“You know this ends, right?”
That’s what an older friend said to me recently as I was giving my 2nd, Elena, a quick tickle at our homeschool group. It’s a question that haunted me all the way home.
She had a valid point. Kids grow up. After all, at some point I went from “Tickle me!” to “Touch me and die.” (Thank you, adolescence.)
Looking at my three little girls in the rearview mirror, I was struck with how fast they are growing. Am I truly capturing those little hearts? Or just “doing life”?
The teens are just around the corner. Will they let me stay on board their little ship of hormones? Or maroon me on an island and sail on alone?
It’s a scary thought. A thought that makes me determined to tie those hearts to my apron strings as tight as I possibly can.
Tickling is my first rope.
Gentle soft tickles (not pokes) are a good first step to secure a conversation stop at the future Teen table. (Which is going to come a LOT faster than you think!) Here are eight of the tickle games I play with my kids. May they help you tie your own strong heart-ties!
I have one rule when it comes to tickling. No fake “stops”. If she asks me to stop (even while giggling) I stop. Period. Game over. This nurtures her soul by respecting her personal space, and makes yet another small deposit in the bank of “You Are Control of Your Body”. It ALSO reinforces the concept that “stop means stop”. No teasing with that word. It’s a solid wall.
Tickle Game #1:
Buzzy Bee is a tickling game created especially for babies. It’s so simple, even an exhausted mom who doesn’t want to get out of bed can play it. (I speak from experience.)
- Lay down with your infant and put your finger in the air.
- Make a bzzzzzz sound and swoop your finger around until it finally lightly touches some part of his exposed chubby little body.
Eventually, just putting your finger in the air will be enough to prompt excited squeals of happiness. (Pavlov’s Law at work!)
Tickle Game #2:
You know the game I’m Thinking of an Animal? Now replace it with I’m Thinking of a Tickle Spot. Only in this version, they only get ONE guess.
Guess correctly, and they get to tickle Mama.
Guess incorrectly, and…well… *wink*
Tickle Game #3:
This is one game my kids ask for EVERY single night before bed. It’s very easy to play, and doesn’t really have a lot of tickles, if you have one of those kids who likes the concept behind tickles more than the tickle itself.
It also is a great way to encourage creativity. I love hearing what “kisses” my Isabella will come up with next!
Here are a few of our favorites to get you started:
- The Butterfly Kiss ~ eyelashes against the cheek
- The Eskimo Kiss ~ rubbing noses
- The Doggie Kiss ~ a nasty tongue swipe on the cheek. (Do overreact, if you child choose this! He will be so excited to gross you out!)
- The Kitty Kiss ~ small little kiss on the nose
- The Hug-n-Kiss ~ a strong hug, with gentle forehead kiss
- The Tummy Kiss ~ mommy blows on child’s tummy
- The Neck Kiss ~ mommy blows on child’s neck
- The Eye Kiss ~ mommy blows raspberries (gently!) on each closed eyelid
Of course, my last kiss is always the same.
It’s the MOMMY KISS. mwah ha ha!
- Pin hands down for clear access to the cheeks and forehead.
- Kiss rapidly all over the face.
- Abruptly stop and ask “NOW do you know how much I love you?”
Yes = Express disbelief and repeat, adding tickles.
No = Express shock and repeat, adding tickles.
The girls LOVE the Mommy Kiss!
Tickle Game #4:
May the Odds Be In Your Favor
Tell your child that you’ve picked a number between 0 and 100. Ask them to see if they can guess your number. When they fail to guess correctly (because the House always wins), you win the right to tickle in the spot of your choice.
Tickle Game #5:
Did you know your child is really a one-child band? Here are the different instruments for you to choose from:
- Piano ~ play the back like a piano, particularly on either side of the spine.
- Drums ~ rat-a-tat on that cute little bum.
- Tuba ~ big tummy blows.
- Violin ~ rub your index finger back and forth under the neck.
- Trumpet ~ blow little raspberries on the neck.
- Bagpipes ~ place one finger in an armpit and blow on the neck at the same time.
Tickle Game #6:
Whisper “I have to tell you a secret!” to your little one, gesturing for her to come. Then lean super close to her ear/neck and whisper nonsense. These little whispers and blows tickle the hairs behind her ear and will send her into a mass of laughs.
When she pulls away (because she will) say, “Hold still! I’m trying to tell you a secret!” and repeat.
Tickle Game #7:
The Cold Finger
My 100-year-old house is pretty drafty in the wintertime. Poor old thing. On particularly chilly days, my index finger will decide (on her own, I’m completely innocent) to crawl into the closest child’s underarm cave to hibernate.
Ms. Pointer doesn’t move. She just sits there, nice and cozy. Her presence, however, sends my little heater into squeals and squirms.
Tickle Game #8:
The Talking Backpack
This is a great tickle game for after a good nap. (Not before, or you can kiss any rest goodbye!)
First, hide under the covers with your toddler. Then say “SHHH! Did you hear that?” while running your fingers on the outside of the sheet. (It was at this point my 2-year-old Lauren would whisper, “It’s the Talking Backpack!” Gracias, Dora.)
With much excitement, let your toddler throw back the sheet and look around for the culprit. Repeat a few times, before letting your fingers crawl under the covers for one. last. tickle.
The Secret Purpose of Tickling
Tickling is more than just a fun activity to play. It’s part of a deeper agenda. Someday, when tickle time is long gone, my children are going to face a difficult question: Should I tell mom about this? Do I share this?
The bonds I create NOW will help determine how they answer THEN. They will think back on our interactions, and like a fork in the road, decide which path to take.
- The path on the right, which includes mom: “I want her to know what’s going on in my life.”
- Or the path on the left, which leaves me out: “I’m better off alone.”
Tickling is not a guarantee they will automatically choose the Include Mom Path, but it is a very good nudge in the right direction.
Do you have any tickle games at your house? I’d love to hear about them! (Really, you can never have too many tickle games…) 🙂
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