Boy Splashing

When was the last time you thought about the games you loved to play as a child?  What was your favorite activity?  Dodgeball?  Catching fireflies?  Telling ghost stories?  Building forts?

How long ago did play time diminish in your life to make room for “more important” grown-up tasks, such as going to school, earning good grades, helping around the house, getting a job, raising a family, working, working, working?

Do you remember your most cherished childhood activities?

Photo Credit: Sitthan Kitty

My favorite play time was coming home from school and playing with the neighborhood kids in our cul-de-sac.  We’d run around, ride our bikes, play tag, and get dirty.  Do you remember the excitement of playing outdoors past dusk before your mother or father said it was time to come in?

Bring Back the Fun and Excitement

After my granddaughter was born, play time trickled its way back into my life.  My daughter, a single mother, attends school and works full time.  She struggles to squeeze in play time with her daughter.  Although I’m busy with building my own business, it struck me that I had allowed good, old-fashioned play to fade from my life.  It took my granddaughter to remind me that life should be infused and balanced with play, and our grandchildren are the perfect ‘app’ to make that happen.  If we let them, children can reintroduce us to activities we gave up far too soon:

  • Play
  • Exploration
  • Imagination
  • Silliness

Turn on the Play-Time App

If you are looking for new opportunities to play with your grandchild, try these perennial outdoor favorites:

  • Playground fun:  When was the last time you visited a playground, played on the monkey bars, or swung on the swings?  How high can the two of you go?  Better yet, teach your grandchild how to swing!
  • Hopscotch:  Wow, that’s a game that may be long forgotten.  Give it a go with your grandchild.  Not only will the two of you be working on balance and hopping skills, you’ll be practicing numbers and counting.  Remember all the different hopscotch variations?  Mix up the fun in as many ways as you can remember, or simply google “hopscotch variations.” (Yes, Google knows everything.  Check it out!)
  • Tag or hide-and-seek:  Always a great way to get outside and exercise.  Trees and shrubs make great hiding spots.  So does the back seat of a car under a blanket.  Remember the bug spray and sunscreen.
  • Fun with snow:  Teach your grandchild the art of catching snowflakes on the tongue.  Teach them how to build a proper snowball and “attack” unsuspecting victims like a parent or another grandparent.  Exaggerate fear and destruction—children love the havoc that a single snowball can create.
  • Splashing in puddles:  Rain should never be viewed as a hassle.  Show your grandchild just how much fun rain can be.  Of course, a thunderstorm isn’t the ideal time to do so, but there are plenty of opportunities to “dance in the rain.”  Splash in puddles together, get soaked to the skin, hoot and holler.  Teach them how to collect rain.  Make mud pies.  Get grubby.  Let them know that rain is fun.  So is getting muddy.
  • Blow bubbles:  Who can make the biggest bubble using a wand?  Whose bubble lasts the longest?  Can you catch a bubble without popping it?  Play bubble tag.

Photo Credit: Pan Xiaozhen

If the weather is too bad to play outside, introduce your favorite indoor activities.

  • Patty cake:  The basic pattern of patting legs, clapping hands, and crisscrossing arms teaches rhythm and coordination and often results in giggles from all.
  • Thumb wrestling:  Children love this game!  Surprise them by capturing their noses while you’re at it.
  • Jumping on the bed:  Most parents don’t like children jumping on the bed, but a few jumps won’t hurt.  Hold hands and bounce, with you hopping on your knees and your grandchild bouncing alongside you, either standing or kneeling.  While you’re at it, instigate a gentle pillow fight that teaches the difference between aggression and play.
  • Make blanket forts with furniture:  Grab a couple of flashlights and pretend you are on a caving adventure with your grandchild.  Introduce scenarios like, “Do you think we can sneak out without the ‘dinosaurs’ (i.e., parents) seeing us?”  Encourage your grandchild to create a plan and go along with the adventure.
  • Dig out popular items from your past:  Jacks, a typewriter, rotary telephone, 8-track tape player (you know you still have one somewhere in the house), your favorite albums and record player, and other fun items from the past.  Ask your grandchild what he or she thinks a particular item is and then surprise them with its actual use.
  • Dress up:  Allow your grandchild to dress you in the craziest items in your house.  Not just clothes hanging in a closet, but also towels, table cloths, or odd things like a colander and cereal boxes.

Photo Credit: Kristen Edens

What other games does this stroll down “memory lane” stir up?  Red Rover?  Mother May I?  Steal the Bacon?  Help plan a family birthday party by re-introducing any of these fun games or activities.  Forget bounce houses and arcade games; these long-standing favorites will win every time!

Everything from the past offers a great opportunity to play—at every age.

And if you need a reason, tell the world you have permanently turned on your “play-time app.”

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