Catholic Activity: Childhood Games
Here are some suggestions for keeping your children busy and encouraging creativity at the same time, including homemade jigsaw puzzles, acting out stories and imaginative play.
Busy and Happy A child by nature does not enjoy being idle. How many times has your child chimed, "Mother, what shall I do now?" It is time to volunteer a suggestion; for, if he is busy, he will be happy. What an excellent lesson to learn early in life!
Have you ever tried religious jigsaw puzzles as an interesting project? These are available commercially, but a very young child will make satisfactory progress with a homemade puzzle. You can make it to fit the child's capacity.
Cut out a picture. Paste it unto a piece of sturdy cardboard. When it is dry, cut the picture into jigsaw pieces. A small child, likes to accomplish what he sets out to do; so, do not make the pieces too numerous or intricate. He can assemble such a puzzle all by himself. He will be rewarded, not only with a wholesome sense of achievement, but also with a greater appreciation of the picture.
In making several puzzles, it is a good idea to keep each in a separate envelope or container. To help tell them apart, the back of each cardboard mounting might be colored with a different crayon. Coloring these is a project the five- or six-year-old will enjoy. To supplement the homemade puzzle, you may wish to buy or get information at Catholic bookstores about activity books containing puzzles and similar projects.
Acting Out Stories You are probably on a par with a professional storyteller now, having told and read so many. But a small child never tires of hearing stories, and there is no better means of teaching. A half-hour or so before nap or bedtime is excellent for what one parent calls "cozy-time."
Besides hearing stories, children like to act out their favorite tales. You will do well to encourage this inclination. It is a happy and profitable manner of play and gives young imaginations free rein. If you are so honored as to be offered a role in a play-story, by all means accept it. Not only will you give your children the wondrous feeling of security and well-being which sharing play with parents offers, but you yourself will probably find relaxation.
Games Reflect Experiences You have doubtless been amused many times by seeing your child re-enact in his play his most recent experiences. If he goes to the zoo, he comes home and turns over the dining room chairs to form cages. If he has his picture taken later he holds up a box to one eye and makes a "click" sound as baby sister obligingly strikes a pose.
Likewise if your child goes to church, he plays "church" frequently. Playing "Communion" is a remote preparation for the day of his first reception of the sacrament. Encourage him, but be sure that there is an attitude of respect in this game. This way, going to church becomes a cherished part of his small world rather than an isolated experience that takes place once a week.
Watch your child while he engages in imaginative play. This is an excellent time to observe any objectionable tendencies and to correct them by means of proper direction. Often the conduct of a child at play reflects what he observes in his immediate surroundings. Your example should steer him gently but firmly toward good behavior.
However, do not encourage your child to form these good habits for your sake. Lead him to desire them for his present and future well-being. Remember that you, his parents, must continue to grow in the virtues if you wish to encourage similar traits in your child. At all times try to be models of the saints you wish your children to be.
Activity Source: From Stroller to School, Parent-Educator Series 2, Leaflets 13-24, Three to Six Years by Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, 1962