The best and easiest way I know to snap my kids out of a bad mood is to make their stuffed animals (or any body part or inanimate object) talk to them. It doesn’t work every single time, but I’ve turned temper tantrums around on a dime with just my fingers, a bad accent, and a well timed fart joke.
In addition to being a great way to manipulate my kids into behaving, this is also my favourite way to “play” because, most of the time, I get to dictate what happens next. It’s not like the other games where the children insist I stick to a script (“babies” is STILL popular around here and I am literally always the mom). If you’ve been reading my blogs for awhile, you’ll know I try to derail every game of pretend because kids are boring, but with this, I get to insert elements and dialogue solely for my own amusement. Sometimes I make myself laugh more than I do the kids.
You can make your talking [insert object here] as creative or as (in)appropriate as you like, but I think this trick works best when your puppets are a) clueless, b) getting into trouble, c) a little bit mean, and/or d) doing something gross. Pro tip: sometimes you can make your kids excited to go to school if their stuffed animal is also excited to go to school (true, it’s against the rules to bring toys, but ehhh… my philosophy is “whatever gets me through the day”).
Here are a few of my favourite “characters”:
Kitty Meow Meow, The Vaguely Russian/French Cat
Kitty Meow Meow was born after a particularly bad dentist visit. Butterbean was high as a kite from that kiddie Valium shit they gave her in the chair, and she had been crying for more than an hour straight. Bean was upset and ANGRY. She was carrying around this stuffed cat I got for her at the airport on my last business trip, and I had the bright idea to name it Kitty Meow Meow and turn it into a vaguely Russian, vaguely French, vaguely Eastern European puppet (I can’t do any one accent, so I do them all at the same time). The cat is always a little rude, a little stupid, and she never remembers Butterbean’s name. She just calls her “Leetle Gurl”.
I have Butterbean teach the cat French all the time. My favourite lesson is counting to 10.
Kitty Meow Meow: That sounds like you’ve been working out. Like uh, uh! I lift zee weights. Uh uh!
KMM: That sounds so stupeeed. Like “duh, duh”.
KMM: Twat? Twat twat!
KMM: Cat? That’s meeeeeeeeeeee!
You get the picture. I just try to be as stupid and as silly as I can with it, and it cracks both of us up. We were both crying we were laughing so hard the first time Ms. Meow Meow learned to count.
Beep Beep Boop Boop Alien Fingers
This one is similar to dancing fingers, where I walk my index and middle fingers up and down Sprout’s arm like two tiny little legs and make them go crazy dancing to whatever effed up beat I’m making, or like bunny fingers who hop around and sing “Bunny Party*” to the tune of Britney Spears’ “Slumber Party“, but Alien Fingers mostly just strut around saying “beep beep boop boop” and and making demands in robot voices (“take me to your leader!”). Usually, they are looking for a spot on Earth to settle down, and they try to make their home in the caves they find in their travels (those caves are generally located in the kids’ armpits and nostrils). This game quickly degenerates into me tickling the girls while saying “beep beep boop boop!” over and over again but it’s fun until I get a headache.
* Modified lyrics include: Smells like Easter eggs and candy potions… We use our bunnies to make our own videos… Like a bunny party…
Shadow the Fart Sniffing Dog
Shadow is our newest talking friend. Unlike Kitty Meow Meow, Butterbean named this one so he doesn’t have a fun name, BUT, he does have a theme song. You know on Bear in the Big Blue House, Bear gets his friend, Shadow, to appear by singing “Where oh where oh where is Shadow“? Same song, except the dog sings it and at the end I shout “Here I am!”
Shadow is mildly depressed, and he hates everything but gross smells. He’s always trying to sniff Butterbean’s butt but she never lets him so he constantly asks her to fart instead so he can smell it. It’s weird, it’s disgusting, but it’s comedy gold to a 7 year old.
Shadow was born one night because the Bean was too afraid to sleep. She is terrified of “Scary Terri” – this generation’s Bloody Mary – so Shadow told Butterbean about “Scary Terrier”. To summon Scary Terrier, you have to stand in a kitty litter box and spin around 3 times while saying “Scary Terrier”. Then she appears, eats the cat poop out of the litter box, and disappears.
Sprout insists on wearing socks with faces on them (she has a pair of Minnie Mouse ones, for example, or these anthropomorphic fruit socks she loves), and she demands that I make them talk. And talk they do! I usually do this routine as we’re getting ready for school because Sprout will do anything I ask if the socks tell her to do it.
The socks are terrified of the stairs and walking makes them motion sick. I’ll say “Go slow! Be gentle! We don’t want to get sick!” and then I make barfing sounds the whole time she’s moving. Sometimes she swings her legs while she’s sitting at the table and I pretend the socks are having the time of their lives on playground equipment. These socks, like every other “talking friend” in this house, are particularly fond of school, and beg Bean Sprout to show them around her classroom. They also like stinky things – stinky feet, stinky shoes… When she puts on her boots, I pretend that their voices are muffled and they can’t hear very well.
Anyway, you get the gist. I’m not saying that you have to be this disgusting – clearly, I’m not winning any Mom of the Year awards – BUT, I will say that my favourite childhood memories of my mother are when she used to get almost manically silly with my sister and I. I think the more ridiculous you are when you play, the more engaged your kids will be, and the better they can be coerced into doing what you want the more fun they will have with you (and you with them, which, let’s face it, is more important when you’re trying to get through another game of “let’s pretend”).