You don’t have to have rules or
goals or a game or even anything to play with except each other.
But whatever it is that you’re
playing, there are two things you have to take seriously: being
together, and the sheer fun of it all.
No game is more important than
the experience of being together, being joined, being equal –
governed by the same rules, playing for the same purpose. And no
purpose is more uniting and freeing than the purpose of being
fun with each other.
It’s OK for you to lose
This may be hard to remember at
the time. But getting beaten, fair and square, by your own
grandkid, is one of life’s great accomplishments.
Nobody has to lose
For some reason, both adults and
children tend to take games more seriously than anyone needs to.
That's why it's not unusual for a trivial game to end up as a
contest of wills and little kids to wind up in tears because
But in many games nobody has to
lose. Try, for example, this:
- Instead of stopping a game
when someone wins, just continue playing until everyone
wins. There's the first winner, and then the second winner,
and then the third.
- If three of you are playing
a two-person game, like checkers or ping-pong, rotate
players. The "odd man out" takes your turn, then, when it's
your turn again, you're playing the other side.
- If there are only two of
you, in checkers, for example, just trade sides every third
or fifth turn so that you have to play the other's person's
Free Form Frisbee Golf.
When you're out for a walk, take a Frisbee, plastic plate, or
shoe with you. Decide on the target you'd like to hit – a tree,
or rock, or fire hydrant – something visible, indestructible,
and at least two good throws away. Next, estimate how many
throws it will take to get to the target (that's going to be
par). One of you tees off (throws). The other picks the Frisbee
up where it landed and throws from there. Your joint score is
the total number of throws it takes to get through a course that
you basically make up as you go along.
Found Object Song
Writing. When you're in the car and
the preschool grandkids are getting restless, start singing
something you all know – “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” for example.
As you drive along, change the words to something you both
observe so that you make a silly song: “Row, Row, Row your rock
gently down the trash can; merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
life is but a billboard.”
Here's a game that fills time if you have to wait on line, for
example. On somebody’s signal, everybody says a color. Then, on
the next signal, everybody says another color (not the one that
you just said). And on and on until everybody just happens to
say the same color at the same time.
Guess my Chew.
For this kitchen table game, put out at least five finger foods,
each with a different crunch. For example: grapes, pretzels,
carrots, roasted sunflower seeds, potato chips, and string
beans. One of you closes your eyes and places your ear to the
other's cheek. The other takes a small piece of one of the
foods, and chews as necessary. The goal, if one is needed, is to
identify what is being chewed and how much of it.
Reserve this dinnertime game for when you're babysitting,
because parents might become impatient with all this
dilly-dallying over dinner. In this game you can't ask for food
or take any for yourself, so everyone can only eat what and when
you’re offered or offering. It's wonderful being there for each
other at the right time with a forkful or sipful or handful of
just the right stuff. Nothing prevents any of you from turning
up a nose at something that's "yucky," of course — the signal to
the server that next time you would like something else. The
feeding frenzy works particularly well with sundaes for dessert
-- first a little ice cream, then a dab of non-fat fudge or a
spoonful of crushed nuts or a dollop of whipped cream. Yum.
When you're stuck inside and you want to get the grandkids away
from the TV, play a game where one person is the Cranked and the
others the Crankers. The Crankers take turns attaching an
imaginary crank to any body joint (elbow, knee, finger, wrist)
that will move the body part in the direction the cranker wants
that part to go -- up or down or left or right. It's most fun if
you try to get the Cranked to do something, like eat a piece of
bread or sit down.
Theater of the Air.
This game for creative fidgeters is played when everyone’s tired
enough to lie down for a while. You and your grandchildren lie
on your backs with your heads almost touching. Raise your hands.
Look up. You've created a cast of puppets, a cage of finger
birds, or a finger ballet -- whatever you'd like. Let the play
Long Distance Game Playing
Even when you live far from
grandchildren, you can have fun with them in between visits.
Here's one low-tech and one high-tech activity to try.
Merry Monster Making.
On a blank sheet of paper, start drawing the head and neck of a
"monster." When you're finished, fold the paper so that only
part of the neck shows, and tape the other part down. Send it to
your grandchild (little kids love receiving mail!), with
instructions on how to proceed -- such as "Start where I left
off, and make a body for the neck. When you're finished, fold
it over so that part of the body still shows, and tape down the
rest. Then send it back. If you need help with this, ask Mom or
Dad." When you get the drawing back, continue drawing the legs,
again folding the paper so that your grandchild knows where to
continue the drawing, and again taping your part down. When the
drawing's complete, untape, unfold, draw a put a frame around
it, title it, and send it back to your co-artist. (see
Send your grandkids a link to
Groupboard. (password = FUN) You can play tic-tac-toe, draw
a picture together, play word games, or send "secret" messages
to each other. Follow directions on the page, and if you run
into any trouble, call your grandchild and ask for help. If you
both have two phone lines (or high-speed access), you can talk
and play. It's the next best thing.