Use their Energy
Kids have a lot of energy and an endless supply of ideas for fun. The best way to entertain a child is to meet them on there level. Remove the cloak of adulthood, remember your own childhood and just play. You don't need the newest flashy toy or some complicated system designed to optimize every activity, you just need to have a willingness to play like a three year old.
Young children tend to see me as a giant toy, I'm not sure why, but once they see me they are completely convinced that I'm one of them and want to play what ever game they think up. How they come to this conclusion is beyond me. I have no children of my own, I like being able to give the children back to their parents when they become to much. That being said, I have no real problem with being a living jungle gym, it's when they start leaking that I have a problem. The following is a list of activities and ideas that have proved entertaining for the young children I have known.
Keep it Simple
While you may look at a toy and assume that your kid will love it because it has a lot of buttons, flashing lights and a multitude of noises, that may not always be the case. I've know kids to prefer a stick over the toy with a lot of bells and whistles. My best guess as to why this is, it allows more flexibility for the imagination and is easier to include others in their play. Just in case you are wondering, "others" include you. Put on a silly hat, grab a stick and lead an expedition through your back yard.
Children like things simple and it can't get much more simple than this. Buckets can be used for a lot of play activities, from building things to carrying things. The way I have used a bucket the most is by putting the bucket on the floor and turning it upside down. From there just run circles around it, alternating between who is chasing whom. Stop from time to time, this can make you and the child/children quite dizzy, sway in an exaggerated manner and say whoa, then resume. Occasionally look over your shoulder at the child and make a funny noise or say you can't get me and stick out your tongue. It can be very entertaining not only for the children who are involved but also the parents and grandparents who happen to be watching.
Never Underestimate the Power of a Box
How many times have you heard parents say something like "I paid all kinds of money for this new toy and he/she is only interested in the box", probably more than once. There are literally thousands of games a child could create with a single box. I've seen them used in play as houses, cars, planes, turtle shells, beds for dolls, caves, hide and seek locations, pools, barns and even various animals kids have seen and wanted to play with but couldn't. Boxes can be anything a child wants them to be, the only limit is that of his or her imagination and for a young child there is no limit.
Tents can be a wonderful way to entertain little ones. These can be a safer option to building forts out of chairs and blankets. My nieces and nephews absolutely love it when I set up my tent in the play room. They run circles around it, dive in and out the entrance and generally have a good time. Often, when I haven't removed the tent, the children will simply fall asleep within it, no hassle at nap time. It's just a larger version of the closed spaces children like to hide in, one that won't cause you to panic. Just remember to remove all choking hazards that may have came with your tent and to tie back all loose pieces.
Have you ever donned a silly costume and ran around for a child?
Books can be a great way to wind down after play. Any book with bright pictures will do, while you read the child will point out his or her favorite pictures to make sure you have seen them. The child may not understand what's going on in the story but will enjoy the the time together. Older children will usually take the book and try to read it themselves. The story will probably make no sense to you, but if you giggle and play along, it will be an enjoyable experience for the child. It also has the added benefit of fostering a love of books and reading, which is always a good thing.
Every child I have ever met loves bubbles. They are inexpensive and if you have a bubble machine you child can be entertained for hours. Make a bigger game out of it by having a bubble popping contest, or by doing a silly dance in the middle of the bubbles. Again the sky is the limit, the child can and will supply the game, all you have to do is go along with it. Don't be shy about coming up with your own games either. Just think back on your childhood and what you liked to do when you where little and go from there.
When I was a kid I played the lava game, most of the readers know what I'm talking about, but for those who don't I'll go over the rules. The floor is lava, don't touch the floor, that's pretty much it. Spread pillows, cushions and blankets on the floor and jump from place to place with out touching the lava, any one who touches the lava is out. Incorporate follow the leader to prevent kids from running into each other. Other than that, this is just a silly game that kids like to play. Include your own sound effects or freeze game, this adds to the fun.
© 2014 Katrina