As soon as children are old enough to pretend, this will become a favorite stretching game. Somewhere between 18 months and 2 years children begin to be able to remember and to imitate others’ behaviors, like copying a temper tantrum they saw another child do. By about 2 years, children begin to be able to play “make believe.” They may pretend to eat and sip tea, sleep, drive a car, or do any activity they have observed others doing. The older they grow, the more advanced and complicated their pretend becomes, if given the opportunity.

How do you play pretend pet spider stretches? Tell your children, “I brought my pretend pet spider in my pocket! Would you like to see him?” Hold out your hand, palm up, fingers wiggling. “Do you have a pretend pet spider?” If they say they don’t have a pocket, tell them, “This is a pretending game. Can you pretend to have a pocket with a pet spider in it?”

Explain to the children, “Sometimes my spider likes to bite, and sometimes it tickles. It doesn’t really bite. We just say, ‘Ouch!’ and pretend it bit us.” Ask, “Is this a real spider?” “No.” “Does it really hurt us?” “No.” Some children get frightened even of pretend bites. If you know that yours will be frightened, just have the spiders tickle.

What to do?

  • Show and tell the children to try to keep their legs straight while they stand in straddle position with feet apart. If they bend their knees, don’t worry.
  • Stand opposite them in the same posture. Let fingers crawls down one of your legs and bite (Ouch!) or tickle (giggle) your toes. (Ham it up.) Now go down the other leg and let the spider bite or tickle those toes.
  • Say, “Now let your spider do the same things my spider is doing.” You lead the way, and the children copy.
  • You might hold one arm straight up from the shoulder. As the other hand (spider) runs up to the underarm, giggle and say, “It always tickles me under my arm.” When the spider reaches the hand, say “Ouch!” or giggle. Change hands and run up the other arm.
  • Make up as many stretches as you want to. Your spider might be particularly attracted to biting you on the leg, which makes you contort to rub it, or on the back, which makes you contort to reach it.
  • One adult friend really had fun with this game. She suddenly began to wiggle and jump around, saying, “Ooo! Ooo!” She pretended that the spider had run down her pant leg, then down the back of her shirt. The children love creativity. So really get into the acting role and have fun.