GFM MAY 2015
Play nourishes every aspect of children’s development—it forms the foundation of intellectual, social, physical, and emotional skills necessary for success in school and in life. Play paves the way for learning.
Whether at a home, school, or play date, preschoolers love games, and they enjoy playing with other kids. Now steady on their feet, they are learning to hop, skip, jump, and even somersault. Preschoolers are ready for games with simple rules—and don’t be surprised if they’re sticklers about following them to a “T.”
The games below can be used for rainy day get-togethers or anytime you find yourself with a bunch of energetic preschoolers.
Number of kids: Any
How the game is played: Transform your yard or living room into a free-for-all obstacle course. First, remove unsafe objects (tables with sharp edges, for example) and clutter someone could trip on. Then supply cushions, sturdy chairs, laundry baskets, or cardboard boxes for the kids to romp over, under, or tunnel through.
Tips for adults: Put on some music to encourage moving around.
What the game teaches: Motor skills and problem solving.
What Time Is It, Mrs. Fox?
Number of kids: Any.
How the game is played: The kids gather on one side of the space and you (Mrs. Fox) stand on the other side. You give a signal and the kids say, “What time is it, Mrs. Fox?” You say, “It’s time to hop!” The kids hop toward you until you give the signal to stop. Repeat this, substituting different movements (skipping, crawling, walking backwards) until kids draw near to you. As the kids approach you and ask the question, the last answer Mrs. Fox gives is “It’s midnight!” At this point, you pretend to chase them all back to the other side of the room. The game can then start again.
Tips for adults: You don’t have to be Mrs. Fox! You could be Sleepy Bear or another character that kids might like. Also, get creative with the movements. Kids love to be silly with their bodies. Say, “It’s time to walk with one finger on your nose and one on your belly button!”
What the game teaches: Listening, following directions, and large motor skills.
Duck, Duck, Goose!
Number of kids: Any.
How the game is played: Everyone sits in a circle. One person is the “goose” and the rest are the “ducks.” The goose walks around the outside of the circle, patting each duck on the head and saying, “Duck.” The player touches someone’s head and says, “Goose!” The tagged duck gets up and chases the goose around the circle. The goose tries to get back around to the empty seat and sit down before being tagged. If successful, the goose rejoins the seated ducks and the new goose now starts the game again. If the first goose is tagged, he sits in the center of the circle as the game goes on. As more people get tagged, the circle gets tighter and the chase gets tighter! The last person standing is the goose.
Tips for adults: This game can be played indoors or out, but if inside, make sure the room is safe for running kids. Although this can be a competitive game, keep the mood light by asking seated ducks to quack, and remind them to be a gentle goose.
What the game teaches: Taking turns, listening, and large motor skills.
School-age kids can play more complex games, juggle multiple roles, and enjoy the challenge of figuring out strategies. Grade school is a time of building identity and self-esteem, so encourage every kid in your group to enjoy the game and find ways to make sure that everyone is able to participate.
Snake in the Gutter
Number of kids: 6 or more.
How the game is played: Make at least three kids the snakes. Have snakes form the gutter by standing in a line with wide spaces between them, facing the rest of the kids, who should be at a distance. The adult in charge (or a child) yells, “Snake in the gutter!” The children attempt to run through the gutter without being tagged by a snake. Those who get tagged are now snakes and stay in the gutter. Those who make it through can make another run through the gutter. Continue the game until everyone has been caught.
Tips for adults: If a child is fearful of making a run through the gutter, brainstorm together or partner two kids up to make a plan.
What the game teaches: Agility, problem-solving.
Ready, Aim, Throw!
Number of kids: at least 4.
How the game is played: You’ll need several blindfolds and a few soft balls (foam balls are good choices). The children partner up, and one kid in each pair is blindfolded. The partner who can see leads the blindfolded partner by the arm. The object of the game is to get the blindfolded partner to throw the ball at another blindfolded player, then to get the second blindfolded partner to pick it up and throw it at another blindfolded player. If a player is hit twice, the pair is out and heads to the sidelines to watch the game. Kids can help their blindfolded partners defend by telling them when to duck or move in a particular direction.
Tips for adults: Before playing, remind kids that safety is important. Have the blindfolded kids walk with hands up in front of them for “bumpers” to avoid collisions. Demonstrate how to lead a partner by the arm and direct him or her to the ball: “Go forward three steps. Now squat down and reach out with your left hand.” Remind the kids to tune in to their partner’s voice. Also, be sure that kids aren’t throwing the balls at very close range. For a fun variation, have kids lead partners without touching, only with the voice. When you’ve played once, switch the blindfold to the other player. This game can also be played by a group of adults!
What this game teaches: Teamwork, listening, motor skills
If you’re planning an afternoon of fun, choose a mix of activities—some active and some quiet. Also, be on the lookout for kids who take too many turns and those shy kids who don’t get their rightful turns.
After you’ve been playing a while, be aware of the group’s mood. Are they getting tired or cranky? You’ll have a more successful party or play date if you catch the kids before they get too worn out. When weariness sets in, respond with a quiet activity, like you reading a book aloud. And no matter what the mood, a snack is always a welcome break for kids!
Courtesy of Nemour.