Unoccupied children between the ages of 3 and 5 are like ticking time bombs. Without a structured game, preferably one that wears them out, your little angels become agents of mayhem -- mayhem that inevitably ends up with someone crying or something stained and broken. Corralling your kids into playing age-appropriate games that span the 3- to 5-year-old age gap will protect your sanity and perhaps even teach them something new.
Spot a Color
Waiting in line at the supermarket is rough for everyone. Instead of threatening to tie your children to the grocery cart, set them up to play this color-finding game. Ask one child to find something that's red or blue and describe it out loud to the other children. Children closer 3 years may need a few reminders not to actually state the name of the object they're describing. Not only does this child-led version of I Spy build deduction skills, it also keeps them from fighting and crawling under the cart.
Hot and Cold
Let one child hide a particular object while the other child covers his eyes. After hiding the object, the hider lets the finder know when he's getting close to the object by announcing, "warmer, you're getting warmer," if the finder is close, or "colder, you're getting colder," if the finder is walking away from the hidden item. This game works best for two to three children. As they become more proficient at this game, they'll make exaggerated statements such as, "You're burning up, you're so hot!" or "You're ice cold."
Scavenger hunts are an entertaining way to keep 3 to 5 year old kids looking for something, rather than getting into trouble. Since the reading ability of children in this age range is budding at best, have them return to you for the next item on the list rather than writing anything down. Choose things that appear naturally around the house, like a tissue box or a high-heeled shoe. Set clear boundaries from the beginning about the parameters where items are located -- you don't want anyone wandering into the utility room looking for a white sock.
Red Light, Green Light
Right Light, Green Light is ideal for an active gaggle of 3 to 5 year old children. Have the kids line up at one end of the yard or driveway on a line. Stand on the opposite side of the yard and tell the kids to run as fast as they can toward you when you say, "green light!" When you yell, "red light" they must freeze instantly. Anyone still moving after you announce red light will be eliminated from the game. Have a few practice sessions so everyone understands the rules before actually playing.
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