Listen, the parental exhaustion is real. I know this.
AND, simultaneously, the children need to be in constant motion, like, 22 hours out of the day. I also know this.
Meeting opposing sensory needs is a whole thing. It can be really tricky and take a lot of creative work and a lot of forgetting societal norms.
That’s why I’m here to tell you about: “Games I’ve Played With My Preschoolers This Week That Involved Little or No Movement On My Part, But Lots Of Movement On Their Part.” (Or GIPWMPTWTILONMOMPBLOMOTP for short. I’m workshopping the title.)
My children are 5 and 4 which is why this is about preschoolers. If your children are not 5 and 4, maybe they will still enjoy this! Maybe they won’t! All children are different.
1. This game requires two things: an obstacle or area in your house where children can make a full circle around it, and your face.
For us, that’s our playroom-living room-kitchen because they make a circle. So I stood at the kitchen/playroom doorway and leaned forward and made a silly face at the kids. They screamed and laughed and ran back the other way. Then I leaned back, now viewing them in a different room, and made a 2nd silly face. They screamed and laughed and ran forward. Then I leaned forward and made the 1st silly face again. We did this for a solid fifteen minutes. That’s almost two entire Bluey episodes, and if I’ve parented like the Bluey parents for two episodes straight, I’m nailing it.
2. I’ve written about this one before but it bears repeating. I sit on the floor or the couch or whatever with a pile of couch cushions and soft toys (stuffies). I fling them at my children who scream and laugh and duck and dodge and roll and hide behind the couch and throw the pillows back to me and beg me to do it again. All I’m moving is my arm for throwing; they are full body wrestling. Great proprioceptive input which is super regulating deep body sensory input and all children need tons of.
3. I sit on the couch or floor or whatever and when a child passes by me (and is in a playing mood) I’m like “got you in my trap!” and grab their ankle or leg or whatever. Then depending on how extremely tapped out I am, I might either let them go right away when they laugh and squeal and try to pull away. This usually results in them dancing and dodging around me forever while I grab a leg or an arm every once in awhile, and I can keep letting go right away when they pull if I’m not feeling like resisting very hard. The variant, of course, is that I don’t let go and then it becomes a much more deep pressure wrestling game, which works too! Bonus points if I make big silly faces and make a big silly deal about how they’re never going to get away this time (and then they get away immediately).
4. I stand in the middle of the room and just look at my kids with a silly-mean look on my face. Maybe also a very dramatic point for good measure. They’ll squeal and laugh and run and hide behind the couch or under pillows or whatever. Then I relax my face and my point. Then when they peek back out at me or run back across the room, I make my silly-mean face and point again. They run for cover, ducking, dodging, rolling. All I have to do is stand up and point (maybe rotate). If your kids are a little more in the realm of needing structured game rules and rationality, maybe you can say something silly too like “i seee youuuuuu!!!!” or “I better not see any KIDS around here!!!” or start insisting that they’re something other than kids, like elephants or snails or whatever comes to your mind. Some of these games, when explained, adults feel like, “my kid is gonna be like ‘what? What are we doing?’” But kids will often pick up on silliness real real fast. It’s their native language.
5. Sit on the couch and ask your kids if they can find a something. Could be categories (something blue, something soft) or could be a specific something you know you own (a baby doll, a black LEGO, a Lincoln log). If your kids are the age where they’re into timing everything, you can time them on your phone to see how fast they can find them. Make it collaborative instead of competitive for multiple kids by giving them like 3-5 things to run off and find as a team, nobody comes in first or last. It’s like mini-scavenger hunts. Only do this if you have the energy in you to gush about how great of a job they did finding the things.
6. Pretend to be asleep and make a big silly deal out of your kids being your pillow, your teddy bear, your blanket. And make a big silly deal out of how much your pillow and your Teddy [Their Name] keep wiggling and crawling away and how nobody can be expected to sleep in these conditions and how you’re going to report this to OSHA and whatever other silly things come to mind. And when you run out of silly things, just flop your head down and make loud snoring noises.
7. Admittedly, this one might have worked more straightforwardly in my family because of my son’s passionate interest in cranes. But sticking my hand out (imagine miming being the claw in a claw machine) and not actually making contact with the kids, but miming picking them up in a claw, moving them to the left and right, and then when they’ve got the hang of the game…you doing slow movements left and right and them giggling and dutifully moving left and right… flinging them toward the couch! Or onto a pillow! Or miming turning them upside down. It resulted in shocked confusion for a few seconds at our house and then peals of laughter as they figured out how to fling themselves into the couch or try to do a somersault in accordance with the “crane claw”.
Okay, there’s one for every day. It’s far from exhaustive but it’s a primer!
[Image description: A very simple line drawing of a person laying in a lump on the ground, facedown, with no features and only one leg visible. Above the person is the silly acronym from earlier in this post – GIPWMPTWTILONMOMPBLOMOTP – with the text underneath it reading, “Games I’ve Played With My Preschoolers This Week That Involved Little Or No Movement On My Part, But Lots of Movement on Their Part.” At the bottom it (sarcastically) says, “graphic design specialist @occuplaytional” because of just how low-quality the stick figure drawing and overall image is. I was feeling humorous when I made this one. 🙂 /ID]