I provide direct care in my home for five energetic boys who are always up for an adventure but also content in long stretches of self-directed play amongst themselves with open ended, mostly random materials.
Today one of the boys grabbed the supply of wooden rulers right after breakfast and I had an idea of where this was going. You see the last time the wooden rulers were the material of choice they were not rulers, they were swords. I support weapon play with children because it has purpose in the lives of tiny humans and often has none of the violent undertones that grown-ups may think of when they see children wrestling with each other or chasing and pushing each other. I see the value so I support the activity. That said, I know that my poor, wooden rulers have now seen better days after the last session of swords and our supply is short by a couple that made the dramatic exit via garbage bag because the breaks were just too severe and I had to deem them dangerous.
In an attempt to save myself from another encounter with Amazon to order more rulers I asked the boys what their plan was with the rulers. With a giant smile one of the boys says “SWORDS” with gusto. I ask if they remember what happened the last time and they pointed out the pieces that were missing from the remaining swords. I asked them if they could think of something else they could use for swords that wouldn’t hurt each other and wouldn’t break. After some brainstorming they asked for the whack-a-doodles.
Pool noodles covered with thick tights. You could totally just leave them uncovered but over the years our whack-a-doodles have been met by toddlers who have tried to eat them. Since safety is always something to keep in mind as play develops we had to come up with a way to keep the whack-a-doodles but not have a bunch of plastic pool noodle choking hazards. Hence, the thick tights! Now if the toddlers try to eat our beloved whack-a-doodles the pieces stay inside the tights and not in their mouths.
These whack-a-doodles give children, and adults, a way to burn maximum energy with minimal impact. By allowing the rough and tumble play we are able to offer opportunities to practice empathy, spatial awareness, and have fun with our children. It’s like a pillow fight, with a twist!
While the mid-western spring may actually be here (don’t hold your breath, though!) this is a great idea to have tucked away in your back pocket for the super hot days when there’s only so many times you can run through the sprinkler with the kids.
So what if you don’t have any whack-a-doodles on hand? You’re in luck! I have more tricks up my sleeve to burn off some energy using materials you are likely to have laying around.
- Balloon Volleyball – blow up a balloon and bat it back and forth. Easy peasy! If you have younger children around you can put the balloon inside a nylon stocking so if it pops the pieces will be contained and not get choked on.
- Sock Snowball Toss – Go grab all those socks piled up in the laundry room (not the dirty ones, silly! The ones you hate matching up). Roll them up, make a pile for each player, and then 3-2-1 snowball fight without a melty mess to clean up.
- Cottonball Fight – Dump out a bag or two of cotton balls and sound the starting bell! Cotton balls are fun to throw, don’t hurt, and take a lot of effort to get them to fly far.
- Baby as the Workout Leader – Have a baby or toddler around while the older kids are driving you crazy? Make them the leader of exercise time! It’s a simple game of follow the leader but the leader has no idea they are in charge. You never know what kind of workout you will get or what the leader will have you doing. Our last session included downward dog pose for like 15 minutes. LOL
- Paper Plate Throwing – Similar to the cotton ball fight, cheap paper plates take a lot of effort to get them flying and you have no idea which direction they will go since they catch the air so easily.
Here at Wild About Play, we are all about helping you find your play, every day. Just because we tell lots of stories about our time with tiny humans doesn’t mean the kids get to have all the fun. Try some of these ideas with other grown-ups in your life. It will give everyone a burst of energy and belly laughs to get through the rest of the workday and build relationships, just like the kids need when they are climbing the walls.