Non-Educational, Non-Enriching, Totally Awesome Games to Play With Babies

I remember when my first son was born that I actually went out and purchased a book called Games to Play With Babies. At the time, I thought to myself that the obsessive need to read someone's published opus on every common-sense parenting subject (Feeding Babies: Do It When They're Hungry!, Diapers Should Be Changed When They're Crammed Full of Feces) would wane by the second child, and I did in fact find that to be true.

Back when I bought that book, though, I was determined to carefully study all the games listed so I'd have a generous mental repertoire of knowledge-building activities. Every game Riley and I played together would be both entertaining and educational; while he giggled in delight, his brain would be opening like a many-petal'd flower. Oui, mon enfant, I would coo in response, because duh, of COURSE the games would be bilingual.


One of the first games in Games to Play With Babies was called "Mm-mm Nice!" (I swear I am not making this up.) It said to build a "feely box" stocked with various textures that your baby can touch. According to the book I would then say, "Mm-mm nice!" or "Oh! So soft!" as he groped blindly around in the feely box, for presumably I would not have filled it with steel wool, thumbtacks, or poisonous reptiles.

Another game was called "It's Cold." This involved giving your baby something from the refrigerator (a can of Bud, say) and exclaiming—perhaps you can guess?—"It's cold!" Then you have the child put the item back, and you say, "Thank you for putting away the
cold Budweiser."

These all sounded like very nice educational endeavors and I have nothing but respect for the good-hearted men and women out there who build feely boxes for their babies and instruct them on proper beer-serving techniques, but game-playing in my house turned out to be yet another item on my original Do Everything Perfectly and Perhaps Bilingually list that quickly morphed into Dude, Whatever Passes the Goddamned Time.

While my own games may not have, strictly speaking,
taught my baby anything, they did entertain him—and that's what it's really all about, right? (Si?) Here are, to the best of my recollection, a few of Riley's favorites:

Dragged Away By a Hungry Bear

While the baby is lying on his back on the floor or bed, grasp his ankles firmly and drag him several feet away, while alternating between loudly grunting and snorting and making high-pitched screams for help. The idea is to emulate the tragic death of a backcountry camper who has been pulled from his sleeping bag in the dead of night by a hungry grizzly. Minutes of fun! Watch for rug-burn, though.

Percussion Rock God

Take baby's hands and wildly flail them about, while making cheesy drum sounds with your mouth. If you can, try for a "drum cage" effect where the baby has to hit multiple drums. Yell, "THANK YOU DETROIT!" when you're done.

Shark Attack

Take an object—your hand, a banana, the cat, whatever—and slowly advance it towards the baby, while humming the Jaws theme: "Duh-nuh. Duh-nuh. Duh-nuh. Duh-nuh duh-nuh duh-nuh DUH NUH NUHHH!" Then have the object kiss the baby on his nose. Eventually, this will result in your baby smiling the instant you make the first "duh-nuh" sound, which is awesome and also greatly helps with any Jaws-related PTSD that may have previously caused you to instantly poop your pants whenever you hear that soundtrack.

Movie Quote Time!

Sit in front of baby and begin reciting all the great movie quotes you know. Start with Aliens ("Game over, man! Game over!"), advance to The Princess Bride ("Never get involved in a land war in Asia"), then True Romance ("My name's Elliot, and I'm with the Cub Scouts of America. We're ... we're selling uncut cocaine to get to the jamboree."), and wrap things up with Pulp Fiction ("And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who would attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee ... who's a sweet widdle baby? YOU are!").

If your baby starts getting bored, employ method acting techniques to regain his interest.
Danny isn't here, Mrs. Torrance. Redrum. Redrum.

Remember, if all else fails, you could always watch a cartoon together! I recommend "Charlie the Unicorn":

I'm sure you have your own list of silly things you do to entertain your children. In fact, no offense to the author of
Games to Play With Babies, but that would make a much better book: a collection of ridiculous games submitted by actual mothers. I bet there wouldn't be a feely box in the bunch.

What are some of the goofy games you played with your babies?

Image via Linda Sharps

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