LSU’s Mike the Tiger came to my son’s school the other day for a surprise birthday visit!
It was such a memorable experience for ALL of the children.
But, it actually could have been CRAZY and chaotic if I didn’t “think fast” and come prepared with a few ideas to keep the kids somewhat calm.
It could’ve turned into a bunch of injured kids or an injured Mike, but I always keep a few tricks up my sleeve.
Any time I am in front of a big group of kids, I always try to get them to do something along WITH me. So, here are my 5 top picks to fill wait -time or keep crowd control when you have a group of kids to organize.
1) “Silly Says” – Today we played “Mike Says” and everything he did, we had to do. I play this with kids a lot and I just play “Silly Says” – whatever silly thing I do, you do.
2) “Going on a Bear Hunt” – I was at the park once trying to keep the kids away from the sandbox and this chant did the trick!
3) “I Spy” – The classic game – I usually play it in a variety of ways. “I spy something shaped like…. I spy something that starts with…. I spy something the color…. I spy something that sounds like…. I spy something that rhymes with…” You get the picture.
4) “Mirror Fingers” – hold up the same number of fingers that I hold up in a different way.
5) “Imitate my Clap” – this is an old teacher-tactic where the kids simply have to listen and follow the beat that the leader makes.
A couple other easy ones:
1) Coordinate “Little Sally Walker” – you may have to YouTube it if you aren’t sure what that is.
2) Play “Man in the middle.” One person stands in the middle of a circle and throws the ball to someone on the outside (who can’t move their feet). Whoever catches it and follows the rules becomes the man in the middle.
3) Play “Duck, Duck, Goose!”
4) Sing “If you are Happy and You know it” – I always come up with lots of things to add to the song like “wag your tail, hop like a frog, roar like a lion, etc” STRETCH IT OUT! 🙂
My kids often do things that are expectedly unexpected (if that even makes sense). If I tell my kids to do something and they have a reaction that I didn’t anticipate, it is unexpected… but since it happens every single day a bajillion times a day… really… how unexpected can it be? Expectedly unexpected.
Expectedly unexpect this, kids: MY reaction to above situation. I get annoyed. Punish. Yell. Throw a Mommy hissy fit if it is the umpteenth time I have told them to turn off the TV. Put the kids in timeout. Take away the TV for the day. Talk talk talk talk talk about how they disobeyed. Seriously, you’d think they’d learn. You think, I’d learn.
Well, I had this re-epiphany the other day. A re-epiphany is that ‘aha’ moment that has been tucked away in our heads. Sometimes we just need a little reminder. And here is my re-epiphany… I need to teach my kids HOW TO THINK!
Me: “It’s time to get dressed…”
Yet they continued to play with toys.
Me: “C’mon boys, let’s get dressed.”
Me: “Stop playing with toys and get dressed!”
Yeah, I’m not proud of those moments when I snap. So, I have recently started turning the conversation around by verbally thinking about and questioning the situation to give them a chance to make the correct decision about what is the important thing to do to accomplish a task.
Me: “It’s time to get dressed.”
They continue to play with toys.
Me: “We need to get to school on time, so which is more important right now: playing with toys or getting dressed?
Boys: “Getting dressed.”
Me: “What happens if we play with toys instead of getting dressed?”
Boys: “Then we are going to be late for school…”
and my little one added: “Then Mommy will be maaaaad.”
Yup… I guess I needed this little epiphany to get myself to chill out because fussing at my kids apparently sticks in their little minds.
I have been focusing my conversations with the kids on using guiding questions to help them discern how to behave. The things that you and I as adults do automatically in our heads do not come naturally to young kids, but we can teach them the thought process that needs to be going through their minds. We can verbally model that for them so they start doing it as well:
Is this the right thing to do?
Which is more important?
What would happen if I didn’t listen?
This type of teaching will help your kids learn how to think things through. If you notice, I talked about our goal: to get to school on time. Then I narrowed down the field of all of the possible things they could be doing right now to two things: playing with toys (the action they are doing) and getting dressed (the action I need them to be doing.
I then ask “What is more important right now?” The right now is important because we do not want them to think that the things that matter most to them aren’t important, but at that exact moment, which is the MOST important. With my 3-year-old, I sometimes also have to say, “We can play with our toys after homework today when it is play time,” to remind him that his own personal goal (to play with toys) will also be fulfilled, but at a later point today.
We have used this approach for many things this week – most of them have been in the format of prioritizing which activity will best help us to reach our goal.
Teaching how to think is cross-curricular. You already teach foreshadowing (what’s going to happen next) in reading and math (sequencing) and cause and effect in science. This is just taking the same conversational approach and applying it to behavior.
I recommend also having these conversations during regular play, not just when you need them to do something. Expect the unexpected. Try to anticipate how they might do something that you will have to fuss them for and start a conversation about it before it happens…
Mommy Teacher: “If we are going to play in your room which is next to your sleeping sister’s room, is it more important to talk loudly or quietly?”
Mommy Teacher: “Why do we need to talk quietly?”
Child: “Because we do not want to wake Sister up.”
And if you’re like me and have a little lawyer or politician on your hands who will try to argue his decision to choose to do something besides what you need him to do, just remind him to think about what is MOST important to accomplish the end goal.
I have taken graduate level courses in child psychology and behavior management. I have spent countless hours in classes, seminars and meetings about how to set rules, boundaries, and expectations and how to discipline effectively using positive reinforcements – and had a few years in the classroom using those practices that I was taught. I have read books and manuals and blogs and magazines and read and read and read and studied about how to get my students to do what I need them to do, when I need them to do it.
And my expert, degreed self had a vision of how I would teach and discipline my own kids one day (as if MY kids would ever need it). Here’s how my perfect mommy self would “handle” (for lack of a better word – where’s my thesaurus???) my kids.
1. I would always explain why I needed them to do something. “The reason I need you to be quiet right now is because Mommy needs to make a phone call and I can’t hear the person on the other line when you are also talking.”
2. I would always use positive speak (i.e. “Walk” instead of “Don’t run.”)
3. “Because I said so” would NEVER be a spoken from my mouth. Instead I would always do #1.
(Ok. You can stop laughing at me now. We are always better parents before we are actually parents, right?)
So, then I became a real parent, and you know what I learned when my first born was a toddler? “Because I said so” sometimes IS the reason I need them to stop what they are doing. Maybe because they wouldn’t understand the real reason, or maybe because I just don’t feel like giving a reason (I’m not alone here!), or maybe because there isn’t any time to explain. For example…
When my oldest son was a little over two, I took him and his baby brother to the park with some friends. Up to this point, I believe I had stuck to my ideal vision that I stated above – pretty easy to do when they are in the baby and new-toddler phases.
I was sitting on the picnic blanket nursing the baby who was still in “blob mode”(around 2 months old) and my two-year-old was running in the open field between me and the parking lot. At one point, he decided to chase some older kids who were closer to the parking lot.
Realizing I was a little tied up at the moment (bare breasts under the nursing cover), I decided to raise my voice (not yell… no, never yell) at my son to come play closer to me…
“James, come back!”
Haha, yeah, like that worked. The two-year-old ran a little farther away.
“Jaaaames! Come back over here, please!”
And to my naive astonishment, the kid didn’t even slow down. In fact, I believe he sped up!
Then, it hit me. I had always been close enough to him to be able to explain to him WHY he shouldn’t be doing something. This insta-command thing was new. He had never heard it before. So just as he was nearing the parking lot, I yelled,
“JAMES! YOU NEED TO GET OVER HERE RIGHT NOW BECAUSE YOU ARE ABOUT TO RUN INTO A PARKING LOT AND THERE ARE CARS AND YOU COULD GET HIT BY A CAR BECAUSE YOU ARE TOO SHORT AND THEY WON’T BE ABLE TO SEE YOU AND THAT WOULD HURT A LOT!”
Or something to that effect.
That moment right there, the first time my son completely ignored me. It wasn’t until I gave him that explanation of WHY he shouldn’t do something, completely changed my ideal vision of parenting. Why did he do that? Because up until that day I had explained every.little.thing to him… and don’t get me wrong! That’s how they learn best how to not just DO, but understand right versus wrong.
But in an emergency… when they truly truly need to stop what they are doing. They need to STOP. NOW. There is no time for an explanation. They need to understand that you mean business.
That’s when I invented the “code word.” I needed a shortcut to get my child to listen without question.
We went home and practiced it. FREEZE. When Mommy says that word, it does not matter what you are doing, what you WANT to be doing or what you were ABOUT to do; you are going to stop, put your hands on your head, and turn to look at me.
Now, the “put your hands on your head” part may seem a bit extreme, but trust me, when they are playing with a toy, the only way to get their undivided attention is to make sure their hands are empty.
I recently noticed my 3-year-old doing the same thing as my older son had done years before. This week, I brought back our old friend, FREEZE.
The kids have a great time playing our FREEZE game where they get to cut up and act crazy, then Mommy yells “FREEZE” and they immediately stop with their hands on their head. They also like playing Mommy’s role and telling me when to FREEZE.
With some short reminders in the car when we are about to go into the store or play at the park, the kids remember to respond immediately when I yell the code word. It’s also a great way to get both of their attention when I need them to switch activities. It gives me time to explain how we are going to transition into the next activity.
Do you have a code word? What do you use? Comment below to share!!!
If you are just now following along with our Devotions posts, please read our Week 1 post.
Day 1: I Am Calling You
“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.” -Psalm 37:7
Our devotion today talked about spending time with God and turning off all distractions that can keep us from having a relationship with Him. We practiced standing really really still and listening. We heard birds singing, tractors in the field, and bees buzzing.
We then tried to stand on one foot and noticed that by not staying still, it was hard to concentrate on all of the things we heard a minute before. Being distracted by busy things in our life makes it hard to focus and be still to listen to God.
“Instead I have calmed and quieted myself…” -Psalm 131:2
“You give him blessings forever; You cheer him with joy in Your presence.” -Psalm 21:6
Day 2: The One Who Heals
“He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases.” -Psalm 103:3
Today, we busted out the band aids and talked about God healing our bobos and our hearts. Our activity was super simple: we put band-aids on us and talked about how they help heal our wounds. (Lucky for me, I had just 2 band aids left! Now I need to remember to buy a new box at the store.)
“You do not have because you do not ask.” -James 4:2
Day 3: I’ve Got Plans for You
“O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you in all of heaven above or on the earth below. You keep your covenant and show unfailing love to all who walk before you in wholehearted devotion.” -1 Kings 8:23
We talked about walking hand in hand with Jesus down the right path. Leyson had a late nap on this day, so I used this opportunity to do a focused writing activity with James. He had to come up with a take away sentence from what we talked about and then draw a picture to match.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peae, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.” -Galatians 5:22-23
Day 4: Shout it Out Loud
“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” -James 4:7
When we talk to God and tell him our troubles, he can help us overcome them. Today we talked about our fears and how we only need to lean on God when we are afraid.
Me: “James what are you afraid of?”
James: “Pretty much nothing because I’m a ninja and I can karate chop the devil’s head to a million pieces.”
As you can see, I had a hard time getting my super brave boy to admit that he had any fears.
After much deliberating, both boys decided they were afraid of wasps (well, James said he is, “ALMOST afraid of wasps.” – close enough.)
I wrote their fears on a piece of paper and we prayed about them. Then we wadded the papers up, ripped them up, stomped on them and threw them in the trash can representing how God helps us to overcome our fears.
Leyson telling me about crushing the wasps
“Indeed, God is my salvation. I will trust Him and not be afraid. Because Yah, the Lord, is my strength and my song, He has become my salvation.” -Isaiah 12:2
Day 5: Growing Up
Today we deviated from our devotional because James needed some extra encouragement.
We pulled out an old favorite verse that we have been praying over for a while for each of our children.
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'” -Jeremiah 29:11
I made this sign for James to hang over his bed. He had to say the verse 3 times before bed as we prayed over him. This really helped calm his little spirit and give him a new attitude for the night. Our activity was just good ol’ conversation. Sometimes, that’s the best way to really help them get into the Word.
If you are interested in ordering a sign, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I can customize with a different verse and/or different colors. $15 + shipping
Whether, like me, you are somewhat homebound with a newborn, or you have other reasons that you need to get your kids moving (rain, heat, an injury, etc.). I wanted to share some great movement videos for young children. My kids spend at least half an hour enjoying some of the videos I have shared below.
We only have one TV in our house, but it happens to be one that has “Apps” like Netflix, YouTube, Pandora, etc. This makes our den my all-purpose room for sure.
If you subscribe to any of these channels you will discover LOTS of great educational songs too. Have Fun Teaching has some really fun songs that makes associations with the letter formation of the letters, the sounds, and words that start with that sound. And of course Sesame Street is so great too!
PLEASE share your favorites in a comment so I can add some new playlists 🙂
My kindergarteners loved these videos so don’t rule them out until you put them on for your kids. They are great to coincide with learning about the body to reinforce body parts and the importance of exercise.
Here is a little clip of my little ones and a friend enjoying “Jump” by Patty Shukla. Yes, we let them jump on the couches for this one…. I know some moms are going crazy, but ya know…. To each his own 🙂