Tag Archives: play

CandyLand, AGAIN? Making Preschool Games More Fun

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When child #3 wanted to play Candy Land, my eyes glazed over at the thought of playing that preschool game for the umpteenth time.

Then I found two ways to spice up the fun.

Candy Land

“Mom, can we play Candy Land? Please?”

Tyler and Aimee had already worn out our first game box. It had fallen apart at the seams, and the brightly colored cards were bent and faded. As I had thrown it away, I’d muttered aloud that Elisa (then three) could surely live without it, couldn’t she?

However, Tyler’s fourteen-year-old friend heard me and said plaintively, “Every kid needs Candy Land!”

Do you know that Candy Land was introduced in 1949, created by a woman in San Diego California who wanted to entertain children afflicted with polio? See The History of Candy Land.

I reluctantly bought a fresh game for Elisa for Christmas.

Once again I found myself impatiently drumming my fingers on the board with the rainbow-colored trail, desperately hoping for a Queen Frostine card so I could race to the end and out of candy country. I’d already tried my trick of stacking the deck–putting the picture cards in the top one-third. But Elisa was getting the good ones, and I the duds.

What is it, I wondered, that makes this game so appealing to kids? The image of a sweet fantasyland is no doubt a big draw. Willie Wonka’s chocolate factory had similar appeal.

Candy Land makes preschoolers feel quite clever playing board game like their big siblings, Mom and Dad. It excites them to recognize colors and practice counting skills. And there’s the suspense: Will the next card send you all the way back to Plumpy, to start all over again?

For me, suspense had long ago given way to yawns. I decided to try a new version. At first this meant our little gingerbread place markers, when passing each other on the board, shook their plastic hand and had very fine, squeaky conversations with each other.

Then I invented Color-I-Spy. While playing the game, when drawing a new card we would also do this:  find an object in the room containing the matching color–no repeating objects. (For purple and orange we looked on CD covers.)

This turned out to be a great way to play a table game with a wiggly child. Cruising the room for matching objects requires movement and imagination. It also offered vocabulary building: “Look, Mom! There’s some red on that globe in South America!”

A preschooler always learns a whole lot more from a table game than you know–how to sequence, match colors, count spaces, etc.  In fact, any game is fun for parents to play when we pay attention to our child’s developmental milestones–perhaps with round one of the game your child can’t yet count spaces, and the next he can.

But also stimulating his imagination makes playing more fun. And it doesn’t hurt that it will make it a whole lot more fun–after endless repetitions of the game — for Mom (or Dad, or Grandma) too!

See this adorable video review of Candy Land: My 4-year-old’s favorite game. It really makes me miss it now and look forward to playing it as a Grandma someday!

[This story is an excerpt from The Power of Parent-Child Play, page 148. © 2003 Laurie Winslow Sargent, published by Tyndale House. For reprint permission, please contact the author.]

Have you found any fun ways to adapt table games to make them more fun? Share your tips in a comment below!

Fun and Learning with Picture Puzzles (8 Developmental Stages)

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by Laurie Winslow Sargent:

Previously published in Christian Parenting Today magazine.

Puzzles can offer a window into your child’s mind, helping you see how he thinks and problem solves.


I still remember learning about the way my child thought logically through problems as we worked this puzzle together, many years ago. (Ignore the 80’s hairdo!)

Puzzles can be a fun diversion.  But do you know that they also will help your child develop the following skills?

* color, shape, and pattern identification and matching,
* recognition of integrated parts, and their relationship to the whole,
* fine motor skills and eye-hand coordination,
* problem solving skills, and
* the ability to make choices independently (even when uncertain about the outcome) with self-confidence.

In my occupational therapy work with young elementary school children, I often used picture puzzles. Puzzles can be used to teach kids new skills and also offer a window into a child’s mind. Watching a child and having him verbalize what he’s thinking helps you to better understand his ability to problem solve.

Following are eight developmental stages in puzzle problem solving, which I believe children move through sequentially, from preschool through elementary school.  Thinking about the stages your child has passed through (and the stage he is currently in) will help you choose appropriate puzzles for him.

Understanding how your child is thinking makes playing with him more exciting, as you see him go from one stage to another. This also may give you clues as to how your child problem solves in general, which may affect his schoolwork as he grows older.

Let’s begin, using a typical preschool puzzle (separate holes for each piece; differences in shape are obvious), with:

1) HOLE FILLING: A very young child discovers that holes in a puzzle can be filled with loose pieces.  She usually tries to push all pieces in all holes (regardless of color or shape) to “make” them fit.

2) MATCHING HOLES AND PIECES: She now realizes that each hole has only one corresponding piece.  Tends to rely on color  to find the correct one.

3) RECOGNITION OF DIFFERENCES IN SIZE and SHAPES:  Your child now takes size and shape into consideration, looking closely at both holes and pieces.  Finds the correct one more quickly.  Does not yet understand turning a piece to make it fit, however (especially if small protrusions mean the piece fits only one way).   May abandon the correct piece and try another, incorrect one.

4) MANIPULATION: She will turn a piece to see if it fits.

At any of the above stages, after completing a puzzle, your child may be able to re-do it easily alone by simply relying on her memory and fine motor skills.  But she may now be ready to tackle a jigsaw puzzle, with interlocking parts and an outside boundary (cardboard back with raised edge on all sides), using the following skills:

5) INTERRELATING PIECES AND SORTING:

Your child sees relationships between pieces; begins to sort and group them by similarities in color and design.  He is beginning to discern tiny differences between pieces; and may compare the puzzle pieces to the design printed on the box.  Realizes the scale is different.  May not yet understand significance of straight edges on the sides of some pieces.

6) VISUALIZATION and PART S V.S.  WHOLE:

He now can “see” in his mind, how pieces will look together (i.e., pieces with a black line running through them, together will form one continuous line.)  He sees individual sections, as well as the whole. (ex., clown puzzle: sorts out face pieces, even if different shapes and colors, then leg pieces, etc.)

7) MIRRORED OPPOSITES:  She now does the above, but also with  mirrored opposites. (i.e., a butterfly; wings pointing opposite directions.)  Visualizes how pieces will look together; reverses images in her mind.  Recognizes similarities despite reversed directions.

     Now your child can move on to standard jigsaw puzzles, done on a table with no confining frame.

8) CORNERS AND EDGES (square puzzles):  She realizes that two connecting straight edges, at 90 degrees, makes a corner piece.  Know there are only four such pieces; will actively look for them.  Realizes that only one straight edge indicates that piece will create an edge of the completed puzzle.

Note: Your child may be able to do a 70 piece jigsaw puzzle alone after trying it a few times with you, but still not understand corners and edges.  He may still rely on visual memory (remembering how the puzzle looked when it was completed).

By the end of first grade, your child should progress through the first five stages (and may progress through all eight).  If by fourth grade he still seems unable to grasp the concepts in stages 6 & 7, a learning problem might be indicated.

Watch your child do a puzzle. You can practically see how he thinks as he looks and sorts pieces.  If he struggles, have him verbalize how he’s figuring it out.  Resist the urge to tell where pieces go as you coach him. Model problem solving by asking questions: “How are these two pieces alike?” “This piece has a straight edge–where could it fit?”.  Don’t forget to be cheerleader too, giving your child an enthusiastic “Yay!” when he’s successful.

Copyright © Laurie Winslow Sargent. Contact the author here for reprint permission.

Mom Plays the Fool; Baby Giggles

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Quite a few parents have asked me, “What qualifies as play?” as if there were one answer.  One dictionary defines the word playful as:

“high spirits, gaiety, and humor in action or speech.”

Hmmm. Fun is a key element!

Do you have fun with your children? Do they have fun with you? And how do you do that?

Let’s look at one bunch of intriguing synonyms for play:

“. . . cut up, be the life of the party, play the fool, carry on.”

Playing the fool may be tough for you if you struggle with spontaneity. Yet it can be learned, and I believe it is worth learning. You don’t have to truly be a fool, but you can be willing to look a little silly on occasion in order to connect with others in a fun way. Silliness comes easier if you start with babies. Merely sticking a shoe on your head makes a baby laugh, because he’s learned just enough about the way the world works to know that sneakers make ridiculous hats.

One evening when my son Tyler was six months old, he was trying desperately hard to crawl, but just couldn’t get it. Instead, he flopped about like a fish out of water…

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7 Fun Places to Go with Toddlers or Preschoolers

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Photo by Karpati

Going stir-crazy? Cooped up? Need to get out of the house for a day with your small children?

Even in the smallest of towns, you can find things to do and people to meet through the following places. Here are 7 fun places to go with toddlers or preschoolers. Some of these places will seem ordinary to you, so may simply serve as reminders of places you haven’t been for awhile. But look too for tips within each place in the list.

1) Libraries often have story times for preschoolers (you can take your baby, too) as well as other,  more elaborate programs.  The library in one tiny town we lived in (2,000 residents) brought in jugglers and even live parrots! Many town libraries are connected to larger library systems that sponsor traveling programs. If you want to check out books, but find it too stressful perusing shelves while managing small children, visit the online catalog while your kids nap. You can pick up the books at the front desk when you go in for story time.

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Time and Energy Limits: Do you have time to play with your child?

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In The Power of Parent-Child Play, I focus on how barriers to play can be broken into four different categories: time and energy limits, uncertainty about behavior or activities, lack of motivation, and family stress.

As we start this discussion, consider time and energy barriers. Do any of the following get in your way at the present time?  Which have presented real struggles for  you in the past?

  • Hectic work schedules and demands (working at home or outside employment)
  • Caring for your home and your family’s basic needs
  • High-need children (including colicky babies, or children with special needs)
  • A new baby
  • A busy toddler or preschooler
  • Volunteer activities
  • Illness or injury in extended family
  • Child related activities

Many of these busy activities are good and/or necessary. But do any of them interfere in some way with parent-child play and the intimacy it can bring?

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5-Minute-Fun with your child: Shadow Stomp

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Photo by Elisa Sargent, 2010

5-Minute-Fun: Shadow Stomp

When you’re out on a walk together or your preschooler is riding his trike as you walk,  he may lose steam before you can get back home.

Boost his motivation and energy by saying, “Don’t you dare run over my shadow!”

When he does (of course!) , scream in agony or moan.

An alternative is to play shadow tag. Try stomping on each others shadows before you can run to a place where your shadows are hidden in the shade of a tree or car.

It’s amazing how a kid who cries “Carry me, Mom, I’m too tired!” and slumps to the ground to demonstrate his exhaustion is suddenly energized by a game like this, then can easily make it all the way back home!

Enjoy the Spring weather . . . now that it’s finally here!

By the way: take a close look at the photo above. My 13-yr-old daughter photographed her friends spelling out the word LOVE with heart-shaped shadows below.   How cool is that?

She loved to run over my shadow when she was little!

Laurie

http://www.ParentChildPlay.com

Note: This 5-Minute-Fun was excerpted from:  Time to Get Out? Or Stay In!, Chapter 13, p. 193 in The Power of Parent-Child Play by Laurie Winslow Sargent (2003, Tyndale House Publishers).