Nick and Abby’s birthdays are only 6 weeks apart. I am not one for huge birthday parties for kids. We usually just invite our parents and siblings over for lunch and some cake in a combined birthday party, but my kids are lucky enough to have 7 living grandparents, 2 uncles, an aunt, and a special surrogate aunt. That’s 11 people bringing presents, plus mom and dad. That’s 25 new toys coming in to my house in one day and some people bring more than one gift. We appreciate all of the great new toys, but it can get a little overwhelming thinking about where to put them all.
I started thinking about what we would play with when we were little and there were very few toys I actually remembered. Some Magic Nursery Dolls, Polly Pockets and Barbies. I know the importance of toys, I used to own a toy library, but what I remember the most is playing all day at my Mommom’s house when she would babysit us and most of the time we never took out a single toy. She would play these games with us all day long.
If you find yourself unexpectedly babysitting young kids or if you just want your family to just unplug from all of the stuff for a minute, try a few of these ideas.
Sit on the bottom step of a flight of stairs (kindergarten) and hide a small rock in one hand. Hide your hands behind your back. Have the other person guess which hand the rock is in. If they guess correctly, you move up to the next grade level (the next step). The object is to “graduate” to the top step.
Everyone sits on the couch and you take turns getting up one at a time and preforming a song of your choice.
Hide and Seek:
Pretty sure you already know how to play this, but just in case, everyone hides and one person tries to find them. Just be careful your kids aren’t as good at this game as mine are!
Similar to follow the leader. One person does something silly while the others sing “What can you do, Punchanello, funny fellow? What can you do Punchanello, funny you?” Then everyone else copies the first person and sings “We can do that too, Punchanello, funny fellow. We can do that too, Punchanello, funny you.”
Follow the Leader
Same as above, without the silly song.
Hot Butter Beans
No one knows why we called it that, but in this game one person hides an object. We used the red top from the plastic stacking rings but it could be anything: a rock, a shoe, whatever. The others are in another room while it is being hid. Once it is hidden, the hider shouts “Hot butter beans, come to supper!!!!” and everyone look for the object. The hider says whether the lookers are “hot” (close) or “cold” (far away) until they find it.
Pretty sure you already know about this one too.
Mommom would take real food, cereal boxes or whatever, out of the pantry and line it up along the fireplace and we would take turns shopping being the cashier putting it into plastic bags, etc.
In our house this means spreading out a towel on the kitchen floor and giving the kids a big bowl of water and some kitchen utensils to play with
Build a Fort
My dad used to make a mean fort out of the kitchen chairs and a few blankets.
Funny enough, when my kids paint we rarely actually use paint. We like to use a q-tip to draw with water & food coloring. You can also spread shaving cream on the table or sidewalk and let them fingerprint in that. In the summer my kids like to make “disappearing ink” drawings on the sidewalk (which are really just painted with plain ol’ water).
My Aunt Chotts always has a scavenger hunt ready for kids to do as the first part of their visit to her home.
My Mommom’s favorite was “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes”
If the weather is nice, take a walk, go to the park, play tag.
Pretty much, you just throw balled up (preferably clean) socks at each other
Lately this is Abby’s absolute favorite. One person says “I spy with my little eye something…red(or whatever color)” and the rest take turns guessing until they figure it out.
We always played this in the car. One person thinks of something then the others take turns asking yes or no questions and see if they can guess what it is before they’ve asked 20 questions.
In the evening we will sometimes go out in the yard and hand each kid a flashlight from the dollar store. Then they play a regular game of tag, but with flashlights.
Design Your Own Board Game
Then play it. My cousin Sally and I loved to do this when we stayed with my grandmother for a week each summer. We would always design a trap where you would get stuck if you happened to land on a certain space. (For example, that space might say “Move ahead 4 spaces,” but in 4 spaces it would say “Move back 4 spaces” and you would be stuck moving back and forth. We thought this was hilarious.)
Create a Neighborhood Newspaper.
Walk around with the kids and interview a few of your neighbors who are outside and you know are friendly. Have the kids write stories like “Mr. Jackson is Planting His Tomatoes Early This Year!” and draw pictures to go with them. Then make copies and distribute them to the neighbors you interviewed.
Get a Disposable Camera and Let the Kids Take a Photo Walk
Put the pictures in an album from the dollar store.
Is great for drawing pictures or for making your own hopscotch or four square court (although you would need a ball to play four square).
There are a lot more things you can do that don’t require any toys. I’d love to hear some of your favorites in the comments!