Next time your child is nagging for a new toy or feeling bored, try one of these games at home or in the park. They don’t need any toys, supplies, computer, TV etc. If you are looking for a fun activity to burn their energy then you can try these too.

If you know of similar games or if you play the one listed on the blog and enjoy them, please do leave a comment 🙂

Most of them would sound familar. So not much new here. Just a sort of a reminder that these simple goofy silly games are so much fun. All of them can be played by only two people. You and your child. More the merrier.

    My experience with these games and source

My son has more fun with these games then any toy we ever bought. It’s so so so much fun for him that it’s hard to say out of 10 which game is more fun for him. Most of these games based on the theme of “Playful Parenting”. . Some are picked traditional or classics.

My son and I always used to have some fun but these games bring out biggest laughters and the broadest smiles from my son. Honestly, I have never seen him so happy and charged up.

    Positive side effect

All these games promote a strong connection between parent and child. As a side effect, I have seen that my son follows my instructions more easily (but that’s not my main motivation and it shouldn’t be yours too :-))

    List of games

1. High Five Ask them to give you a high five and pretend to get hurt by it by shaking your hand, making some noise and grimacing. And praise them for being very strong. If there are more than one kid then it becomes a riot. All giggling and trying to “hurt” you more than the other. Keep varying by saying once in while that you were not hurt this time.
This is a good connection starter for kids you are meeting the first time or who are shy.

2. Don’t kiss mom Ask your son or daughter (in a mischievious way) *not* to kiss mom today (or dad). And pretend to get offended that they are not listening to you “I told you not to kiss the mom. Okay, okay, don’t kiss her on the other cheek. Hey, hey, hey, wait no, no, don’t do it”. Works well with younger kids. They start smiling and run to kiss mom. Same thing works with hugs too. “No hugging today, okay……”. This one is infectious. If there are more than one kid in the room. You tell this to one kid and others join in the fun too.

3. Climb up on the couch Sit on the couch and tell them they can’t climb up. Try to stop them by applying as much force as necessary to make them feel challenged. Let them win every time. Increase resistance to make it fun for strong kids and decrease resistance if they are getting frustrated. The idea is to give them some thing challenging and make them win. Same thing can be done where you tell them they can’t open your fist…Don’t be competitive with them. Did I say always let them win 🙂 You can add more tricks to this game where your kid tricks you into looking somewhere else and then climbs up. You look surprised as to how that could happen.

4. Pillow fight Have a pillow fight. This is really awesome. All you have to do is pick up a pillow and hit them lightly. Soon whole family will join in the fun. This one can go on for a long time and is really a lot of fun. Remember not to hurt anyone and if you are getting hurt tell them that you are getting hurt. Don’t stop the game suddenly unless someone is hurt. If something is not going well then make modifications and continue.

5. Push me off the rug,Sumo Play a game where the kid or kids need to push you off the area rug (you can even make it more fun by adding some sumo wrestling moves). They can take help from mom or dad so everyone can join. This is similar to #3 but lot of fun. Let them win every time but give them enough challenge and make sure no one is hurt. This burns of lot of energy too.

6. Play structure game (in the park): In this one my son on a play structure in the park. I am next to the play structure and I try to climb up on that. The rules is that if he is blocking the entracne with his arms, I can’t even start climbing. I try different places to climb, the stairs, the ladder, then other different types of ways to climb. Sometimes, I hide under the play structure and he follows me there with his eyes as he can see me through small holes. Other times I trick him by saying that his friend is waiting on the slide on the other side. Or there was a candy in my pocket which I placed on the far side of the play structure. And then climb.
Then we reverse roles. We played this game for about 30 minutes. It was lot of fun.

7. Swing game (in the park): I saw someone playing this with his grandkid in the park. I tried it and loved it. My son is swinging on the swing in the park. I stand in front of him and pretend that his legs would almost hit me in the face and then I pretend to dodge them. I usually stand bit far away so I never actually get hurt. I tried this with my friend’s kids too and they had a laugh riot. Keep saying things like “oh, you almost hit me” “ouch” “don’t do that again”…One other friend’s daughter I tried with did not like it. So I stopped. I think it depends on the kid and how strong your connection is with them. When I meet her now, I play games which involve larger distance between us and I think she likes them.

8. Kabaddi : This is a game is played in India. In the home version of this game you and your kid stand on either side of the room. There is an imaginary line in the middle. Now you walk to your kid’s side and keep chanting a word without losing breath (say “kabaddi” “kabaddi”). Your aim is to touch him/her and run back without getting held by him/her. Kid’s aim is to either not get touched or if he/she is touched hold you and don’t let you go back to your side. Then you reverse roles and the kid comes to your side and does the same thing. You win if you touch the other person and come back to your side without getting held or losing your chant.

9. Get the kerchief: This is a game which used to be played commonly in India. Put a piece of cloth in the middle of the room. You and the other person (the kid) will stand on either side of the room. Now one of you says “1,2 3” and start running towards the piece of cloth. Your aim is to pick up the piece of cloth and run back to your place. If the other person picks up the cloth then you need to touch him before he gets to his original place. This is a lot of fun. It can go on for at least 30 minutes. You can put a ball or teddy bear instead of the cloth too.

10. Scare dad/mom and make them fall In this game my son makes some noises to scare me and I pretend to get scared. This is a classic as I remember my dad used to play this me and other kids too. You can add more dramatic elements like falling off with scared expressions. Be sure to fall on something soft. Also you we made a rule that one kind of noise is associated with one kind of getting scared. For example, his lions roar is just scared facial expression for me. Some other noise makes me lift my legs one by one (sort of march in place). Some other noise (hard to describe noises :)) makes me fall. Then the kid can try those noises at random and you match the experssion you agreed upon before.


Play with clay

Two short video clips
To start off let me “show” you this short video clip…

Characters in these short movie clips are my five year old son and I. Scene is “Time to bed”.
Everyday, my job is to get 4 rituals done in 15 minutes. These four rituals are – Have him change into pajamas, brush teeth, go to restroom, select a bedtime book. The most difficult one is getting him to brush his teeth. Sometimes he is giggling and running around and tired-me running after him My first objective is to just get him to hold on to his brush. Once we get to that point, one of the following can happen
– he is lost in his thoughts and imaginations or
– he is eating toothpaste or
– he is just holding the brush in his mouth and slowly chewing it
– he is back to playing with his toys.
– he is watching himself in the mirror and making faces or
– last and definitely the worst, he is using his toothbrush to brush the sink or one of his toys

Sounds familiar? 🙂
If this whole scene was really a movie and I was just watching it, I would have enjoyed it and even laughed. But unfortunately this is not a movie. Just imagine, this is end of the day. I am awfully tired from a long day of work. His going to bed means, I can catch a bit of “comedy central” before going to bed. Or get some work done. With this background, let’s start with the first clip..

First clip: the usual

I remind him “Please brush your teeth. We are already late. Play time is over”.
He just ignores. Few minutes go by..
I start getting impatient “You are not brushing. Start brushing now. You know how to do it. We have done it hundred times”
He is still lost.
My voice gets louder “COME BACK and brush your teeth. Don’t do THAT “
He is still ignoring and wasting time. Occasionally brushing little bit here and little bit there.
He starts crying. “You are making me sad. I don’t want to brush”
I try to defend myself and go a little soft “I told you several times nicely. But you didn’t listen”. I am full of anger and guilt.
(Few minutes later I felt really ashamed and stupid. What was the point of all this. My main objective was to inculcate a good habit in him. But all I was doing was making him hate brushing his teeth. Getting him excited about brushing was probably more important than getting his teeth cleaned today. I realized that there was obviously a big disconnect between what was going on in his mind and what I wanted him to do and until that disconnect is not bridged things will not happen in the right way)

Second video clip a little later…

Once, in the times like above, I felt so helpless that seemed like I am banging my head on a rock. It occurred to me that kids are like clay or play dough. When you are playing along with them and they are having a good time, they are soft and malleable, much like fresh clay or play dough. But many times they become so uptight and rebellious that you can’t get through to them. They become like dried up clay or play dough left out in the open. Can’t shape it into anything. Sometimes even so hard like a brick wall or a big hard rock.

Meriam-webster dictionary describes malleable as:
– capable of being altered or controlled by outside forces or influences
– having a capacity for adaptive change

Transforming rock into clay

I felt that our job as skillful parents is to know when our child is malleable and when he/she has become really hard and stubborn. When they are “malleable” it’s easy to get things done and there is almost no problem. But there are times when they are a hard rock or a boulder. At that time there is no point banging our head with it. Any amount of yelling and shouting would be useless and possibly damaging.

We should find a way to transform that big hard boulder of child into soft, malleable (and even giggling :-)) piece of clay or play dough. Once we have achieved that then we can get things done quicker and happier for all parties involved The overall mood will be uplifting and joyful rather than being burdened with anger and guilt.

Root cause

As to why they become stubborn and rebellious, it could be anything but here are some possibilities:
– hungry, tired or sleepy or
– feeling neglected and need attention or
– lost in imagination or
– too excited about some thing or
– using this “bad bahavior” as a means to get something from Parents or
– being opportunistic e.g. as soon as bed time rituals are done the day will be over so let’s delay them as much as possible.

If there is an underlying cause then we must treat the underlying cause as well. For example, if they are feeling neglected, giving them attention by talking and playing with them whenever possible will certainly help.

Second one: my enemy is my friend

Let’s go to this second short movie. Same characters, same scene. Time ‘these days’.
Still lost in his imagination and pretend play and it is hard to get him to brush his teeth.
The difference is that I pay attention to what he has been playing or thinking about today and use his imagination to get him to do what we need to do. My biggest enemy is now my friend.
The imagination of the day could be anything. It could be cars, trains, animal toys, soft toys,planets etc etc. Let’s say it was animal toys.
I ask him to pretend that there is zoo in his mouth. Every teeth is an animal and all of them need a wash from the zookeeper. His eyes light up and he is very interested. He even leaves his toys and asks “which teeth is which animal”. We decide that lower set of teeth are farm animals and the upper set is big cats. He applies “soap” to each animal properly. Gives them a good scrub with his brush. Then he washes each one of them by making his brush wet. Finally he showers them by rinsing. All the zoo animals are happy and clean. My work is done in 2 minutes. He is very happy in doing all this and ready to read his bedtime book Mission accomplished !!!

Another day he is playing with cars.

I apply the same tactic. Now all the teeth are cars. In this “game” he uses 3 brushes. One for applying “soap”, other for “washing” and the last one for “air drying”. . Actually “air drying” is nothing just more brushing. He ends up brushing much better than he would have with just one brush !! Mission accompalished!!! I am all set to watch comedy central 🙂 Wooo-hooooo !!!
When it’s trains, his teeth are railway tracks. When it’s fire truck day, he does not change into pajamas, he changes into “firefighter dress”.

Just by getting in tune with what’s going on in his mind, i was able to get work done from him much better, faster and we both enjoyed it.

In conclusion

Many books and parents suggest that this big boulder-of-a-child be left alone. Some even prescribe punishment e.g. not talking to them, ignoring them or giving timeout. Many cultures also promote or accept hitting the children to “teach-them-a-lesson”. Most common solution is to yell at them. I feel that these approaches do not work. Let me be clear, I am not judging the morality of doing this. What I am saying is that these techniques do not work. The damage they would do in the long run is a separate issue. Once you start using pressure, yelling and hitting, you would probably need more pressure and more punishments. It only leads to resentment from both sides. Faber/Mazlish from “How to talk so kids will listen…” mention that punishment leads the kids to low self esteem or make them rebellious as they think that they would do it again when mom/dad are not looking.

Sometimes it is important to express authority but I feel that humor, playfulness and tuning in to child’s mind works in most cases.

The tuning in part could be sometimes just listening to the child or talking about his/her interests or diversion by way of a funny or interesting story. As per Faber/Mazlish changing parenting style “is like learning a new language”. You may have challenges and may feel awkward at first. Very soon you would see that humor or playfulness are far more effective and bring easier compliance than any kind of punishment would.

I plan to write total 100 activities, phew -) The idea is to list fun and learning activities which can keep your child really happy and busy. Parenting can be a lot of fun and can be very satisfying by just a teeny-tiny bit of effort -) Next time when they come back with constant refrain of “play with me” or “can i watch more TV?” or “I am bored” you can try one of these 🙂

This set of 10 is on Art and Nature (part 1 of 10)

  1. Go on a Nature hunt in the neighborhood (Time:30-60 minutes, Skills development: Nature,Knowing your Neighborhood, Lots of fun) Go on a walk or bike ride in the neighborhood with your child. Keep collecting interesting things you find in a plastic bag.  You can pick dry leaves, dropped flowers, pine cones whatever your child fancies (as long as your are not messing with other’s property). You can come home and talk about these things. E.g. why the leaves are yellow, what does pine cone have inside them etc. If you don’t know google it and tell them. Believe me, it’s much much more fun then it sounds like. 
    Nature stuff my son and I collected from our neighborhood

    Nature stuff my son and I collected from our neighborhood


  2. Tracing a leaf (Time: 10-30 minutes, Skills development:Nature,Art) Pick few fallen leaves from the neighborhood. Put them under a white sheet of paper. Use a crayon to color the part of the paper over the leaf. It is best to take out the paper covering over the crayon and then roll the bare crayon over the paper. You will see the entire details of the leaf on the paper as if you drew it. It’s so simple and turns out like a great art. Once you show your child how to do it, let them do a few on their own. 
    Leaf my wife and son traced one day

    Leaf my wife and son traced one day


  3. Installing a bird feeder (Time: 30 minutes,Skills development: Nature, Caring for animals, Bird Watching) You can buy a bird feeder and bird food for under $15 from a pet shop. Some pet shops also sell seeds for wild birds in $1 pouches. You can hang it in your patio or backyard. A good place would be one which you can see from your couch or dinner table (that way you can observe the birds while having breakfast or lunch or from your couch). This is really a lot of fun and is very satisfying activity. You can also club this with identifying the bird types and observing their behavior. Here is a good page to do that: http://whatbird.wbu.com/mwg/_/0/attrs.aspx
  4. Taking them to the zoo or aquariums (Time: 1/2 to 1 day, Skills Development: Learning about animals, outdoor fun): This is one is obvious but I can not emphasize how fun it is for the whole family. In the San Francisco/San Jose bay area there are lots of good options. BTW some of these options are very cheap and some are even free. Craigslist is a good source for hugely discounted tickets. Here is the complete list: http://www.bayareakidfun.com/pages/animals.html
  5. Drawing animals on computer (Time: 30 minutes,Skills development: Mousing, Keyboard, Computer editing) We keep our son’s TV/Computer time limited to 2 hours a day. Sometimes he likes to draw using windows paint software (click on start, programs (or all programs), accessories and then click on paint). Good things about this software is that it is not addictive like other computer games and generated creativity along with teaching general computer skills like moving the mouse, clicking, selecting, drawing. You will be surprised (amazed!!) how quickly this little fellows learn and retain these skills.
  6. Making a collage using pictures cut from an old magazine (Time:60 minutes,Skills Developed: Cutting, Nature, Story,Art).  My experience: I did it with my 5 year old using a national geographic magazine. He picked many animal pictures and enjoyed making a collage thoroughly.  Details on how to do it: Pick up any old magazine (even an unwanted dumb newsletter from costco or AAA) and sit with your child. Tell him/her the rules of the game. A collage is nothing but pictures pasted on a piece of paper or cardboard. To make a collage, you need to flip the pages of the magazine and select pictures you would like to cut. Rip out those pages. Once you have 10 or so pages, leave the magazine alone. Get scissors and cut the pictures out.  Get a big sheet of paper or cardboard to paste those pictures. If you don’t have large paper then you can tape two regular sheet of paper together and use that. You can also get a cardboard from an old toy box or brown delivery box. Here is an example:

    Collage made from old National Geographic

    Collage made from old National Geographic

  7. Duck,Duck,Goose (Time: 5-60 minutes,Skills development: Just pure fun) My experience: My son loves it so much that for 10 minutes of this game he can do all the bedtime activities himself(e.g. brushing, changing clothes etc) without complaining. Two or more people can play this game. One person sits and rest stand. One of the standing person taps the person sitting on the head three times and says Duck (first tap), Duck (second tap), Goose (third tap). After third tap the person who is sitting can touch any of the folks who are standing.  Players which are standing run away fast so that they don’t get caught. The person who was sittting gets up and chases them around the house. If any one gets touched he/she is “out” and has to be the sitter. Variations: Instead of saying “Duck,Duck,Goose”, each person can pick any two nature related words and do this. For example you can say “Butterfly,Butterfly, Moth”.  Another variation is that you chase in a funny way. Pretend to be an animal or a bird.
  8. Junior Scrabble (Time:10-30 minutes,Skills development:Vocabulary,Spelling) Spelling out animal words you like on Junior scrabble or even regular scrabble. For example, dinosour names, fish names or pet names. You can buy a used one with as little as $5 here: http://www.amazon.com/Hasbro-4039-S5-Scrabble-Edition/dp/B00000IWHC
  9. Drawing and cutting shapes (Time: 10-60 minutes, Skills development: Art, Cutting, Nature, Drama) My experience: We draw and cut sharks and whales and then make stories with them and play with them. Making up stories is not really very difficult. Just imagine any of your daily activities and pretend that shark is doing it. For example, one of the sharks was having a toothache so she went to a dentist. Now whatever you experience at the dentist can be your story as long as every one in the dentist office is a fish 🙂
  10. Drawing with Sidewalk Chalk (Time: 15-30 minutes, Skills Development: Writing, Drawing, Nature,Art) It washes off very easily. Don’t worry if you don’t live in a big house. Your patio can also work as a big canvas. Parents can also join the fun. At least draw a couple of them to start off and then let them have fun.