Fun Tricks Every Parent Should Know

paper sailboat
Jeffrey Westbrook
Of course your kids look up to you. But you'll truly be the coolest if you know how to make balloon animals, juggle, or tell a great story. It's easy: Just follow these directions.
Jeffrey Westbrook
Jeffrey Westbrook

Juggle Three Balls

Boswick the Clown, father of two, San Francisco, California

1. Start practicing with three small beanbag balls. Warm up by tossing one in an arc (not a circle) from hand to hand. Never throw the ball higher than eye level.

2. Once you've got the hang of it, take one ball in each hand. Toss the one in your left hand. When it reaches the top of its arc, toss the other ball in the opposite direction. Catch both balls.

3. Repeat the second step, but this time throw the balls back in the air as soon as they land in your hands. Try alternating which hand launches the first ball.

4. Hold two balls in your right hand and one in your left (do the opposite if you're left-handed). Toss one ball from your right hand to your left. When it is halfway there, toss the left-hand ball.

5. When that ball is halfway there, toss the third one. Catch the balls as they land. As you get more comfortable, try throwing each ball back in the air as soon as it lands in your hand.

Jeffrey Westbrook
Jeffrey Westbrook

Make a Balloon Dog

Michael Floyd, professional balloon artist, Thousand Oaks, California

1. Blow up a pencil balloon, leaving about 3 inches uninflated at end for tip of the tail. Then twist the front of the balloon into three sections, each 2 inches long.
2. To make the dog's head, you need to twist the first and third sections together. This will form a snout and two ears.
3. Working your way down from the head, twist a 2-inch section followed by two 3-inch sections. Twist the 2-inch section to the second 3-inch section for the front legs.
4. Twist three 4-inch sections next to the front legs. Join the first and third sections to form the body, hind legs, and tail.
5. Adjust the head so that it points forward and the legs so they stand straight. Draw the eyes, nose, and mouth with a black marker.

Bryan McCay
Bryan McCay

Be a Better Storyteller

Michael Kasony-O'Malley, storyteller and father of four, Columbus, Ohio

1. Start with a fun lead character. Go with someone familiar, such as your child, a pet, or a favorite stuffed animal.
2. Take the time of day into account. Ghost stories may be okay for a long car ride, but bedtime tales should be soothing.
3. Tailor the tale to her interests. Create a story around things that your child enjoys. If she's into horses, have the lead characters work in a stable. If he loves Legos, make the hero build a car just in time to escape from the giant.
4. Work in suggestions. Ask your kids for their input. They'll love it when you use their ideas in the story.
5. Vary your tone. Sound upset when you reach a sad part of the story, and speed things up to convey action. Add funny sounds and unusual creatures with magical powers to make the story more exciting.
6. Choose the perfect ending. Try finishing with a cliffhanger to be picked up next time. Or wrap things up by bringing the story back to real life: "And then they climbed into a bed that looked just like this one and said, 'Good night.'"

Jeffrey Westbrook
Jeffrey Westbrook

"Walk the Dog" with a Yo-Yo

Dale Oliver, American Yo-Yo Association Hall of Famer and father of four, Euless, Texas

1. Make a slipknot at end of string and loop around middle finger.
2. Next, wind the string around the yo-yo. Make sure you wind it away from you.
3. Hold the yo-yo in your hand, keeping your thumb on the side. Bend your elbow and bring your forearm to your ear.
4. Next, snap your arm downward, releasing the yo-yo early in your throw. Stop your forearm when it's parallel to the ground.
5. Once the yo-yo reaches the end of the string, turn your hand so that the palm faces down. Let the yo-yo spin freely as you gently lower it to the ground.
6. Walk with the yo-yo as it moves along, keeping the string extended so it doesn't creep back up to your hand.

Jeffrey Westbrook
Jeffrey Westbrook

Make a Paper Sailboat

Gay Merrill Gross, origami teacher and author of Minigami, New York, New York

1. Fold square piece of paper in half (origami paper works best).
2. Open paper, then fold edges in to meet center fold.
3. Fold each corner in on an angle to meet center fold.
4. Fold four top and bottom corners in toward center fold to create elongated diamond shape.
5. Fold points at left and right in to meet at center fold.
6. Turn inside out to form a boat, then attach a sail.

Originally published in the April 2009 issue of Parents magazine.

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