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Toddler Talk: Fun & Fascinating Hand Games

We've all been there: Despite your best efforts at packing every toy, snack, or electronic device you own, your child isn't happy. And by "isn't happy," I mean her face is the color of a Roma tomato and everyone at the doctor's office/park/Target is wondering if she's auditioning for a horror film—as both the terrified lead and the monster.

Well, don't despair. Help is at your fingertips… Literally. Here are four activities that can wildly entertain your toddler, and all you need are your own two hands.

Little Bunny Foo-Foo

I remember loving this song as a preschooler. (Don’t ask me how I blocked out most of high school but retained these memories, but there you have it.) There are many variations of the song, but the basic story is about a naughty bunny who likes to bop field mice on the head. The Good Fairy gives Foo Foo three chances to change his ways; he doesn't, which provides a delightful but predictive way to "scare" your toddler at the end of the song. This video shows some of the basic hand gestures, but it's fun to make up your own. My toddler is addicted to this song, and loves to help "bop" the field mice on the head… And get wildly tickled when Foo Foo is finally turned into a goon.

Fist-Bump Count to Five

This is the easiest game in the entire world that also totally captivates my two-year-old. A friend told me she observed her own mother playing it with her grandson. Thank you, grandparents of the world, for your impromptu ideas and parenting genius! It goes like this: Make a fist; have your toddler tap or fist-bump your fist; hold up one finger and shout, "One!" Close your hand and repeat until you reach five. I only had to show my child this once and he was addicted. We count from one to five; we count from five to one. Caveat: if any other human asks your toddler to bump fists, he will expect energetic counting to commence immediately.

Where is Thumbkin?

Have you met Thumbkin, Pointer, Tall Man, Ring Man, and Pinkie? While they sound like characters out of a Quentin Tarantino film, they're actually the characters—i.e., your fingers—featured in this gentle song sung to the tune of "Frère Jacques." Hide your fists behind your back, recite these lyrics while bringing out the appropriate appendage, and watch the pure delight on your kiddo's face. Toddlers love to mimic your actions, as well, and it's great fun to see them improve their coordination over time. Also, if you're feeling a little (or a lot) feminist, feel free to change up the names and genders: Tall Lady and Pinkie are some fierce, fabulous female digits in my version.

Impromptu Hand Puppets

Finger-painted hand puppets are awesome—but you don't have to be this guy, or have a palette at the ready—in order to entertain your child in an emergency. If you're quick, you can grab a ballpoint pen (don't worry, they're non-toxic) and make a little smiley face, letter or number on your hand. You could follow it up with a story about what your drew, or practice saying the alphabet. Just make sure to hide the pen immediately so your budding artist doesn't add to your artwork—and have baby wipes at the ready in case he does manage to hijack the pen. I can't wait till my guy is older and I can try this awesome trampoline art on for size, in a non-permanent-tattoo version, of course.

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