When your child was a baby, you spent hours tickling her and playing peek-a-boo and pat-a-cake, just to watch her reaction. You can keep that interaction alive at every age. When you play games with your child, put the emphasis on fun, and she’ll enjoy spending quality time with you. Whether you play a quiet indoor game or a rousing outdoor sport, laughter and conversation are sure to follow. Involve the entire family to amp up the fun factor.
In only 10 minutes a day, you can play a game with your child and soothe his emotions at the same time. When kids get emotionally wound up, they release their emotions in physical ways, according to Dr. Laura Markham, clinical psychologist with Aha! Parenting.com. If your child wonders whether he’s loved as much as his sibling, engage him in a game of “the fix,” suggests Markham. Chase him and say, “I need my Jason fix.” Kiss and hug him. Let him get away, and then chase him again. You and your spouse can “fight” over the child. Let off steam with a pillow fight, a snowball fight or arm wrestling.
When’s the last time you actually worked up a sweat from a little running? Tap your inner child and play a game of freeze tag, chase or red rover. When family members or friends visit, get off the couches and into the backyard and run relay races with the adults and the kids. Try a three-legged race or a potato sack relay. Give each team an egg to balance on a spoon as they race from one end of the yard to the other. Your child will see a side of you that she didn’t know existed.
Involve the entire family in an outdoor sport, and you’ll build relationships while emphasizing the importance of exercise and family fun. All you need is a large ball, and you can start a game of dodge ball or soccer. Play badminton, croquet, backyard bowling or Wiffle ball --- games that are simple enough for all ages. With team play, you have the opportunity to teach your children the art of good sportsmanship as they learn to work together and respect one another.
Stage your own family Olympics and sneak in some math at the same time. Set up various stations in the backyard. Pattern your stations after those used in AIMS Mini-Metric Olympics or create your own. Try a paper plate discus throw, a cotton ball shot put or a paper straw javelin throw. Use this time to teach your child about real Olympic events. Your children will be anxious to measure distances to determine who ends up with the gold, silver and bronze medals.
Cards and Board Games
Grab a deck of cards or a board game and you’ll strengthen your child’s language skills and show him that he can have fun -- win or lose. Even 3-year-olds can play Candy Land or Chutes and Ladders. Try classic board games, such as Monopoly or Scrabble with older children. You’ll teach your child to take turns and develop strategies. He’ll enhance his social skills when he talks, asks questions and interacts.
Make a holiday or birthday an extra-special event -- stage an annual tournament in a game such as ping-pong. Set up a ping-pong table in the family room or the garage. Put all family members’ names in a hat and choose teams. For extra laughs and fun, require team partners to share one paddle. Children learn that you don’t have to be an expert to enjoy playing a game.