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Games to Teach Kids to Listen & Calm Down

by Freddie Silver

You love your kids' energy and enthusiasm, but when you've had a long, tiring day and your head is throbbing, you appreciate quiet time. Children enjoy noisy exuberance but you need a break from their relentless din. It's best to calm them down before your nerves fray and you lose your temper. Introduce some fun quiet games that lessen the noise and get the kids to listen to you without lessening your kids' pleasure.

Physical Movement Games

Kids enjoy playing statues, also known as the freezing game. Have your child stand at the opposite end of the room from you while you stand facing the wall. The object of the game is for the child to reach your wall without being seen to move. The child "freezes" or becomes a statue when he suspects you'll catch him moving. After several seconds of facing the wall, turn around. If you see movement, he must return to the starting position. The old Simon Says game can be calming if you avoid active commands such as, "Simon says jump up and down," and suggest instead actions such as making a funny face or rubbing the tummy.

Fine Motor Control Games

Jigsaw puzzles and quiet board games can help kids settle down. Clapping games where you clap a rhythmic pattern and the child mimics what you've done can also have a calming effect, especially if you insist on the child sitting down while you play. Finger games with quiet songs such as "eensy, weensy spider" encourage young children to pay attention and copy your hand movements. "Body chalk" is a game where the child sits facing away from you and you trace patterns or letters with your finger on her back while she concentrates on deciphering your picture or word.

Concentration and Observational Skills Games

Concentration and observation skills games calm kids down while helping enhance their visual and auditory skills. Ask your child to sit quietly with his eyes shut to minimize distractions and listen for sounds. Asking him to identify the sound and describe in detail what he hears will enhance his expressive language skills. Another simple game is to sit facing each other and see who can go the longest without speaking, laughing, blinking or smiling. Play the game "I spy with my little eye" by asking your child to remain seated and point out books or toys of a particular color, or, for older children, seeking out objects that start with a given letter.

Language-Based Games

Whisper tongue twisters to each other and try repeating what has just been said. Make a "telephone" by threading a string through the bottom of two tin cans. Whisper into the can and see how quietly each can say a word or phrase and still be heard. Tell a story and instruct your child to listen for particular words or names of colors in the story, and give a prearranged signal such as rubbing her head whenever she hears the special word.

About the Author

Freddie Silver started writing newsletters for the Toronto District School Board in 1997. Her areas of expertise include staff management and professional development. She holds a master's degree in psychology from the University of Toronto and is currently pursuing her PhD at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, focusing on emotions and professional relationships.

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