Babies love to play with Mom and Dad, and the best games of all are the ones created in a pinch. Standing in line behind five other people with an indignant toddler? Trapped in a car with a whiny preschooler? Buy yourself some time and hopefully a reasonable amount of peace with these games desperate mothers have used before.
This classic game is actually rather educational and works from a shopping cart, diaper changing station or the backseat. Simply ask your toddler where a certain body part is. It might sound like, “Jon! Where is your nose?” And when baby Jon points to his nose, you praise him or kiss it if you’re close enough. Then you ask him another question. Help him find all of his major parts first and then move on to yours. “Jon! Where is Mommy’s ear?” Toddlers never tire of showing how smart they are.
The more advanced preschooler and school age child can benefit from some critical thinking. Depending on his age, you can begin asking more complex questions, but start out with the basics that are easy to see. You might ask the older child, “Julie!
How many heads are in the car right now?” She can count them up (Don’t forget the pets!) and tell you with much applause and praise. Once she’s mastered the easier questions, you can start asking how many ears or eyes giving her a chance to work with larger numbers or even toes hidden by shoes that require plenty of higher level thinking skills.
A nice way to help your older toddler and preschooler learn to count is to simply count together while you wait in line or drive. Start at one and count in all kinds of crazy voices. Take turns saying the numbers or say them together. Say them fast or say them slow. Memorizing numbers and letters is a rote task that takes endless repetitions to learn. When you get done counting out loud, you can start counting other things. Count items in the car, count candy bars on the shelf, count the number of people still waiting in front of you. This actually gives object permanence to the numerical concepts.
Similar to the number game, you can practice saying the letters in order. But then you can shake things up a bit by looking for certain letters on magazines, bill boards, signs and items inside the car. Go one step further and ask your child to give you the sound and word that each letter makes while you wait. For example, if you say, “A!” She might say, “Ahhhh….Apple!” Much praise would ensue, of course.
It’s been a classic for generations, but I Spy never loses its appeal. In I Spy, one person is “It” and It “spies” something. “I spy with my little eye something red.” The rest of the people in the car or in line then try to guess what she sees that is red. When the red object is revealed, it’s someone else’s turn to play. This is an excellent game for preschoolers.
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