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Old 08-24-2003, 05:26 PM
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Passing The Time While Waiting With Your Child--in Or Out Of The Car

Waiting Games: Making the Most of Spare Moments

Next time you find yourself waiting with your child-- in a doctorís office or restaurant, in a line somewhere or in the car-- take full advantage of those spare moments. It only takes a minute to do something creative and have a bit of fun. No child can ever really be bored once you teach him how easy it is to keep himself entertained and amused.

Here are some ideas you and your children can use to pass the time memorably, strengthen the creative muscles and share a laugh or two. Most are adaptable from preschool through elementary school age-- and beyond-- simply by using more sophisticated vocabulary.

Waiting Games

Make up stories about the people around you. You can either take turns-- one sentence or idea each-- or improvise together. See where the story goes and who wants to contribute the next bit of information or plot turn. Maybe that man with the briefcase is a movie star traveling in disguise or a software inventor whoís just developed an instant book-report program.

Play "Memory." One of you chooses a person or an object (a sofa, a cluttered desk) that both of you look at carefully for a short time. Then you close your eyes or look away and take turns telling everything you can remember about the person or object.

Look for evidence of artists at work. When youíre waiting outside, notice and talk about billboards, the architecture or landscaping of buildings and other structures, or store window displays and signs. Inside, notice and discuss furniture, room decorations, book illustrations, corporate logos, and newspaper or magazine photographs, advertisements and page layouts.

Play "Opposites." You say a word and your child comes up with an opposite. After you have gone through some common opposites, try some offbeat or unusual ones. Itís fine if your opposites only "oppose" each other in one way, such as shape or size. Examples: light/dark, happy/sad, angelic/devilish, compete/cooperate, whale/minnow, railroad track/ball of string.

Invent and reinvent. Look around, pick out a common object, and invent new ways to use it. Then imagine that itís many times larger or smaller and think of more ways to use it. Could its parts be rearranged to multiply its uses? What might a visitor from another planet do with it?

Collect words and images. Ask your child to search the magazines in a waiting room for pictures of animals or cars or for a particular word, such as "global" or "buy." How many pictures can she find? How many times does the word appear?

Getting Physical

Turn your hands into puppets. Make a fist with your thumb inside. Use a pen to draw eyes, a nose and hair on the outside of the bottom joint of your forefinger. Move your thumb to make your puppet "talk." Do this for your childís hand, too.

Design physical exercises you can do while you wait. Tense various parts of the body, holding them for a brief count, then relaxing them. Create exercises for parts of your body, from head to toes. See if you can wiggle one eyebrow or one ear.

Play penny games. At a restaurant or other table (or floor), line up a series of nine pennies or other coins of the same denomination. Each penny should be touching the one next to it. Put a 10th penny a few inches behind the others. Now shove the 10th penny quickly so that it knocks against the row. Your child will enjoy seeing how the first penny in the row jumps forward when the row is hit from behind. An older child will enjoy seeing what happens when she pushes the 10th penny harder or more lightly, or when a larger coin is used as the 10th coin, or by lining up eight pennies and then pushing two others so they slide into the row.

Measure up. Take a tape measure with you, and have your child estimate, then measure, the distance between two objects, such as the reception desk and the door, or between "this magazine" and "that plant." Variation: Have your child estimate how many steps it will take him to get from the door to the reception desk (or wherever), using the length of his foot as the unit of measurement. He can check his guess by walking the distance heel-to-toe, heel-to-toe, counting steps.

Experiment with writing. Have your child experiment with her writing or drawing style. How many different ways can she write her first name? How many different ways can she draw the sun or a flower?

On the Road

Examine cars. Look for distinguishing characteristics of cars (or trucks, RVs, SUVs, minivans or motorcycles). Examples: How many cars have whitewall tires? Are most of the cars old or new? (See if you can tell by the sequence of numbers on the license plates.) How many different car makes can you identify? How many things can you find wrong with the cars you see, such as wheel wobble, dented fenders, broken trunk locks, cracked windows or bent antennas?

Count things. Play the oldest on-the-road game of all. The things to count are endless, from train cars to horses, barns to fire hydrants. Narrow your category even further-- for example, to billboards with pictures of women or of women selling cars. As you drive through towns or cities, count people with briefcases, people carrying paper bags or people wearing blue shirts. Or count everything you pass that begins with a "B."

Twist your tongues. Try saying quickly, three times in a row: "Cows graze in groves on grass which grows in grooves in groves," or "Six slippery seals slipped silently ashore." Now ask your child to make up her own tongue twisters, with any letter of the alphabet.

Paper-and-Pencil Quickies

Group Doodle-- One of you draws a random squiggle or begins a picture. Then you take turns adding to it. The final drawing will probably look entirely different from what the person who started it had in mind.

Finger Pool-- Sit at opposite ends of a table. Fold a piece of paper into a compact chunk and take turns flicking your fingers at it to make it cross the table to your partner.

Word Detective-- Cut or tear out part of a newspaper or magazine page. Choose a word that appears on the page, without telling your child what it is. Give your child clues about the word. For example, if you chose the word "car," you might say, "Itís large, comes in different colors, and is made out of metal." Then give your child the page and have him try to find the word. Then switch places and have your child choose a word and give you clues

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