Traditional Games

Many games have remained virtually unchanged as they have passed from generation to generation. You will also find similar variations in other cultures. Here are just a few classic games that your toddler may enjoy.

Hot and Cold

Help your child develop his listening skills and problem-solving abilities with this game.

  • When your child is out of the room, hide a small toy somewhere out of sight.

  • Have your child return to the room to look for the object. Guide him with verbal cues. When he is approaching the object, tell him, “You are getting hot.” If he moves away from the object, tell him, “You are getting cold.”

  • This game is most successful if you are expressive and emphatic in your responses. For example, as your child moves closer and closer to the hiding spot, you might say, “Ooh, you are getting warm. Okay, now you are hot. Wow! When you go by the couch, you are even hotter. Now you are burning up!”

Activity for an individual child

Age group: 30–40 months

Duration of activity: 15 minutes

Small toy that can be easily hidden

Duck Duck Goose

The beauty of this traditional party game is that you can adapt it for any theme or occasion. Is it Easter? You can have the children play Bunny Bunny Chick. If they're learning about colors, the game can become Green Green Yellow.

  • Have children sit cross-legged in a small circle on the floor. Be sure that there is plenty of room around them.

  • Choose one child to be “It.” That child walks around the outside of the circle, gently tapping each child on the shoulder.

  • When “It” taps a child, he also calls out, “Duck.” At a random point, “It” selects a child and calls out, “Goose!”

  • The goose must stand up and chase “It” around the circle.

  • “It” tries to run and sit in the vacant spot before the goose tags him. The goose then becomes the next person to be “It.”

Activity for a group

Age group: 30–40 months

Duration of activity: 15 minutes

Hot Potato

You don't have to use a potato for this game; just choose an item that works well for small hands. Avoid the pain of elimination by making the object to be passed a toy or snack treat that the player can take with him when he leaves the circle.

  • Have children sit cross-legged in a small circle on the floor.

  • Give them an object to pass around the circle. Remind the children to pass it gently without throwing.

  • Play music while the children are passing the object.

  • When the music stops, the child who is holding the object is eliminated.

Activity for a group

Age group: 30–40 months

Duration of activity: 15 minutes

Potatoes or other small items, such as sponges, bean bags, treats, or small toys

Doggie, Doggie, Where's Your Bone?

Here is another game that is easy to adapt. You can change this game into, “Cupid, Cupid, Where's Your Heart?” or “Baker, Baker, Where's Your Cake?” or “Robin, Robin, Where's Your Worm?” Remember that young children may be uncomfortable closing their eyes, so don't worry about enforcing this.

  • Have children sit cross-legged in a small circle on the floor. Be sure that there is plenty of room around them.

  • Choose one child to be “It.” That child crouches in the center of the circle with a toy or dog bone.

  • Tell the child who is “It” that he is the doggie and that he should pretend to nap by closing or hiding his eyes.

  • While “It” is pretending to nap, the rest of the players chant this rhyme:

    “Doggie, Doggie, Where's your bone?

    Somebody took it and ran away home Wake up Doggie!”

  • While the children are chanting, remove the bone and give it to one of the children to hide behind his back. All the children should pretend that they are also hiding the bone.

  • When the children say, “Wake up doggie,” the child who is “It” rises and tries to guess who is hiding the bone.

  • The child with the bone becomes the new doggie.

Activity for a group

Age group: 30–40 months

Duration of activity: 20 minutes

Small toy or dog bone

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