Things can get heavy when you’re the adult. There are always bills to pay, things to clean, errands to run, and there are never, ever enough minutes in the day. Today I overheard one of my students say, “I wish I was in preschool again: snacks, games, and nap time!” I kind of had to agree!
So I took a minute to consider why toddlers are having more fun than the rest of us. It’s simple. Whereas we see the world as full of tasks and obstacles that must be accomplished or overcome, they see the world as one giant game.
Here are a few of the rules I was able to ascertain while carefully observing my 3-year-old.
Open space of any kind
Whether it be a strip of grass, a nature trail, the aisle of a grocery store, or a semi-empty parking lot, open ground means run. Run full speed. This game is simply a test of endurance: how fast can you run and how much ground can you cover before an adult catches you.
A neatly stacked pile of…anything
The game is simple: tip it over! In fact, when you see Mom and Dad creating the stack, this should signal you to stay close and wait until the stacking is completed. Some stacks require several pushes or even kicks. Others are a breeze. For bonus points, yell something like “Tiimmmbber” to ensure Mom sees you.
Water of any sort
A dripping faucet, a puddle, a cup of water, a hose… the sight of water should signal one instinct: play in it. Splash it, drink it, tip it, doesn’t matter, but try and get water on as many different things as you can. Bonus points for getting the dog or the couch wet.
Once found use quietly and immediately. Let the world be your canvas and discover how many surfaces you can decorate: walls, cabinets, end tables, the couch, your parents will thank you later for your contribution to their decor. Bonus points if you can get your hands on a Sharpie.
Whether it’s already opened or not, mail can be the source of great delight. Mail can be ripped, thrown into the air, jumped on, crinkled, and folded. Bonus points if you can find crevices in which to stuff it. Ideas include (but are not limited to): under the couch, in a closet, in the bathroom or kitchen drawers, or under the refrigerator. Bonus points if you can combine with game with water in some way (think toilet).
While you can’t really be sure what they are or what they do, you do know one thing: if you go near one, Mom and Dad will flip out and this can provide you with great entertainment. See how many times to can illicit a response while mom cooks dinner.
These. Things. Are. amazing. They can be climbed on – jungle-gym style- they can be ridden in, you can hang on the outside, climb underneath, hang on to the side. If you can dream it, you can do it! Bonus points if you execute any of these maneuvers while the cart is in motion.
Now this one seems obvious because toys are meant to be played with, but the real fun mostly lies in dumping the toy bins out. Sometimes, kicking the displaced toys around the room can be a nice change of pace, but dumping as many toy bins as you can get your hands on is very therapeutic. Dumping is noisy, so challenge yourself and see how many bins you can dump before an adult stops you.
Getting out of bed
There are a lot of ways to get out of bed: sliding off the side, sliding off the end, jumping off, rolling off, dangling your legs until you just can’t balance anymore and ultimately fall off. Once you’ve exited the bed in some way, see how far down the hall you can get before Mom or Dad sees you. They’ll join in too and come after you, making for a really fun game of chase. (Bonus points: be sure to giggle loudly when Mom returns you to be for the 500th time so she knows you’re enjoying the game)
Big brother/sister’s stuff
This is like the holy grail of entertainment. Have you seen the kinds of things big kids have? Books with rip-able pages, knickknacks and toys with movable parts! There are containers to open, dump out and investigate, papers from school, and all sorts of trinkets. This, however, is a game of risk and skill. You must do it on the sly and get into as many things as quickly as possible because getting caught may mean certain death!
Sometimes you are forced to turn lemons into lemonade. When there is just nothing else to do, you can always resort to random flailing. This may mean sliding out of seats at restaurants or church. It may mean just flailing your arms wildly in the air. This game may also include (but it not limited to): jumping up and down, rolling around on the ground, wander around the room crashing into things, collapsing in the center of the room, and laying on your back while kicking your legs wildly into the air.
And, finally, always keep in mind that the key to good sportsmanship is a positive attitude as as you complete these games, be sure to fill the room with your cries of accomplishment. Pump your fist in the air, smile big, and let the whole world know what kind of toddler champion you truly are!