Whether playing one-on-one or in a group, gathering children to play a game can feel like herding wild animals. Sometimes getting everyone’s attention can be the most difficult task, followed by making sure that everyone understands what is going to happen. If you need a time-filler while waiting or a quick distraction, the answer may be playing one-minute games. The key is to start the game before the kids start whining.
Playing the game of War helps teach preschoolers the value of numbers. To play, deal all of the cards so each person has an equal number. Stack the cards face-down in front of each player. Each player then turns his top card over and places it on the table. Whoever has the highest number wins the turn and takes all of the revealed cards. If two players turn over equal cards, there is war and they continue to flip over cards until someone wins the hand. The players continue to flip over their top card simultaneously until they have gone through the entire deck. The person with the most cards in the end is the winner.
Hot potato is an old-fashioned children’s game that draws out squeals and giggles from its players. Choose an item to act as the potato, such as a bean bag, ball or other toy. After forming a circle with the kids -- either sitting down or standing -- start the music and have them start passing around the hot potato. Whoever is holding the potato when the music stops is called out, and the game can begin as many times as you like until only one child remains.
Clapping games do not require any equipment, other than your own hands, and are convenient when waiting in line or even in the car. Pat-a-Cake is a classic game for young children, and parents can add creative lyrics or movements as the child grows. Other traditional favorite hand-clap games include chants such as “Miss Mary Mack” and “Miss Susie.” Any rhyme or poem can serve as the backdrop for a clapping game, as long as it engages your child. Preschoolers may enjoy creating their own hand motions to go along with the rhyme.
Mail Call is a group game that is similar to musical chairs. Arrange the children in a circle of chairs or have them sit on the ground. Choose one child to stand in the center of the circle and say, “Mail call for everyone who has a hat on.” Everyone who is wearing a hat must then get up and change seats. A new person can stand in the circle and then make up his own mail call, such as “Mail call for those who like cookies.” The mail calls that make more people get up at once cause the children to interact the most.
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