The Rule Abacus & the Marble Game

Tip on Tuesday:  Making Rules a Fun Game for Little Kids
When you have little ones, you have to teach them about rules.  They do not always know what is expected of them, so you have to lead them.  Kids thrive in an environment that is structured.  When they know what is expected of them, they have security. 

There is chaos and disorder where there is no structure.  Our world is made of boundaries between countries and rules that govern those lands.  God’s word is made of principles and laws that help govern our spirits.  He teaches us how we should walk each day in the light of His truth.  When we all live within those governing rules, their is safety, peace, and order.

I have a fun story to share that illustrates this point…

We have had the blessing to host a family all the way from Maine. We met them about a year ago when they contacted us to see if they could park their motor home in our yard for several days.  We had such sweet fellowship with this lovely family, that we formed life long bonds with them as friends.

When they mentioned they would possibly come to Tennessee for another visit we were beyond excited.  They have 3 older girls that really have enjoyed spending time with our two girls and they also have 3 little children.

Because of the flea problem of the apartment and the smoke funk in the cottage, we opted to have them share our big home with us.  This home we rent is plenty big for all of us but of course there are times when you have to set some rules for the wee ones that would climb all over if you don’t tell them what is expected of them.

I am like “Auntie Erin” to all the little ones.  I just love little children and they seem to love me in return.  I had such a delightful visit with little 5-year-old Emelia.  She had a very hard time not going upstairs to pet our fluffy kitty.  I could understand how much fun it would be if I were a little girl to follow a fluffy kitty upstairs and pick her up and love her to pieces.   I have a rule that children never go upstairs without parental supervision.

Her mother told her several times to come down.  The second we would start talking, I could see that precious little face, peek back upstairs and try to tip toe up the steps.  She was sure each time that I would not notice.  But I did!  Finally, I came up with a great idea.  I got my old math abacus out for her.  We sat at the kitchen table.  Her legs dangling down and her eyes were fixed on the beads.  I asked her if she liked rules.

She said, “Well, we have rules.”  I said, “Oh, good, rules are there for your safety.  Did you know that?”  She looked back into my eyes and said, “Oh, really?”

I took the bead and said, “Okay, here is rule number one…” as I drew the bead to the other side.  I could see her eyes follow that bead so carefully.  I had her complete, undivided attention.  “Rule number one—do not go upstairs.”  I could see that it perplexed her so.  She said, “But the kitty is up there, and I would really like to pet her.”

I responded, “I knew it.  I could tell you were thinking about that kitty.  I know this rule is going to be hard.  But the kitty likes to take naps sometimes and she doesn’t really like it if you pick her up when she is trying to sleep.  You must not go upstairs.”  She quickly understood and with such enthusiasm she asked, “What is the next rule?!!!”

As I drew the next bead across I told her, “Do not go outside.”  And surprisingly, she came back, “Rule number 2, do not go outside without an adult.”  I looked back and said, “Wow, that is smart.  You are very, very smart.  Yes, you should only go outside with an adult.  I will tell you why.  We live in the woods and there are coyotes, bobcats, and mountain lions that live outside.  They are very dangerous.  If you are out there without an adult to protect you, you could get hurt.  We also have big cows that could also get out and they could step on little children like you.”  She nodded her head with joy.  

“What is the next rule?”  I noticed that she put the dog food into the dog’s water bowl earlier that morning, so I thought that might be a good thing to talk about next.  “Rule number 3—do not put the dog food into the dog’s water.”  And she came right back with a reason why which is so remarkable.  I forget how smart these little ones really are.  She says, “You do not want to put the dog food into the water bowl because it ruins the food and the dog won’t eat it.”  Very smart.

On and on we passed beads across the abacus.  I would try to talk with her mother and she would think up of another rule to add on.  More rules.  She loved thinking of and making new rules.  And all the rules she thought of were really great and actually very cute!

  • Do not hang on the ceiling fan because you could get hurt.
  • Do not stand on the kitchen table
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Just then her little brother tried to take the abacus out of her hands and she yelled, “My RULES”.  I nearly rolled on the floor with laughter.  That was so cute!  She was so proud of her rules.  Later she told me the rule about not going upstairs to pet the kitty was kinda hard to follow and remember.  I told her, “I know, some rules are kinda hard for me, too.  But the more we remind ourselves of the rules, the easier it is to remember the next time we just want to do something we are not supposed to do.”  She nodded and told me another several good rules.  I think we ended up with about 50 rules.

I love little children.  They are just precious.  If you take the time to get on their level, have some talks with them, they are actually a breath of fresh air to talk with.  No drama.  No undercurrent.  Just pureness through and through.  It has been awhile since I had really little ones like these children in my home, so it has been a blessing for my husband and I.  We enjoyed our time with this family and it was hard to say goodbye to all those sweet smiling faces.  Right before they left, I taught Emelia all about the Marble Game and I gave her a little pint jar filled with marbles so she would be able to follow her rules at home.  She enjoyed putting in a marble when she followed her rules.  She held that jar close to her heart and could not wait to start her game when she got home.  That was precious!


The Marble Game
Get your abacus and have fun making rules with your little ones.  If they follow the rules, have a Marble Game to follow it through.  When my kids followed the rules, I would give them a marble for their jar.  When they forgot to follow the rule, I would take one back out.  If they would say something kind or finish a chore, they would also earn a marble.  When they would say an unkind thing, they would get a marble taken away.  When the jar was filled to the top, I would plan a special treat for them.  We would go get an ice cream treat, or a movie night, or a special field trip.  It can be very simple, children are so appreciative of you doing a special thing with them.   

Do your little ones a favor and make a fun game of following rules.  It gets down to their level and they find it fun to follow those rules.  When I had my first child, I also baby sat 2 little boys.  Miles was just a baby at the time and these boys were little wild ones who did not listen very well at all.  They were sassy and all over the place.  Obviously, they were trying to see what they could get away with.  Maybe they did not have much order in their homes.  Whatever the reason, I had to get creative. 

I thought up the Marble Game.  I made a fun game of following my rules, and, guess what, it worked!!!  Those boys got trained without a paddle, without a fight, and without any time-outs—they loved getting a marble in their jar.  When they filled their jar, I gave them a treat and they loved to start a new game!

When they would get picked up from their mother, they would tell her how many marbles they earned that day and she was very proud.  It is good thing.  Later as my children got into the ages ranging from 2-5 years old, I implemented the same Marble game and we had a lot of fun!  I had a jar for each child that I put a sticker with their name on it.  When the jar was filled, it was a date with mama.  I would wait until a Saturday when their daddy was home, and just take that one child out for an ice cream cone, just the two of us.  My husband started getting excited about those ice cream dates, that he asked if some times he could be the one to take the winner to the ice cream place.  It was very fun.

What’s best is that the child is learning to be obedient, productive, and gaining more fellowship with their parents along the way.

To read a book that cover more helpful tips on order in the home, child training, and other helpful ways for maintaining joy in your home, now there is Living Virtuously.

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