By TMoM Team Member Dennette Bailey

Happy 4th of July! It’s a great time to play games that are fun, yet helpful to children who need to learn useful skills for the classroom. When I was growing up there were some very popular games, which also happened to help children learn self- regulation and thinking skills, that were very helpful to children’s success in the classroom. Some of these skills, especially if the children are young, might not be practiced as much while we are using non-traditional teaching methods due to the Covid-19 crisis.

Even more so, if you are a parent who is thankful for the reprieve from notes being sent home, or the phone calls pertaining to your child having difficulty staying in their seat or talking out of turn, or maybe some other self- regulation discipline issue that may occur in the traditional classroom, you may want to try some of these games to help your child practice or maintain these skills.

These are some fun games that can be played indoors or outdoors, and they can be played using social distancing if necessary. Getting started early is key and so the games described below will begin as early as the toddler stage.

Toddler Games

Bubbles – Toddlers love bubbles. Whether they are blowing them or catching them they can get in lots of practice with movement, language skills and using their imagination. It is a game that requires some direction following for success and your toddler will see immediate rewards when following the directions.

Catch – Toddlers love to play catch. Providing them a variety of balls in different sizes to play with, preferable soft, are great. If you do not have balls, scarves can also be used. This game can be played indoors or outdoors and if you are using balls toddlers don’t usually have the strength to throw a ball with any force that would harm anything in a house. This is a game of perseverance which will be very beneficial to your child as they go through school.

Piggy Back – Toddlers love to ride on the shoulders or backs of a bigger person. They can pretend to ride and elephant, a giraffe or other animal. This helps them talk about animals, such as the sounds they make and how they move, and helps the caregiver observe the child’s understanding of the world around them.  This is a great game because it can be played indoors or outdoors and toddlers can play with teams of people while still using social distancing. The language, thinking and self- regulation skills required to play this game are long lasting.

Preschoolers through Elementary Age

The Quiet Game – I had an uncle who was just 5 years older than myself and many of our cousins. He and his twin sister were often left to babysit us. To keep us calm and manageable he would sit us down and play the quiet game. His directions were that he was going to tell jokes (he was very funny) and the person that could get through his joke routine without making any noise would be the winner. I was very competitive and was determined to win this game. In class, I realized that all the practice listening to his very funny jokes while keeping quiet, prepared me when I was in a classroom with a child who might be causing a disturbance. While some children had a difficult time keeping their composure and would end up in trouble just for laughing at the child causing the disturbance, this game helped me keep out of trouble and it was fun.

Simon Says – This is a fun game of course but it helps children learn how to not only follow directions but to listen for what the directions actually are. As a kindergarten teacher, I have had students who had difficulty following direction more times than I can count, and I often wondered if those children in question had the opportunity to play this game before entering kindergarten.

Red Light Green Light – This is another fun game that really gets children moving. It can be played indoors or outdoors and a child can easily lead this game by calling out the activity directions to move in a particular way based on the activity, to stop and go in relation to traffic stop colors that children are familiar with or can become familiar with. This game requires thinking skills and the ability to interact positively in a group.

Hop Scotch – This game not only gets children moving but it helps them practice their flexibility, hand and eye coordination and number recognition.

Older Children (Age 8 – 12 Years)

Jacks – Remember the Jacks game in which the player or players had to bounce a ball and pick up a certain amount of jacks per turn? This is a great game because it can be played with a single or multiple players, both indoors or outdoors. It can help with hand eye coordination and flexibility and it also helps children focus and relax because it is so rhythmic, especially when played alone.

Treasure Hunt – When we were kids we made up all sorts of things to treasure hunt for. Our middle school children might be a bit more sophisticated now because of the technology that exist but the treasure hunt game can easily be modernized. Simply pick a neighborhood, a state or city park or museum and then pick items to hunt for at these places using clues that the children can use their phones or tablets to aid them in the hunt. Children are learning thinking and communication skills that are very helpful to the classroom experience.

Playing is really important for a child’s overall health and development and believe it or not, your child’s teacher will thank you for playing these games when they return to school with the self- regulation and language and thinking skills that make their classroom experience that much more rewarding.

Additional blogs to consider:
~ Games to Keep the Whole Family Moving Outside
~ Playground Games for Young Kids
Blast from the Past Games
~ Fun Backyard Activities for Outdoor Summer Fun with Toddlers

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