7 Crazy Fun Family Games to Play Over the Holidays

Have you ever watched Minute to Win It types of games and thought it would be fun to play them with your family? Family games are a great way to bring everyone together over the holidays, or any time, to have a little fun! The games can be simple or complex, depending on the participants, and you can often use things you have around the house. Try to encourage all family members to play, no matter their age. Games are also a fun way to incorporate family literacy into your holiday activities by talking, following directions, counting, etc.

The Games:

Try to split everyone who would like to participate into two teams, trying to keep both sides as even as possible. The great thing about these games is that they only last for one minute, so participants only have to make it through 60 seconds.

img_2933-11. This first game involves stacking cups so they look like a tree. Remember you only have 60 seconds. To make this activity more difficult for adults, have them put one arm behind their back and use their non-dominant hand.

 

 

 

 

img_2936-22. This game requires mini marshmallows, straws, and cups (or other containers). Using the straw, you must get as many marshmallows into the cup as you can in one minute. To make this game harder for adults or older kids, do not allow them to hold the straw with their hands.

 

 

 

 

3. Our next game requires two pairs of pantyhose with the toes cut out and a hole for your face, as you will be making antlers on your head. This game takes great team effort as balloons are stuffed into the pantyhose legs. An option can be that the winner is whoever finishes first, instead of having a one minute time limit.

 

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img_2955-94. This game is about making a Christmas Tree. We used long ribbon, however you could use toilet paper and make a snowman, or wrapping paper to wrap a present (the entire person). Once again you could time the teams or just judge them after the first one is done.

 

 

 

 

5. Starting to get hungry after all this work? How about a cookie challenge? Place a cookie over one eye and try to get it into your mouth. For the younger kids, if the cookie falls off they could pick it up and try again. For adults and older kids, I suggest no hands and if they fail then another player from their team has to try until at least one person is successful.

 

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6. On to some full body movements you will need two more pairs of pantyhose without holes, two tennis balls (or heavy balls) and some targets to knock over. Putting the nylons on your head with the ball in each leg, try knocking down as many of the targets as you can. We used paper cups but water bottles or pop cans work too.

 

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img_2969-87. Lastly we have the candy cane pick up. Stack up a bunch of candy canes, and putting one in your mouth, hook as many candy canes as you can and transfer them into a cup. For little fingers, just let them use their hands instead of putting the candy cane in their mouth.

 

 

 

These are just a few of the hundreds of games available on the internet, so grab your family and friends, be creative, and have a great time!

 

Find more game ideas, as I did, with these sites:

 

 

 

 

Party Baby!

It’s the holidays! And for a lot of people that means parties, family get-togethers, and gatherings of all kinds. If you have a baby with you, this can be a lot of fun or quite stressful.

Whether your baby is a party animal or actually quite shy, being surrounded by people for long periods of time is not something that many babies are used to. An unending parade
unknownof aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins who want to hold your baby can be overwhelming for them, and just being in a loud room full of people talking and playing can leave babies feeling over-stimulated and exhausted.

Here are a few tips to survive the holiday season:

  • How is baby doing? We all have limits, and while one baby can be in the middle of a large group for hours, another baby might need to take breaks more often. And if your baby is sick, tired, or hungry, they might not last long at all. If you notice they are avoiding eye contact and looking agitated, find a quiet(er) place where you can retreat to spend some one-on-one time.
  • Times when everyone is doing something together, like singing songs, sharing stories, or playing a game, are easier for babies to handle than times when activites are more chaotic (even when everyone’s getting along).

grandfather-and-baby

  • Babies will find a lot of comfort in the familiar, so try to balance the introductions to people they haven’t met before and places they’ve never been with familiar faces, favourite rhymes, and books.
  • How are you feeling? Babies definitely pick up on your feelings, so if you’re starting to feel stressed (or hungry or tired or sick), find what you need to feel better, and in the meantime, recruit your partner or another family member who is feeling more calm to take care of your baby for a while.

If your little one doesn’t seem to like meeting new people, here’s a great article from Zero to Three that talks about how we can help children with different temperments handle social situations: https://www.zerotothree.org/resources/198-children-with-shy-or-slow-to-warm-up-temperaments

Take care of your babies and yourselves, and I hope to see you at Books for Babies in 2017. Best wishes everyone!

About the Books for Babies program

Homemade Book Making

make-your-own-book

Learn Together – Grow Together is a program for parents and their children (ages 3-5 years old), to attend and participate in activities together as a family. We encourage the parents to recognize their role as first teacher of their children. In order for parents to help their children become lifelong readers and writers, we show the parents simple activities they can do at home to help foster the early literacy skills needed for their little ones to grow into literacy.

At Learn Together – Grow Together, a fun  activity we have done was to make a homemade book. We showed the parents that you can use inexpensive materials and/or materials you may already have at home, to make your own books.

One of the books the parents created with their children is called a “Straw Book.”

make-your-own-book1Supplies Needed:

  • 3+, 8 ½ x 11 plain white sheets of paper
  • 1 piece of coloured construction paper
  • 1 pair of scissors
  • 1 drinking straw
  • 1 elastic band
  • markers and/or pencil crayons and/or crayons
  • optional: stickers

 

make-your-own-book2Directions:

  •  Fold the white pieces of paper in half, as they will become the inside pages of the book
  • Fold the piece of coloured construction paper in half, as this will become the cover of the book

 

 

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  • Carefully cut two small triangles into the folded sides of the plain paper and the folded side of the construction paper. Make sure the triangles are a long enough distance apart to be able to weave your straw in between them

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  • Put the straw through the holes on the inside of the book

 

 

 

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  • On the outside cover, put the elastic band on the top and bottom ends of the straw, keeping the cover and inside pages together
  •  Have fun decorating, writing, and drawing in your book!

 

 

 

At Learn Together – Grow Together, the families used pencil crayons, markers, stickers, objects cut out of magazines, etc. to decorate, draw, and write in their straw books. The children were very pleased that they were able to scribble and/or write whatever they wanted in their book; it gave them a sense of pride and ownership!

It was exciting to see that even a simple and inexpensive activity, like making a book from a drinking straw, an elastic band, and some paper, was able to foster early literacy skills. The children were able to be creative on their own and practice their writing and drawing skills. The parents learned that it doesn’t cost a lot of money, or take a lot of time, to have a literacy activity for their children to work on.

Have you made any other types of homemade books with your children? We would love to hear more of your ideas to help foster early reading and writing skills in young children!

 

How to Teach your Kids About Time

clock

What time is it? Ten days until your birthday. Five more minutes. We hear these kinds of phrases every day. But what do they actually mean, especially to children? Time plays a huge role in our daily lives and we expect our children to understand what time is and how we represent it—without us ever thinking about it or explaining what time means.

The only memory I have of learning to represent time and read a clock is a brief unit in Grade 2. I can remember struggling to learn the difference between the three hands and adding two “times” together, all while trying to understand what time represents. And when it was done, we were expected to have mastered time.

Skip 25 years into the future and we’re surrounded by digital clocks, smart phones, and computers. Who wears a watch anymore, or has a clock in their house that’s not digital? Who has a calendar hanging in their house? All these changes and advances in technology can hinder children’s understanding of time.

It doesn’t help that we say things like “5 more minutes” and 5 minutes turns into 20 before we realize it. Or when an actual 5 minutes feels like an hour—especially when we are in trouble. What about when we’re having fun and 5 minutes feels like 30 seconds?

Five minutes will always be 5 minutes on a clock. Young children learn best by having hands-on, tangible objects to visualize and manipulate, and learning about the concept of time is no different. Having egg timers and non-digital clocks around allows children to see the passing of time and get an actual sense of time.

Helping your children understand what time means and how to read a clock doesn’t have to be scary. An easy way to begin teaching your children about time is to start with recognizing the numbers on a clock and the order they go in. Talk about the different hands on a clock and what each one means and does. Show them an egg timer and how it works. When you set a time limit, set the egg timer, or show your children on a clock what the end time is. For example, if you say 5 more minutes, show your children where the big hand will be in 5 minutes.

When talking about days and weeks, it can be even harder for children to understand the passing of time. Having a calendar in your house can be a fantastic way to show time passing. If you are counting down the days to an event, your children can cross out each day on the calendar in the morning after breakfast or in the evening before bedtime, and see the number of days remaining becoming less and less.

Below is a fun countdown calendar that families made in our 3,2,1, Fun! program. You can make this calendar for any activity—Christmas countdown, birthday countdowns, special event countdowns, etc.

clock-craft

Materials:

Paper plate
Paint, Markers, Crayons, Bingo Dabbers, etc.
Clothes Pins (31)
Paper
Scissors
Glue

Instructions:

  • Get your child to paint the paper plate. You can gear it toward a specific event or just general use. Our calendar examples are a birthday countdown and a countdown to Christmas
  • While the paper plate dries, draw and cut out fun designs for your clothes pins. Once they are finished, number the pins from 1 – 31 (or however many pins you use)
  • Glue the designs onto the ends of the clothes pins and clip the clothes pins around the edge of the plate
  • Remove a pin each day, so you can see and keep track of the days left until your event or the end of the month

*** If you have younger children, you can place the pins in correct number order. For older children you can mix up the numbers (like an advent calendar).

To learn more about the 3,2,1, Fun! program, go to the Centre for Family Literacy website

 

The Parenting Tool that Gets Giggles out of Your Kids (and Yourself)

tickleImagine a tool for parenting that could make your day-to-day life easier? What if it didn’t cost you anything? What if you could pull it out of your back pocket any time you need to?

A well loved rhyme leads to laughter, giggles, tickles, and smiles. It can help diffuse a toddler heading towards a tantrum, and can help pass the time  while waiting in long line ups (at grocery stores, doctor’s offices, etc.). Even diapering and bathing routines can be  fun when we sing or chant a little, and they also incorporate learning opportunities.

Rhymes benefit both children and adults. For children, hearing mom or dad’s voice while playing, cuddling, and tickling creates bonding and a safe learning environment. Feeling loved is important for learning language and learning to understand concepts.

For adults, the benefit is that many stressful situations can be diffused with songs. Sing a song that helps your children wait for the meal you’re preparing, a song that helps get those teeth brushed, or a song that helps get them buckled into a car seat. Doing rhymes and songs with your children also allows you to be a kid again, even if only for moments at a time.

Tickling not only strengthens your bonds with your children, it is said to have the positive effects of increased trust and strengthened relationships. It is a way to share laughter, even before young children are old enough to understand humour. When they get older, children want to make you laugh. Most 3 year olds I know love to tickle their parents back when they sing tickle songs, and the adults laugh and get to share a moment of happiness with their children.

I’ve read that the average child laughs around 300 times a day, compared to the average teenager who may only laugh 160 times a day and the average adult who only laughs 25 times a day. Maybe because children are so honest with their emotions, they can laugh so easily and so easily crack a smile. And those smiles are infectious, so spending time laughing and smiling with children might increase the daily amounts of laughter you get in return!

While not every moment in parenthood is picture perfect, you can be certain that the more you share of yourselves and your time with your children, the more long lasting memories you will have.

Set some time aside for a few tickle songs this season; share the joy of hearing your children laugh with other family members. Here are some to try:

Gingerbread Man

Mix it and stir it and pat it in a pan (circle baby’s tummy with fingers)
I’m going to make me a Gingerbread Man
With a nose so neat, and a smile so sweet (tap nose and mouth gently)
And some gingerbread shoes for his gingerbread feet (tickle feet)

Tickle Monster

What will you do when the tickle monster comes? (hold hands palm up like a question)
Are you going to hide (hide eyes like in peek a boo)
Or are you going to run (pretend to run with arms in motion)
What will you do when the tickle monster comes? (same as first line)
You better decide right……now! (take your time to come closer and try to tickle child)

Walking Through The Garden

(This rhyme you are circling babies tummy or back round and round and then walking fingers up to their neck or under arms and tickle tickle tickle when you find the teddy bear)

Walking through the garden,
Lost my teddy bear
One step, two step
Found him under there

Walking through the garden
Through the wind and rain
One step, two step
Found him there again

Treasure Hunt

Going on a treasure hunt (crawl fingers up baby’s back)
X marks the spot (draw big X with your finger)
Boulder here (draw little circle on one side with finger)
Boulder there (draw another circle on the other side with finger)
Dot dot dot (connect the boulders with a light touch dot dot dot)

Crabs crawling up your spine (crawl fingers lightly up towards baby’s neck)
Water rolling down (roll fingers lightly down towards baby’s bum)
Tight Squeeze (give a little hug)
Cool Breeze (gently blow in their hair)
Now you’ve go the shivereeze (lightly tickle everywhere)

 

Rhymes that Bind is an oral literacy program where we share rhymes, finger play, lullabies, and even moving-around-the-room songs with parents and caregivers and their young children. Through rhymes and songs, the adults discover tools to play with, distract, and even enjoy teachable moments with their children. To join us for some very interactive fun, check our website for a Rhymes that Bind program near you!