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Archive for the ‘what to do’ Category

When our children were still at home, the surefire sign of summer’s arrival came when the kids started raiding the family supply of empty squirt bottles for water fights. Then sometimes Dennis and I joined in the fun.

Although parents usually don’t stop to analyze it, most unconsciously realize that the family feels closer when members share jokes, laughter, and hilarious play times. Research shows that laughing and playing together do even more. Good laughter also develops creativity, increases physical fitness, reduces stress and helps people manage their problems.

For families looking for a vigorous laugh workout, here are a few ways to enjoy all out bouts of rowdy, boisterous fun:

Wrestling: Little guys love to wrestle with big guys—big brothers, uncles, grandpas, dads and friends. Older brothers do need to be warned not to overdo things. It takes a well controlled use of superior strength to keep sessions rowdy and fun without little ones getting hurt. Older children need to be sensitive to younger ones’ limits in strength and endurance.

(The New Games Foundation’s slogan is good to keep in mind for all forms of rowdy fun: Play hard, play fair, nobody hurt.)

Lion hunt: Somebody big is the lion, and the children are the prey. This game involves lots of growling, roaring, and chasing (on hands and knees) on the part of the lion, with lots of hiding, squealing, and giggling on the part of the prey. Again, be sensitive—otherwise this game can get too real and terrifying for small children.

Pillow fight: Everybody whops each other with pillows.

Newspaper fights: This is a game for children who are at least kindergarten age. It looks too aggressive and scary for most toddlers and pre-schoolers even to watch, much less participate. But it is a terrific way to have a hilarious half hour with teens and pre-teens.

Give everyone in the fight a short stack of newspaper. Everyone crumples their newspapers, sheet by sheet, into balls for ammunition. Then the free-for-all begins. If the whole family participates, this fight takes lots of space. The yard is a good place for it. Be sure to have a big garbage bag on hand to clean up afterward. (more…)

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Recently a friend asked me how she could do a better job getting her three active boys to behave in the car. She described the family’s last car trip. They were hurrying to a church meeting on a school night, but the boys (ages 4 to 10) kept fighting and arguing loudly while she and her husband tried to talk. Finally she lost her temper., which made her husband upset, and there they were, in a  family meltdown. (more…)

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Playing in the rocks in the driveway or messing around in a little makeshift sandbox that Dennis made for them in an old plastic drawer are other activities that keep our visiting 4-year-old Tweety and 2-year-old Doodle absorbed and happy for hours. I bought them some little trowels and rakes at Wal-Mart, and it was money well spent. But if I hadn’t made the trip to Wal-Mart, they would have stayed just as happy with old spoons and plastic containers. They got pretty dirty, of course. That’s one thing about pre-schoolers…the activities that keep them happiest seem to be messy.

I remember when my own kids were preschoolers, on rainy days I used to let them play in an indoor “sand”box, which I made by pouring 5 or 10 pounds of cornmeal into a plastic dishpan. It kept them happily occupied for long spells. When they finished playing in it, I had a little sweeping to do to clean up, but I thought a little sweeping was a small price to pay for the luxury of being able to focus on my own project for a half hour without interruptions. Later, after my kids had outgrown indoor sandboxes, a friend showed me her version, which used unpopped popcorn kernels for the sand. Running my fingers through that popcorn was a tactile delight. I think if I had small children around a lot today, I’d go for the popcorn sandbox.

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Doodle painting a tree

Our two granddaughters (ages 4 and 2) are visiting from Colorado with their parents. The weather was warm, so I let them paint with water outdoors. I found a couple old paintbrushes to give them along with a bucket of water. They were happy all morning painting the sidewalk, the trees, the old rusty wagon, and the big plastic water cooler. The next day a 3-year-old friend of ours came over, and they had just as much fun water painting with her for a second morning. We added sidewalk chalk to the mix for a little variety, and they really enjoyed washing off the chalk marks they made. Water painting is wonderful, cheap entertainment for preschoolers, and it doesn’t require much adult supervision. You just set up the materials, and the little ones find things they want to paint. They will spend hours at it, contented, satisfied, and absorbed.

Over the years my family has enjoyed many fun water activities.

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