Wednesday, February 22, 2006

ETC: The Games Babies Play

Man, is it Wednesday already? Jesus. I think I fell in the shower on Monday, hit my head and lost time, because I don't remember anything about yesterday. At all.

One thing I can tell you is this: these days, I've had to get really creative to carve some writing time out of my day. Why, you ask? Because young Master Sam seems, overnight, to have transformed into a toddler. And yes, I'm at least as freaked out by this as you can imagine.

I mean, one minute he's this little sack of potatoes I can place in the middle of the floor with a few toys, leave the room, and come back a minute later to find him in the same place. And now he's this wriggly 25-lb human slinky who demands to be placed on the floor so that he can race over to the nearest outlet, wrap his lips around it, and attempt to suck electricity directly from the wall into his body.

Fortunately, his lordship still consents to nap twice a day, or else I would actually be tearing my hair in fistfuls from my head. Because in the two-to-four-hour interims between naps, he demands constant stimulation. And since ten-month-old children don't grasp the finer points of sophisticated strategy games such as, say, Hungry Hungry Hippo, the onus is on yours truly to invent games that suit Sam's exacting tastes.

Some recent favourites:

Pillow Mountain!
Take every available pillow and throw cushion in your home and pile them on the middle of your floor. Since most kids this age still have an "as the crow flies" approach to navigation, the fun part of this game is placing the baby on the opposite side of the mountain and encouraging them to climb it without the use of ropes or belaying devices.

Moon Walk!
A variation on Pillow Mountain!, this game involves scattering the pillows across the floor, then covering the whole kaboodle up with a large blanket so that it resembles the craterous surface of the moon. Babies get to practise their ATV skillz traversing this terrain.

What's in Your Mouth?
The object of this game, if you're Sam, is to stuff as many things you find on the floor -- carpet lint, cat hair, broken chips of linoleum (and ideally a combination of all three) -- in your mouth and begin chewing methodically. The object of this game, if you're me, is to minimize the amount of time this grotesque little tumbleweed stays in Sam's mouth. Scoring operates on a point-per-second basis, with the goal being to score as few points as possible. Your score adds up throughout the day. If you reach a total of 60 points before nightfall, you don't lose, exactly, but you have to live with the knowledge that you let a nasty sphere of grossness fester in your young child's mouth for a full minute.

Mom's in the Fridge!
Playing peekaboo with your hands or a blanket is all well and good... for other babies. In this more extreme version of the game, however, the object is to convince Sam that I've climbed completely inside the refrigerator (through clever manouevring of myself and the fridge door). Imagine the surprise when mom pops out out of the fridge, unfrozen and unscathed! Good times.

Who Is That Handsome Devil in the Mirror?
This game requires a big enough mirror to allow both you and baby to see yourselves at the same time. Then you ask a series of questions, beginning, of course, with "Who is that handsome devil in the mirror?" You point at the baby and say (in our case), "It's Sam!" then you proceed to ask various questions about the physiology of said handsome devil: "Where is that handsome devil's nose?" or "Where is that handsome devil's ear?" or "Where are that handsome devil's feet?" etcetera etcetera. You can try to mix things up by asking questions about that handsome devil's rather dashing companion, but these are seldom as well received.

Last Stand at the Ol' Blanket Fort!
This is a variation on a game I learned from my friend Anne-Marie, who has a baby -- also named Sam -- who is also around Sam's age. The self-serving purpose of this game is to buy more sleeping-in time in the morning. You bring the baby under the covers with you and try to convince him or her that there are cattle rustlers/bandits/old-timey prostitutes lurking outside and that you both need to hide. You think that a baby can't get this concept? Think again. If your acting skills are decent, they pick up from your voice that some suspense is under way and they lie quietly, waiting for the next cue from you. If you're lucky, you both lie quietly long enough to fall back to sleep. Yee-haw!

Where's the Dog?
This one started off as an ordinary game of Follow the Leader, with me crawling on all fours and Sam following, but I found that Sam likes to have a goal or else he suspects that the game may be pointless. So now the goal is to find Dobbs, who -- unbeknownst to him -- is Sam's new best friend. While I'm crawling in the lead, I keep turning back to Sam and asking, "Where's the dog? Where's the dog?" which gets him helplessly worked up, which he in turn takes out on poor old long-suffering Dobbs. An earlier version of this game -- called "Where's the Cat?" -- had to be discontinued due to inconsistent team spirit among all the participants.

(As an aside, I need to warn you that crawling is not as easy as babies make it look. It fucking KILLS your knees, dude, especially on wood floors. Try to stick with carpeted areas if you can.)

Counting Laps!
This is a game of last resort. You've played all the other games, but your baby has energy to burn (which makes you wonder, given the popularity of crystal meth, if he's been sneaking out to buy some, and if so, why isn't he sharing?) and there's still half an hour till naptime. If the layout of your home permits, take your baby by the hands and walk him in laps around the house. You can count the laps if you want to maintain the pretence that this is a learning game, but you and I both know it's all about wearing the little knee-biter out so he collapses in his crib. If the configuration of your house does not allow for laps, this game is easily adapted by using an out-and-back route.

In the interest of rendering this blog topical, I'll add that I think this game lends itself most readily to the Olympics. I mean, speed, repetition, going in circles... if these qualities don't scream "international sport!" to you, you haven't been paying attention. So get those petitions started. Counting Laps in 2012!

So that's what we've been up to.

The problem with these games -- as awesome as I'm sure you'll agree they all are -- is that, in the time I've taken to commit them to the published word, they've probably already become obsolete. My next attempt to play them with Sam will be greeted with the kind of expression you'd get if you presented a 10-year-old today with your treasured
Coleco Vision. It's demoralizing. Last week, I hit on a rare formula that actually caused Sam to bust out in hysterical laughter (no easy feat, let me tell you). It involved picking him up and snurfling loudly into his neck while at the same time doing a sort of shuffle-stomp loop around and around the ottoman. He was helplessly enthralled by the physical comedy stylings of mom.

Or so I thought. My attempt to replicate this experiment when Rusty got home was greeted by stony silence and an expression that said something along the lines of, "Really now, Mater. This is most vicariously embarrassing. Please do compose yourself, woman."

And back to the drawing board. In the meantime, seeing how many pieces of puffed rice will stick to your baby's face is always fun.


Erin O'Brien said...

I remember when it first started. I watched from the blur of sleep deprivation as my kid motored across the floor on all fours.

"My God," I said aloud to no one, "no one told me she was going to be able to move."

Nichole said...

Last Stand at the Ol' Blanket Fort is genius. I'll be giving that one a try. I'm still waiting (with a breathless terror bordering on giddiness) for my little one to start crawling, but you can bet we'll be playing some Pillow Mountain when the time comes.

... said...

Well, colour me duped! I just spent the evening trying your sick little games on my daughter. A terrific failure.

Especially the fridge game! She ran from the room crying her eight-year-old eyes out. Before she slammed her bedroom door cranked up her Mini Pops Kids 2 CD, she screamed at me, "I'm thirsty! All I wanted was some juice! Why can't you be normal?"

I will give her your phone number.

Oh, and ANTM is coming up!

Nessa said...

THANK YOU. This is why I love your blog. Just when I've run out of stuff to do w/ my Gigi, and her Christmas and birthday toys (alas, only 10 days old) have gotten old, I see this. Good ideas. They actually do a pillow mountain kind of thing at Gymboree. But I like the home version because it doesn't cost 180 bucks.

PS-How is your 10-month-old 25 lbs.?!? I am impressed.

Anonymous said...

[Am doubled over in crippling pain from laughter.]

landismom said...

Oh, that takes me back! A word of advice? Quit that Pillow Mountain game right now. You DO NOT want to encourage him to climb. Unless you want to leave the room for a minute and come back to find him hanging off the ceiling fan a la Curious George!

White Trasherati said...

Oh yeah, DG - he looks really amused by the puffed rice. REALLY amused. In a I-am-NOT-your-plaything-wait-until-you're-old sort of way.

Gotta' echo Landismom - mine now build their own Pillow Mountains. On the floor of their bedroom. Then they land on it after launching themselves off the top bunk.
Ya'll be careful out there, ya' hear?

Melissa said...

Damn! Pillow Mountain(!) sounded so fun.

This was an awesome entry that had both C and I cracking up the whole way through.

Anonymous said...

Sam is very very cute. But the puffed rice looks like maggots. Which is very very disturbing.

Jennifer said...

So funny. And helpful, too. I'm going to go home and create a baby cyclocross course in the living room. I need to tire this baby out!