Fun Ways to Walk That Can Turn a Cranky Moment into a Wondrous One!
Every child gets cranky—you don’t have to be a parent of a child with special needs to know that some days, or some moments, your child gets difficult. It’s likely to find this happening when you stayed too long at the store and you still have to walk to the car or home and your child refuses, or is about to have a meltdown.
When you sense your child is about to lose it—or did lose it and is over the worst of it—change the mood and play a game. Distraction, that tried and true method that worked with the fussy baby, is still valid. Pulling out a set of jangly keys to distract and calm will no longer work, but an activity in which you are the playmate can have a wondrous effect. I have done these games with preschoolers AND teenagers so I know adding the element of play never gets old.
Oh, and by the way, between you and I, these games are also teachable moments that benefit a child’s social, cognitive and motor skills. But children don’t need to know that; all they care about is that it’s fun and for you. You get to where you need to go with your good humor still intact!
Add an easy variation to walking by alternating between a big stride (giant steps) and a little shuffle (baby steps). You can decide ahead of time how many steps to take such as 10 giant steps and then ten baby steps and then keep repeating that pattern
When walking, you suddenly say, “Stop!” and stop instantly as if frozen. Then say, “Go” and go forward. Your child or children won’t know when you will suddenly say “Stop” again since you will do it irregularly. Sometimes there will be a long walk between “Stops”, sometimes it will happen almost immediately (which produces giggles). The fun, for them, is not knowing when it will come. The fun for you is knowing that you are painlessly getting to where you want to go.
Change it to Red light, Green light if you want to slip in an awareness of the meaning of traffic lights.
WHO ELSE CAN YOU BE?
Rather than walk like a regular person, move like some one or some thing else such as a mouse, kangaroo, elephant, hawk or whatever creature inspires you.
You can be spontaneous and just make up movements such as working like a stiff robot and your child imitates you. Or your child turns into a jumping kangaroo and you follow her lead.
You could even turn it into a guessing game. What animal or creature am I being?
You could choreograph a repeated movement such as doing three jumps followed by ten gallops. Then repeat, repeat all the way home. Or just try different ways to move such as a sideways slide or walking backwards, hoping on one foot, and leaping as possible ways to move forward.
Or just hold hands and skip together! There is nothing, in my mind, more fun than that, especially if accompanied by singing “We’re off to see the Wizard, the wonderful Wizard of Oz”.
Pretend you are putting imaginary glue on his back and your front and you are stuck together. Place your hands on your child’s shoulders to give you control. Then walk forward and he walks with you. You can go quite a ways with this one
For older kids, you can just be glued on your hips so that you are more like conjoined twins!
One of the benefits of this game is the sweet physical closeness, as well as moving forward in a silly way.
A walking game doesn’t have to be physical, it can be mental. Guess the number of steps you will take to get to the next corner, signpost, traffic light or tree. How far ahead depends on the age of the child. Or, guess how many seconds or minutes it takes to go to the next spot. See how close you both were to the correct number on your last try and then adjust for the next guess to another spot.
This idea works well with teenagers, especially when done on a country lane. Compared to my teenage years, there is so much more variation in dance movements now. If you are familiar with a popular “dance” called the “Harlem Shake”, you know that any movement can be acceptable and “cool”.
Take turns imitating each other’s moves for a delightful and joyous way to be together and shorten the path home.
If you’re worried about others thinking you’re nuts dancing down the street like you’re in the “Singing In The Rain” movie, just think of how you would feel watching a parent with his or her kid(s) clearly having some silly fun together. If it makes you smile just to think of it. These games were made for you.
Barbara Sher M.A.,O.T.R, an occupational therapist and author of nine books on childrens games. Titles include EARLY INTERVENTION GAMES SPIRIT GAMES and EXTRAORDINARY PLAY WITH ORDINARY THINGS. Send request for workshops to email@example.com or www.gameslady.com
Photos Courtesy of juhansonin / flickr.com, Paul Retherford/ photoxpress, Jaimie Duplass / photoxpress.com,