Cotton Ball Spoon Race is an old-fashioned activity that kids everywhere love to play. But there are many other games to play with cotton balls. These games are simple in nature, yet command your child’s complete focus. They require strategy, patience and skill, and are far better than electronic games because your child is part of an entire process that includes making rules, fixing components and dealing with ambiguity. Here are five cotton ball games to get you started:
1: Cotton Ball Spoon Race: Each player stands at the start line with a cotton ball on a spoon. At the word ‘Go,’ race by walking quickly through the house along a mutually agreed upon course. If your cotton ball falls off, you must stop and stay in one place while putting it back on your spoon. No holding cotton ball down with your thumb or finger. First person to reach the finish line wins. Note: if playing with a tablespoon is too easy, use a teaspoon. If that’s too easy, use a fork. (Variation: when cotton ball falls off spoon, player must make a rhyme to continue racing.)
2: Cotton Ball Spaghetti Stick Race: Make a start and finish line at least ten feet apart. To play, each player places a cotton ball on the floor at the start line. Now race to the finish line by using nothing more than a spaghetti stick to push your cotton ball. (Variation: race two or three cotton balls at once. Color them with a marker to identify teams.)
3: Cotton Ball Speedway Ramp: To play, you need to use a cereal box for a ramp. Here’s how: lay a cereal box down on your kitchen table. The front side should be facing up. Now prop a cereal bowl (or short stack of books) under one end. Have your child place a cotton ball at the top of the ramp, then try to catch it at the bottom with a spoon. (Variation: how many cotton balls does it take to catch five? How about three in a row? Take turns. The player who uses fewer cotton balls wins.)
4: Going Going Gone: To play this game, each player places one cotton ball in the middle of your kitchen or dining table. The first player blows their cotton ball toward the edge of the table. Now the next player does the same thing with their cotton ball. The person whose cotton ball is closest to the edge of the table scores a point. If you blow your cotton ball off the table, you lose. (Your opponent might remind you of this error by calling out the name of the game –‘ Going Going Gone.’) The first person to score ten points wins.
5: Bullseye: Try to blow cotton balls off a dining chair into a bowl below. To play, give your child ten cotton balls. Allow her to place one cotton ball at a time on the dining chair. Now let her try to blow the cotton ball off the chair into the bowl below. Keep playing until all ten cotton balls are used. Count how many made it into the bowl. (Advanced: use a glass instead of a bowl.)
One great thing about cotton ball games is that they don’t require anything more sophisticated than what’s already around the house. While simple in nature, these games offer a rich variety of learning opportunities. Allow your child to invent and design new ways to play in order to take full advantage of these games. A simple change that you, the parent, can introduce to any of these activities is to play with a timer. For example, how long will it take to catch ten cotton balls on the speedway ramp? Your child will love examining the results and trying to improve. Best of luck!