Kids can play fun, meaningful games that benefit their mind and body indoors, outdoors, in the car or in the waiting room at the doctor's office. Games and play have been central to the childhood experience since the beginning of time, and with good reason. According to the Montana State Extension Program's Human Development Center, playing pretend and playing games are how children process and practice abstract concepts like leadership, cooperation, strategy and teamwork.
Indoor games can involve being quiet and sitting still, but they don't have to. Instead, choose games that incorporate things children can easily experience or locate indoors. An indoor scavenger hunt is a good game for older and younger children alike, with items ranging from a tablespoon or paper clip to a pair of socks. If there are two children, have one child hide an item and give directions to her partner using "hot" or "cold," depending on how close she is to the hidden item.
You don't need a big backyard for kids to enjoy plenty of outdoor games. Older, more energetic children can play "jumping tag," where a child who gets tagged has to jump up and down or on one foot continuously until they're tagged again by another player and allowed to resume participation in the game. A simple game of hopscotch helps younger children with number recognition and gross motor skills as they hop between the squares.
Cooperative games help children learn teamwork and communication skills. Since sharing a toy can be enough of a challenge for a 2 or 3 year old, cooperation games are best suited for children in elementary school and older. Shipwreck requires multiple children to move between two points, such as couch cushions or blankets, using cup-stilts or rolling on a scooter. The goal is to move the entire group -- whether it's two children or four -- between the two points without touching the ground. Everyone must reach the landing pad before the team can continue to the next obstacle.
Quiet games are great while you're waiting at the doctor's office or when you need to keep a younger sibling from waking up. Pictionary or charades work well for older children, while younger kids can play I Spy with a parent or partner. Other quiet games for younger children including Find a Letter, where children look at a book and try to find each example of a particular letter or, if they're already reading, a specific word on each page.
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