I excerpted 7 faves from the most excellent 100 FREE things to do with your grandkids list over at grandparents.com. Try them out on your favorite child (niece, nephew, grandchild, or your own offspring).
#28 Make Sock Puppets: Lost a sock in the dryer? Great! Now you can use the other one to make a sock puppet. Any old thing around the house instantly becomes an item to be used for your sock puppet. Glue on old buttons for two eyes (they don’t have to match), some yarn for hair, felt scraps for eyebrows, and you’re ready for a puppet show.
#29 Play Hot Lava Kids love this game of imaginary adventure where players pretend they are escaping an active volcano. Randomly place pillow cases, dish towels, newspaper, or any mats you have around the floor. Work your way across the room, jumping and leaping from place to place, making sure not to touch the “hot lava” (the floor). You will increase your heart rate as you challenge the kids to see who can cross the room first. This game also helps kids develop spatial awareness as they learn to control their body tempo and movement.
#8 Play Sardines: A twist on hide-and-seek: Everyone seeks while one hides. As seekers find the person hiding, they hide with him. The last person to join the group is the odd man out. [editor note: I saw this on Cougar Town, classy!]
#45 Decorate Masks Using a white paper plate, make a funny face or a primitive mask with just a pair of scissors and some crayons. Cut holes where your eyes will go. If you’ve got some yarn around, add it on as hair or a beard. Put two small holes on either side of the paper plate, and thread some yarn through it to tie the mask to the child’s head.
#65 Simon Says If there was ever a lesson in paying attention to instructions, this game is it. Have fun with the grandchildren as Simon Says to touch your toes, and as Simon Says to raise your right arm, and then to touch your nose. Aha! Gotcha!
#89 Mentos Soda Explosion This experiment was a YouTube sensation a few years ago. Do it outside. Take the cap off a brand new, two-liter bottle of Diet Coke. Drop a sleeve of Mentos candies into the bottle, step back, and wait for science to take over. The explosion of Diet Coke into the air is pretty cool, and not a bad way to explain how mixing certain things can sometimes have an unexpected effect. Hello, teaching moment.
#75 Create a Story That Keeps on Going Have one person start out. “One day, I was walking down the street.” Then the next person must add to the story. “And I saw a beautiful orange car.” And then the next person says, “And a lovely lady was driving it.” And the next adds, “She had a most remarkable lion, waving from the back seat.” And so on, and so on, and so on. If you’re a long-distance grandparent, you can do this by e-mail.
These were a few of my personal favorite choices, but there are 97 other clever FREE ideas for playing with a kid [pdf]. Grandparents.com is also introducing a benefits club that is good for anyone, not just members of the AARP. It has discounts on products in a wide variety of categories, including travel, entertainment, and more. For a limited time, you can get one year of FREE membership in the Grandparents.com Benefits Club and take it for a spin. Sign up at benefitsclub.grandparents.com and use promo code GPGIFT. Feel free to share this deal with family members as well.