Fun weekend activities that (also) teach skills!

Here are some simple games that are so much fun that kids won’t even realise there are lessons hiding in them!

We know that issues concerning attention, memory, social skills, motor coordination do need expert help, but that doesn’t mean we moms can’t do our bit!

Here are some activities and games that you can assemble at a moment’s notice with things lying around the house. Feel free to improvise and add your own special touches – so that these games become extra special for your little learner.

Things to remember before you start

  • These activities are meant to be fun! There should be no deadlines, no expectations, and most importantly, no stress, for you or for your child.
  • You have to get down to your child’s level when you’re playing these games with him or her. And the more family members you can rope in, the better!
  • Break up the activity into smaller steps if necessary.
  • Repeated instructions and encouragement may be necessary. Patience is the key.
  • A discouraging word or gesture, any time during the activity, could be undo a lot of good.
  • Feel free to improvise and change the rules to create variety. You’re the boss!
  • Be aware that the activity span may be really short. But then remember to stop looking at the activity from an adult’s perspective and be prepared for forgetfulness and boredom.

Follow the trail

All you need for this game are few coloured chalks and a bit of space, like a balcony, backyard, verandah or a playground.

Draw a simple maze, with distinct lines of different colours. Ask your child to walk along a path to reach a predetermined target.

This game is great for children with slightly weak motor skills. Urge your child not to step outside the line. The game also persuades him to concentrate on a solution.

Special tips: To begin with, keep the task easy. Set up easy milestones on the way to the target with rewards. As your child masters the easy level, you may gradually add variants like introducing more than one correct path, but with a caveat, where the child has to avoid a path with ‘danger signs” (like a ditch or a snake), even if the path leads to the goal.

Table Tennis

Table tennis is excellent for hand-eye coordination and for improving focus. And for this version of table tennis, you don’t even need a TT table. Just use a dining table or any other raised surface. Get a pair of table tennis racquets and a few balls and you’re good to go.

The objective of the game is to send the ball back and forth. Tailor the remaining rules according to your child’s age and abilities.

Memory game

We’ve all played this game in our childhood, and it’s just as much fun today. Trying to pick up the correct pairs of picture cards, placed face down can help increase focus and sharpen retention. Start with paying cards –they provide so much variety.

Social skill building activities and games

The following play-based activities are simple, but they could have a range of benefits, right from helping your child decode your expressions and signals to preparing her or him for what could otherwise be daunting social situations.

The staring game

Challenge your child to look at a fixed spot on your face (you could add without blinking if you think it will not be intimidating). If you turn this into a game where you do the same, you could help your child practice focusing on a single thing.

However, if you sense too much discomfort, stop the game immediately.

Secret codes

Great for kids from 4 onwards, this game helps you create a vocabulary of gestures and expressions which you can use to guide your child through social situations.

You could start with a couple of expressions and gestures, and name them. The game involves getting your child to guess which expression you are wearing (with lots of praise of course for guessing corrrectly). Once your child has mastered these, you could add to your repertoire, and even let her/him name them to increase participation.

A big bonus is that you could use these secret codes to convey disapproval (without publicly reprimanding your child) of a socially inappropriate action (such as holding someone’s hand or sitting on a guest’s lap for too long). Also remember to include signals to convey that you are with him in difficult situations (like when his friends do not include him in a game). Include friendly signals too, conveying all is well and that your little one is doing great.

Note: Regular practice and a continuous reinforcing /reassuring feeling can work wonders to create reassurance for your child in difficult situations. You would need loads of patience too, because a successful game may not be a guarantee for a successful social interaction.

Role Play

Making a game of common scenarios is like using virtual tools to learn flying. It helps teach coping skills without the real dangers of what may be unpleasant situations for a child. You could play this game right from the time your child is 2, by using common situations (like a visit to the grocer, a family friend, a restaurant or the park) or potentially scary ones. You will need to assign characters to each member (like your child plays himself and you play the bully at the park).

Proceed to guide your child towards acceptable and desirable behaviour. This may include ways to stay among other children when a bully is around, how to sound an alarm when threatened, or how to play by himself, for a while.

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