Getting to Know You
Activities for Getting Inside the Minds of the Kids You Love
By: Activities for Getting Inside the Minds of the Kids You Love
As kids get older, they stop communicating as openly as they once did. A new stepmother tries a series of games as a way of growing closer to her stepdaughters, by gaining insight into their thoughts, hopes, and way of looking at the world.
Just before my husband and I were married, I realized the awesome responsibility that lay ahead of me. I would soon be a stepmother to two girls, taking on a parental role to children who, in reality, I barely knew. I panicked. Shouldn't any stepmom worthy of the title know her stepkids' favorite foods, favorite movies, what they wanted to be when they grew up? How was I supposed to learn all this? It would be too creepy to sit them down at the kitchen table and fire off questions, jotting down their responses to be memorized at a later date. So I had to get sneaky and devise ways of getting to know them, that would seem like fun to the girls.
If you have a child in your life whom you'd like to get to know better, whether it's a stepchild, a grandchild, a niece or nephew, or your child's best friend, try these games. As kids get older, they stop communicating as openly as they once did. Any opportunity to gain insight into their thoughts, hopes, and way of looking at the world is a wonderful chance for you to get closer to them. These games and activities were just as much fun for my husband to do with his own daughters, as they were valuable to me in fulfilling my new role in their lives.
For each member of the family, I made up a list of fill-in-the-blank questions. Each page was devoted to one of us and was entitled, "How well do you know Jennifer?" or "How well do you know Dad?" The questions about each person varied to be appropriate. For my teen-aged stepdaughter's page, I asked questions like "My favorite music video is _____," "The name of the boy I like at school is ______," and "My least favorite teacher is ____."
On my younger stepdaughter's page, the questions were more like "My favorite cartoon is _____" and "If I could only keep one of my toys, it would be ______." I made four copies of each sheet and assembled them into packets. Everyone in the family had to fill in the blanks for every other family member, as well as answer the questions on their own page.
After everyone finished, we took turns going around the circle. My husband and both my stepdaughters would read their guesses for each question about me, and I'd tell them what I actually answered, and so on until everyone had shared all their answers. It's not necessary to keep score, but if your family is competitive, have family members give themselves one point for each correct answer. At the end, the person who has the most points is the champ and can choose that evening's snack or the video your family is going to rent.
This game is very straightforward and easily adapted to suit your needs. Give everyone in the family index cards (I did 10 per person, but you can do fewer if you are playing with very young children or with a large group). Everyone has to write down one personal fact per card--it can be anything they want to share, as long as it's a true statement. Give your kids suggestions to get them started. Things to write could be "I love mint chip ice cream," "I want a new video game for my birthday," "I hate making my bed," really anything. Have everyone write his or her name after each fact.
Once everyone has filled up all their cards, put them into a big pile and shuffle them. Enlist the help of someone who isn't playing (we used Grandma) and have that person read the facts one at a time. Everyone else in the group tries to guess who said each thing. You'll be surprised how many times you find yourself saying, "Really? I didn't know that!" As with the quiz, keeping score isn't necessary, but if your kids find it more fun that way, go right ahead.
One day, after listening to my stepdaughters complain about being bored (despite a roomful of board games, books, video games, etc.) I made up an activity book that would force them to use their imaginations to carry out the creative projects on each page. Not only was it a great way for me to get them to use their brains and pass the time, it was a neat way to see how their minds work.
A sample activity was having them imagine they were opening a restaurant. They had to name the restaurant, write out a plan for how they would decorate it, and create a menu. In another activity, they had to pretend they were opening a store and do the same sort of things--name it, decide on what their store would sell, how it would be decorated, etc. I made up products and had the girls design advertising campaigns for them. I chose songs and left them the CDs so they could choreograph their own music videos (which we actually videotaped and saved for future boyfriend-blackmail). While these activities were actually educational (shhhhhh!) the girls just had a blast, and I learned a lot about them.
Think up your own games! You know what the kids in your life will enjoy. Be creative and make up games and activities of your own. Whenever you spend time together, ask questions. Let them make decisions and take the lead in family projects.
The games above are just a jumping-off point. My stepdaughters had a ball with all three of the ideas listed above, and chances are, your kids will too, for one very good reason: kids love anything that's about them. Just like kids love having personalized storybooks that feature their own names in the action, and backpacks embroidered with their initials, most kids love to talk about themselves and share their opinions. And when they can tell you're really interested, they'll want to share more. No matter what the activity you chose to share, capitalize on the time you have together to grow closer to the children in your life.