaurant, and the next thing I know he's flat on the floor meowing up at me. It's surprising because Mikko's much more pragmatically minded, I guess, so he hasn't been much for pretend play; I didn't expect it already at Alrik's age, but he's a natural.

    It's pretty easy to keep a kitty-boy happy. Pet his head and exclaim delightedly over what a pretty cat he is. I call to Sam and say, "Look, Sam, this cute little kitten followed us home! Isn't he sweet?" Alrik will meow at us happily and then insist, in human voice, on a treat of fish flakes fed to him on the ground. This is actually true. (Bonus: It inspires me to keep my floors cleaner!) I've drawn the line at feeding him actual flies when he's a frog, though I do give him imaginary bites of tasty bugs that he pretend slurps right up.

  • Mama roller coaster

    I talked about this one in my big activity list, but this is another that's caught on like gangbusters with both kids now. I kneel on the bed, and one child at a time clambers around behind me and holds onto my shoulders. Then I fall face-first on the bed while he hangs on and rides down. Sometimes the rider lands on my bum; sometimes I twist so he lands on the bed. I just make sure there's nothing and no one in the way of a soft landing.

    Yes, I know Mama Roller Coaster makes pretty much no sense, but some of the best play routines are entirely nonsensical. And make liberal use of beating up parents. Witness the next one.

  • Hop on pop

    I named this one after one of my favorite books as a child. My dad would read the text: "You must not hop on Pop!" and I would respond by mischievously covering up the "not" and then setting action to words.

    I was pleased to see this passing down through the generations. My children like nothing better at the end of the day than dogpiling on Sam on the bed. They just sort of fling themselves onto him while he lies there and groans. (Oh, the dangers of Dr. Seuss!)

  • Hush!

    This is a fun one to spring on children when they're least expecting it. When they're being especially quiet, tell them, "Stop being so loud! I can't even hear myself think." When they try to protest that they weren't talking at all, cut them off with a peremptory "Shh!" as many times and as loudly as necessary. I don't know why, but we all find this hilarious.

    11 playful parenting ideas == Hobo Mama
    Not the same moves Sam does, but close.
  • Ankle flips

    If you need another full-body experience, do as Sam does: Go over to a kid lying on his back, and pull him up backwards by his ankles. Then swing, swing, swing, and toss onto the couch or bed. Your comfort level and safety standards are in your own hands.

  • I have no idea where you are

    This is a straightforward one and is a natural way to follow your child's lead. When she hides, pretend you have no clue where to find her. Talk with anyone nearby, or just out loud to yourself, about how she couldn't be anywhere near you — she must be downstairs, or maybe in the other room. Keep up the patter as long as it takes for your child to emerge and surprise the snot out of you! She was right there all along! Who knew! (NB: Alrik has terrible timing on this. He takes forever and does a long, slow reveal. Sam and I just keep volleying back and forth to each other: "Do you have any idea where Alrik is?" "No, do you?" "No, I haven't seen him." Lather, rinse, repeat. It's like we're back in the Baby Washing Machine.)

11 playful parenting ideas == Hobo Mama
This is the expression you're going for.

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What are your favorite silly games to play with your kids? What are ways you cultivate being a goofball with your children?

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1 comments:

Janine Fowler said...

Hehe, we do a lot of these! My 3 year old loves when I "crack an egg" on his head.

I do the ankle flips with my 4 month old! I never would have been so physical with my first baby but I've been having a blast roughhousing with this new guy a lot more. He loves it!

Also thanks for this, because my dad used to do that "Stay there" thing with the swings and this reminded me of that and made me smile. :)

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