How to Play with a Three Year Old

If it wasn’t already obvious by the fact that I own a dress-up business, FeeFiFoFun Costumes, I have to gush that I love kids and I love free play.  I find myself, and my 54 year old knees, having trouble standing after a 40 minute marathon kneeling in the snow to build a snowman.

In spite of my childishness, I was shocked at how little I remembered the ages and stages that children go through.  I am delighted to report that my mommy spidey-sense did return, you know when it’s too quiet, and the eyes in the back of my head did grow back.

Grandparenting is not like raising your own kids where you have little or no choice but to engage 100%.  As a new grandparent, however, you have choices.  So the first thing to ask yourself is:  Do you like being around kids?  If you don’t like kids or play, don’t offer to babysit unless the kids are already asleep.  Don’t let your kids bully or blackmail you into babysitting because it will backfire.  Explain calmly that you don’t want them to come home to find the kids tied up, medicated and watching Breaking Bad with you.   It’s their choice.

I’ve been pretty clear with my daughter, much to her chagrin, that I am not interested in providing regular care for her kids.  I am interested in being with them and maintaining the lifestyle to which I have now become accustomed.

If you do like to play, like I do, here are some ideas of what to do with a three to four year old.

Take them for a walk.  It’s no longer acceptable to have our children march about our estate while we have an aperitif like they did in the Sound of Music. Be prepared to get dirty and to go really really slow so as to look at every bug.  Don’t go too far because they might need to be carried back, or have wet boots from puddling jumping or wet pants from being to busy to ask about the potty.

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I have this, and other products, from the House of Marbles. Old fashioned, time tested, quality games like this marble set.

Marbles, yes, old fashioned marbles is one of my three year old granddaughter’s favourite games. The one thing you’ll note is that a three year old loves repetition.  I get down on the wooden floor with legs as barriers and we roll them back and forth, marveling now and then at their colour or at our prowess.  “You can do it Gwammie,” she chirps.  I’m glad I’m doing yoga because playing marbles messes with my hip joints.

What’s in the Cupboard is an awesome game.  My granddaughter has free access to most of the house and found our Yahtzee game.  She likes shaking the dice in the cup or stacking them with the chips.  Resist the urge to actually teach her Yahtzee or name the number of dots on the dice, she’s only three.

Playdough is a fantastic tactile game that I set out on the dining room table beside my computer.  In between typing, I roll pieces into small balls or snakes to keep her focused on the dough, not my computer.  Unfortunately I made the mistake of taking a phone call from my Georgette of Georgie Porgies Cakes.  I got so excited discussing a cross promotion that when I surfaced, so was the dough, in little crumbs all over the surface of the floor  … and the dog was eating it.

Stickers, and recycled paper to put them on, are great.  Just don’t cheap out by going to a dollar store because those stickers are difficult for a three year old to peel off.  Other than redirecting her from putting them on the table to the paper, I don’t interfere.

Plastic figures of My Little Ponies, animals, firemen and Star Wars characters from Value Village can easily be sterilized and give tons of play around the house including the bathtub.  She’s warming up to Darth Vader since I took his helmet off.

Books, books, books.  I read four or five Robert Munsch books around her nap time and leave them with some plastic toys on the bed.  She either falls asleep on her own or has “quiet time”.   I mean quiet time for me to re-charge, not her ~ she’s going back to her parents house.

With respect to books, you don’t have to read every word or she will be reaching to turn the page before you are finished.  Embellish, use voices, point out little birdies on the page.  Soon peak in on her reading on her own.  So precious and so quiet.

After a couple of dates, I guarantee your mommy spidey-sense will also return as will the eyes in the back of your head.  If your house is childproofed, then you can leave her alone for free play and napping without fretting.

What play do like to do with your children or grandchildren?

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