The Waiting Game

clock in grass

Waiting is Challenging for Children!

We have all faced the challenge of having to wait with young children. There is a lot of waiting in the world: waiting for others to finish snack, waiting at the doctor’s office, checking out at the grocery store, in line for rides at the fair, going to the bathroom at any event. We all have to wait.

How can we make waiting a little more fun, or at least survive without major meltdowns? Here are some ideas that might help.

Plan Ahead

First and foremost, take a few minutes BEFORE the waiting actually happens to prepare children – preferably well in advance. Talk about the fact that there will be some dull moments ahead. Ask what feelings they might have when they have to wait. How will they manage those feelings? Have them brainstorm ideas – what will make the waiting more fun or at least bearable?

When the waiting begins, remind them about that conversation. Check out the feelings first: “Remember you said you might feel mad, and you were right! Do you remember that you said you would take 3 deep breaths when you felt mad? Let’s do that together.”

Some Engaging Ideas to Pass the Time, Have Fun, and Even Learn Something!

Have your child pick one of the activities they came up with or try one of the following:

  • Guess Which Hand – put a small object in your hand and hide your hands behind your back. Have your child guess which hand is holding it. Give your child a turn holding the object and you guess.
  • Sounds Like – say a word and have the children think of all the words that rhyme with it. Start simple with words like ‘cat’ and ‘say’.
  • Guess What’s in My Purse/Backpack/Pocket – see how many items they can guess that are really there. In anticipation of this game, add a couple of unexpected things like a spoon or a bouncy ball or an adhesive bandage and give them hints. Added bonus: you will have those things should you need them.
  • Waiting Time Surprise – wrap small items in newspaper or tissue paper and bring them out at random times while waiting: figures with parachutes, paddle balls, pipe cleaners, bendable figures, small notepad and pencil, punch balls, playdough. (Be sure the item is appropriate for the waiting space).
  • Brainstorm – ask your children to come up with ideas for questions like: “What are all the things we could take on a picnic?” “What would you see on a walk in the city, or in the woods, or in a castle?” “What can you do to cheer up a friend?
  • Think Fast! – give a category and see how many answers a child can come up within 15 seconds. Some categories to get you started: animals with fur, things that fly, what you find in the ocean, kinds of fruit, things you see in a classroom, games that need a ball.
  • Creative Thinking Questions – come up with questions that get your child’s creativity working or try some of these:

If you could have a super power, what would it be? Why? What would you do with your special power?

If your pet could talk, what would it say?”

What would you do if you were invisible?

What do you love about being a kid?

What are your favorite smells?”

What 5 things would you take with you if you were going to live on a desert island?”

  • Build a Story – start a story, then stop after a few sentences and have children add a few sentences before passing it on. “Once upon a time a green lizard named Freddy was bored. He needed something fun to do. He started crawling towards his favorite pond and saw a big….”
  • Thumb Wrestling – “Okay, alright, I declare a thumb fight!
  • How Many Can You See? – look around the crowd and ask questions like, “How many people do you see wearing hats?” or “How many red shirts do you see?” “How many people have sunglasses on?
  • Even or Odd (for two or more children) – First have them guess if there will be an even or odd number of fingers. Then have the children stick out 1 or more fingers and count them up.
  • Drop a Leaf – drop a leaf holding it up high and see if your children can catch it before it lands.
  • Feelings Faces – take turns expressing different feelings with your face or by acting them out. Have the other person guess what the feeling is. Expand this by talking about times when you might feel the feeling that was acted out. “Tell me about what makes you sad.” or “What things do you find annoying?
  • 20 Questions – take turns thinking of an object and have the others ask yes or no questions until the object is guessed.
  • Alphabet Game – try to find each letter of the alphabet starting with ‘a’ on signs, ads, or tee-shirts around you.
  • Sing! – don’t worry about those around you. If you’re outside, sing lustily – maybe others will join in. If you are inside or need to be quiet, try singing songs in a whisper. Encourage your children to make up songs about what you are waiting to do, or what they see around them.
  • And don’t forget the standards: Rock, Paper, Scissors, and I Spy!
  • A small jar of bubbles is always popular and will engage others who are waiting, too!

By planning ahead for waiting times, we can prevent challenging behaviors – children will have fun, be creative, and they just might learn something, too!