Waiting Games

by Sommer on July 3, 2014

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could always be prepared with activity bins, coloring books, electronic devices, etc. to entertain our kids? The reality is that longer than expected waits at the doctor’s office, the car repair or any other place not created for little wiggly bodies do happen and you are often not prepared. In fact, it just happened to me today at the car dealership when a 30 minute oil change turned in to a 90-minute oil change, tire rotation and tire repair—all with three boys, nine, five and two in tow.

Thankfully I see these moments—antsy kids having to wait in public places—as a personal challenge. How can I “entertain” three kids with pretty much nothing—challenge accepted. Having been at this being-a-mom-gig for nine years now, I have a few tricks up my sleeve. Here are my go-to distraction techniques:

Jump – This works well for toddlers. Ask them to jump (or sometimes reverse psychology works better—tell them, don’t jump or I don’t think you can) on anything you can find on the floor: squares, cracks, colored tiles, specs of dust. Ask them to jump over cracks. Dare them to jump five times in a row. You get the idea—keep them busy by performing physical feats.

Count – Preschoolers love to show off their counting abilities. Ask them to count random things in the room where you are waiting—chairs, people, floor tiles, etc. For grade-school kids, challenge them to count lights, ceiling tiles or find the perimeter of the room.

Seek and Find Letters – I like to ask the kids to look for different letters on signs, posters or in books. For toddlers, ask them to find random things around the room (plants, chairs, pictures).

What Was Your Favorite – There are endless questions that you can ask your kids. We like to talk about our favorite anything—favorite thing about our last vacation, favorite thing about Christmas, favorite birthday party—re-live some of the major highlights. You can also tell your kids some of your favorite memories of them from before they could remember.

Eye-Spy – This is usually my all-time go-to in waiting rooms. In fact, my kids usually start playing eye-spy the second we sit to wait anywhere. Take turns and make it as easy or difficult as you like.

Make-up Stories – My kids LOVE made up stories. This has kept us busy in many a doctor’s office. I usually have to dig deep to find some inner creativity for this one or think back to some favorite cartoon characters, movie or book from my childhood (I’ve told many Scooby-Doo type stories; they won’t necessarily know that you are plagiarizing). You can ask them to provide some aspects of the story; is it a scary story or adventure; are the characters people or animals; where does the story take place, etc. Perhaps they even want to take over and make up their own story!

There are hundreds of ideas of things to do when you have to wait somewhere with kids. The key to successful waiting is to fully engage with your kids. With our fast pace lives and handy cell phones and tablets, our kids crave our undivided attention. So why not take those 20 extra minutes of waiting for the doctor to connect with your kids. I promise you will be sad when the doctor finally does make it to your room.

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