Join 3,520 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


But there's nothing to doooooooo!
February 7, 2012 6:00 AM   Subscribe

I'm stumped for active games I can play with my 3 year-old that require no props, or only simple props, like a single ball. Parameters inside.

I am looking for active, physical games. I am already good with imagination games, art projects, etc.

• I need ideas for our neighborhood playground that we have been to 1,000 times, especially when it's February and the jungle gym is too cold to touch. Sometimes we have a simple prop available, like a toy car or a ball.

• I need ideas for indoor playrooms that have simple props like a few jumping mats. Sometimes there's a ball pit.

• I need ideas for "imagination playgrounds", where there are a bunch of open-ended building blocks and I have no idea what to make with them.

I have thought of Hide and Seek, but that only works indoors, as we are in NYC and I don't like to leave my preschooler out of sight for too long. There's also the game where one person is the chaser and the other person is the one who runs away, and there's a safe house that the runner can get to, that is off-limits to the chaser. That's all I've got. My child is not naturally a climber/jumper/runner, so the game needs to be absorbing and fun to get him to play.
posted by xo to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (12 answers total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
 
Cornhole.
posted by empath at 6:04 AM on February 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


Toddler Zizzle loves this game.

Hold hands and run together. One person says, "Stop!" and you all stop. And you have to wait for the other person to say, "Go!" before you can go. We like this game a ton. If your three year old is more verbal than mine, you could probably mix it up by turning it into a rhyming game or a counting game. Someone says, "Stop! Cat!" and then the other person has to rhyme with "Cat" before you can go again.

It's pretty simple, but it's been a pretty fun game.
posted by zizzle at 6:07 AM on February 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Our almost three year old likes to "shake her wiggles out." It goes like this - everyone stands up and you start singing "shake shake shake your wiggles out shake shake shake your wiggles out" while shaking your body. Then someone yells "clap" and you "clap clap clap your wiggles out clap clap clap your wiggles out". See also: stomp, jump, spin, skip, run, bend, yelp, shout, hop, jumping jack, swing, etc. See also, also, any variation of "simon (mommy) says".

She's also a big fan of "flipping" which involves her holding my hands, facing me, and using her feet to climb up my body and flipping over. This obviously requires some arm strength, but tends to wear us both out.

If you're outside at parks, gathering sticks is a big hit. We tend to combine the imaginative play - "baby dpx, will you cook me some breakfast? I think you need to run over there and find some sausages" baby runs and gets sticks that she declares are sausages. "I think over by that tree are some leaves that would make excellent soup. Hurry, before swiper the fox gets them!" - basically I trick her into being active.

Imagination playground - build balance beams; build obstacle courses (jump over this one, climb over that, run around this circle three times); practice stacking and balancing things; tunnels to crawl through.

All of these games can have added components like "chase" or "freeze" and songs.
posted by dpx.mfx at 6:34 AM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've played a game called "Shaolin Training" with my nephew over the years, starting at around three. In the beginning it was basically catch with a lot of corny voices, me saying things like "YOUR CRAB CATCH TECHNIQUE NEEDS A LOT OF WORK YOUNG MASTER! SEE IF YOU CAN HANDLE THE SHAOLIN ORB!" and then tossing a ball for him to catch. Eventually the Shaolin Orb became multiple Balls of Chaos, and of course his required techniques ranged from crane to monkey to snake-in-grass. Basically the more animals and the sillier the voice, the better.

As he grew up and got into knights and armor and then Star Wars, it became page and Jedi training, respectively, and started involving swinging a foam-padded "sword" to hit the balls as they were thrown. The unimaginative among us might call this "baseball." As long as the demands of the trainer came in the voice of Merlin the Magician or old Ben Kenobi, he was game.

Now we play with his younger brother, and the games are more about having our guys and building our compounds out of whatever's at hand: pillows, reams of paper, stacked boxes. Then one of us either sends his guys over to try to destroy the others' compounds or invites the others to a dinner party at our summer house. This game is called Civilization.

The dinner party aspect of the Civilization game sprung organically from the White House Dinner game, which was secretly a clean-up game in which I told the kids that we'd been invited by the President and First Lady to a special dinner honoring us for service to our country, and that we had to start by making everything as tidy as possible. What to wear, what to wear? What did we think would be on the menu? Were our speeches ready? Why were they honoring us?

I guess the gist of this whole thing is, it doesn't take much, just a spark, and your and the kid(s)' imaginations will go from there. I read somewhere that kids in groups less than six will invent games as they play; larger groups require existing structure and rules or else the play fractures. Be the second kid in the situation, let the game make itself. Chances are you'll be watching yourself play thinking this is just throwing wadded paper balls around and running in a circle but the game is actually called Chasing Clouds from Pond to Pond.

Have fun!
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 6:37 AM on February 7, 2012 [11 favorites]


i sometimes play "yoga" or "exercise" with my 2.5 year old twins. basically you just make a big excited deal about the fact that we are going to play and have them stand facing me. then i say stand like a pencil or reach your arms to the sky. i don't know the first thing about yoga it is just fun to say. we also have a lot of races...like "lets race to the lightpole !" and we look for bugs. my girls are also not naturally jumpers and runners, so would say i get about 10 minutes out of each of these games at most.

as for the blocks, my kids like me to build a big tower and they crash it down. or line them up like a path so that can walk on them up (if it's the big foam kind)
posted by orangemacky at 6:39 AM on February 7, 2012


My 4-year-old loves to play a game where she sneaks up behind me and I pretend not to know she's there. I start saying, "Where's Y? I can't find Y! She was just right here!" I pretend I can't hear her giggling. I try to spin around and she tries to stay behind me. You can start this game by just pretending you can't see your daughter, looking over her head, pretending you can't hear her when she says, "I'm right here!" and let it go from there. This is one of those "I am tricking Mom!" games that little kids love.

All of my kids love a game where I sit on the edge of the bed (you could do this on mats, too) and declare that I am so big and strong that they could never ever knock me over, puny weaklings that they are. Then they run at me (one at a time--we take turns) and, of course, I fll over. "That was a fluke! You could never do that a second time!" I say, or "I wasn't ready! No fair!" And so they try again, and what do you know? Over I go. They will do this for as long as I am willing to play it with them.

Don't forget the classics: Follow the Leader, Simon Says, Red Light/Green Light, Mother May I.
posted by not that girl at 6:44 AM on February 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Mine enjoys pretending to be a car in a choo-choo train- which is just kid + adult walking in a line, joined together by some dragging thing that could be a string or a scarf or a ribbon or whatever. Then the train makes its rounds, basically, and you get to make train noises and talk about the various stops, obstacles, etc. It's nice in that it's very customizeable for different environments (so you can add hills, bridges, tunnels, cargo pickups and dropoffs, etc.), and also somewhat athletic, if the train ever has to make its rounds in a super hurry, or backwards, or whatever.

Another surprisingly successful one that I picked up from Mefi the other day is the Bear Hunt. You have the adult sit at the end of a long "run" of some sort-- hallway, wall, etc.- and the kid runs far away, then runs back, getting as close as he can while the adult tries to grab him from the sitting position. Once caught, you tickle, make some growly noises, then let him go, saying, "Run away, run away!". And repeat. This could also be combined with obstacles of some sort, especially if the kid has read "We're Going On A Bear Hunt".
posted by Bardolph at 7:00 AM on February 7, 2012


Play tag, in the house. My 3 year old loves it more than anything. Simple, with a sense of danger, which makes it fun for parents, too.
posted by TinWhistle at 7:14 AM on February 7, 2012


These can all be adapted for just two people, and are age-appropriate for that age.

What Time is it Mr. Wolf?

Red Light, Green Light

Doggy Doggy Where's Your Bone


Work out a version of Hopscotch

A three-year-old isn't catching much, but you can do a version of Wall Ball
posted by peagood at 7:21 AM on February 7, 2012


My three-year old likes to play hide and seek. He runs around while looking for me, so it's really physical. He also plays dinosaurs with me, where I roar and chase him, and he runs away.
posted by christinetheslp at 9:21 AM on February 7, 2012


Lava or ocean. The floor is lava or ocean, and you can make up imaginary creatures that will get you if you 'fall'. It's even more fun if some of the land parts 'sink' if you stay on them for too long.
posted by shinyshiny at 2:32 PM on February 7, 2012


Broken gate. You sit or kneel, hold your arms out and announce "I'm the gate". Child has to say magic words to get through. One arm opens, other may or may not, child pushes, "gate" is broken, gate moans, child laughs hysterically, child must now fix gate, gate pretends to be dificult to fix, eventually is repaired, game continues until you get tired of it because child never will.

Prison. Child is in "prison" and you say "whatever you do, do NOT leave your prison". Child runs away laughing hysterically, you assign "punishment" (sing a song, jumping jacks, turn in a circle 5 times etc) and then "get back in the prison and whatever you do, don't get out!". Lather, rinse, repeat.

Lion and horse - you are the lion. Any variation on this works as long as you make good noises.

Scavenger hunt - bring me a ...... Repeat as many times as you like with a different object each time. Say "this time I'm going to make it really difficult. Bring me a.....car!"

That's my "whatever". You are stuck to a spot but have the right to lunge as child runs by. You must growl "that's my ....." - and try and grab whatever child is holding.
posted by Cuke at 5:42 PM on February 7, 2012


« Older I have no idea who made my fav...   |  Does THIS book with THIS cover... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.