8 Simple tickle games to play with your kids


The following is a guest post written by Heather Gaither of The Incredible Infant

“You know this ends, right?”

That’s what an older friend said to me recently. I was giving my 2nd, Elena, a quick tickle at our homeschool group.

That question haunted me all the way home.

She had a valid point.

After all, at some point I went from “Tickle me!” to “Touch me and die.” (Thank you, adolescence.)

Looking at my three little girls in the rearview mirror, I was struck with how fast they are growing. Am I truly capturing those little hearts? Or just “doing life”?

The teens are just around the corner. Will they let me stay on board their little ship of hormones? Or maroon me on an island and sail on alone?

It’s a scary thought.

A thought that makes me determined to tie those hearts to my apron strings.

Tickling is my first rope.

Here are eight of the tickle games I play with my kids. It’s my first step in securing a conversation spot at the future Teen table.

1. Buzzy Bee

Buzzy Bee is a tickling game created especially for babies. It’s so simple, even an exhausted mom who doesn’t want to get out of bed can play it. (I speak from experience.)

  1. Lay down with your infant and put your finger in the air.
  2. Make a bzzzzzz sound and swoop your finger around until it finally lightly touches some part of his exposed chubby little body.

Eventually, just putting your finger in the air will be enough to prompt excited squeals of happiness.  (Pavlov’s Law at work!)

2. Tickle Spot

You know the game, I”m Thinking of an Animal?  Replace it with I”m Thinking of a Tickle Spot.  Only in this version, they only get ONE guess.

Guess correctly, and tickle Mama.

Guess incorrectly, and…well…

3. Favorite Kisses

Go back and forth sharing three of your favorite kisses. Kisses like…

  • The Butterfly Kiss ~ eyelashes against the cheek
  • The Eskimo Kiss ~ rubbing noses
  • The Doggie Kiss ~ a nasty tongue swipe on the cheek. (Do overreact.)
  • The Kitty Kiss ~ small little kiss on the nose
  • The Hug-n-Kiss ~ a strong hug, with gentle forehead kiss
  • The Tummy Kiss ~ mommy blows on child’s tummy
  • The Neck Kiss ~ mommy blows on child’s neck
  • The Eye Kiss ~ mommy blows raspberries (gently!) on each closed eyelid

Of course, my last kiss is always the same.  It’s the MOMMY KISS. mwah ha ha!

  1. Hold hands for clear access to the cheeks and forehead.
  2. Kiss rapidly all over the face.
  3. Abruptly stop and ask “NOW do you know how much I love you?”

Reply Guide:

  • Yes = Express disbelief and repeat, adding tickles.
  • No = Express shock and repeat, adding tickles.

4. Tickle Gamble

Ask them to pick a number between 0 and 100.

When they fail to guess your number, and they will (because the House always wins),  you win the right to tickle in the spot of your choice.

5. Mom”s Orchestra

Did you know your child is really an instrument?

  1. Piano ~ play the back like a piano, particularly on either side of the spine.
  2. Drums ~ rat-a-tat on that cute little bum.
  3. Tuba ~ big tummy blows.
  4. Violin ~ rub your index finger back and forth under the neck.
  5. Trumpet ~ blow little raspberries on the neck.
  6. Bagpipes ~ place one finger in an armpit and blow on the neck at the same time.

6. My Secret

Whisper “I have to tell you a secret!” to your little one, gesturing for her to come. Then lean super close to her ear/neck and whisper nonsense.

These little whispers and blows tickle the hairs behind her ear and send her into a mass of laughs.

When she pulls away, (because she will) say, “Hold still! I”m trying to tell you a secret!” and do it all over again.

7. Cold Finger

My 100-year-old house is pretty drafty in the wintertime. Poor old thing.

On particularly chilly days, my index finger buy steroids will decide (on her own, I’m completely innocent) to crawl into the closest child’s underarm cave to hibernate.

Ms. Pointer doesn’t move. She just sits there, nice and cozy. Her presence, however, sends my little heater into squeals and squirms.

8. Talking Backpack

First, hide under the covers with your toddler. Then say “SHHH! Did you hear that?” while running your fingers on the outside of the sheet.

(It was at this point my 2-year-old Lauren would whisper, “It”s the Talking Backpack!” Gracias, Dora.)

With much excitement, let your toddler throw back the sheet and look around for the culprit. Repeat a few times, before letting your fingers crawl under the covers for a last tickle.

The Tickling Rule

I have one rule when it comes to tickling. No fake “stops”. If she asks me to stop (even while giggling) I stop. Period. Game over.

It nurtures her soul, respects her personal space, and is another little deposit in the bank of “You Are Not a Victim”.

For the Advanced Tickler:

  • The Tickle Monster Laughter Kit ::: The Tickle Monster has just landed from Planet Tickle. Read the book, wear the special tickle mitts, and enjoy all the guffaws.
  • Tickle Me Plant ::: The leaves will close when “tickled” by your kids. Think Venus Fly Trap, only without the digestion.
  • Happy Feet ::: Megan did this as a mood improver. I’ll be stealing this tickle tip to help my 2nd’s morning grumps.
  • ::: Because Tickle Me Elmo is, like, soooooo last century.

My Secret Purpose for Tickling

Tickling is more than just a fun activity we play.  It’s part of a deeper agenda.

Someday, when tickle time is long gone, my children are going to face a question:

Do I share this with mom?

The bonds I create NOW will help determine how they answer THEN.

They will think back on our interactions, and like a fork in the road, decide which path to take.

The path on the right, which includes mom: “I want her to know me.”

Or the path on the left, which leaves me out: “I’m better off alone.”

Tickling is not a guarantee they will automatically choose the include mom path.  But it is a very good nudge in the right direction.

Do you have any tickle games your kids beg for? How are you capturing your children’s hearts?

About Heather Gaither

Heather Gaither is the proud mother of three and founder of the Incredible Infant Blog. She is passionate about helping new parents conquer their fears and grow in self-confidence. Enjoy her quirky writing style and informational posts at the blog and hang with her on Facebook or Twitter.

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  1. How sweet! My children love being tickled. I never looked at it as relationship building and trust building, just a silly thing we do. Great thoughts here.
    Heather´s latest post: Spring Cleaning Series – Week Three : Kitchen

  2. It is amazing the variety of tools that can be in our parenting toolbox, isn’t it? :-)

    I really like the buzzy bee game and of course butterfly kisses are one of my most favorite things!

    I also think it is important that you have a hard and fast “stop” rule – listening to our kids, proving to them that they can trust us, that they have a right to personal space are important lessons to teach. I love that this is a sweet, gentle, natural way to do that :-)

    Thanks for the guest post, Heather! So nice to have your voice and point of view here at Simple Kids!
    Kara @SimpleKids.net´s latest post: 8 Simple tickle games to play with your kids

    • Thanks Kara! I’m so thankful to be able to share it with you! And I certainly agree. Some kids like being tickled more than others, and that’s okay. My oldest has given permission JUST for knee-squeezes, since she’s more sensitive. (But she LOVES the kissing game.) My second is a rough-and-tumble “tickle everywhere PLEASE” kind of girl, and my third is in the “just chase and PRETEND you’re going to tickle” stage. Every child is different, and it’s important to approach them in the ways they share are best. :-)
      Heather Gaither´s latest post: 20 Ways to Become a WAHM Without Selling

      • Yes, thank you so much for sharing the “Tickle Rule” – we make sure to fairly often ask, “Do you want more?” and if the answer is no, we stop immediately. All too often I see parents pushing their kids too far, not listening to their no’s and this sets a bad example for the kids on how to act in more dangerous situations later on. So thanks for the reminder to start teaching this self-respect early on!
        Laura´s latest post: Spring is Here!

  3. Jennifer says:

    This is so wonderful, my Friend! Thanks for starting my day out with some tears.
    Seriously, thanks for the great reminder! As my oldest turns 13 next week, I am very much aware that this does not last! My baby is only 18 months, and his favorite tickle game recently is…I look up at the ceiling and ask, “What is that?” Then, when he looks up, I tickle under his chin. Now he knows what is coming and won’t always look up, but just laughs without me even touching him!

  4. Wonderfully inspiring. #3 reminds me of the book Counting Kisses by Karen Katz. Best baby shower gift I ever received!
    Julia´s latest post: Tulip Napkin Rings {Made From Upcycled Cardboard Tubes}

  5. Christine C says:

    We are starting to tell stories to my almost 3 year old. Our favorite is “Once upon a time, there was a little girl named TICKLE TICKLE TICKLE!” Now after I tell her a story, she wants to tell hers about the little girl named Tickle. That’s as far as we get!

  6. We got the Tickle Monster set for Christmas, but it got lost in the the shuffle of new toys, and I came across it a few days ago. We’ve been reading it a lot and loving it. I’ll have to try some of the other games and resources you recommended. Thanks!
    Amy´s latest post: Books I’m loving

  7. Thanks for the great ideas. My kids and students are loving the TickleMe Plants we got at the link you listed. They spend hours watching the leaves move and the branches droop down. I didnt think the plant would really do that but it did!

  8. Omg I love that TickleMe Plant
    I got the party favors..looks like pure fun

  9. Kara, Thanks for the great tickle ideas. They were perfect to add (I linked to you) to the activities I included for the cute read aloud book I posted titled “The Tickle Monster is Coming!” http://shannonsbooknook.com/?p=6724 on my read aloud recommendation/activity site.

  10. I think the tickle rule is EXTREMELY important. I personally found tickling rather traumatic as a child and broke off my trust with not just my parents, but everyone. I had a major problem with being touched AT ALL by anyone in my family without my permission as an adolescent, and would often cry if anywhere but my hands or arms were touched. Also, I kept pretty much everything to myself and still do. I’m not blaming this all on tickling, but I think it was a large factor.

  11. Here are some tickle games you can play with your kids. These are probably more for older kids like 5+. I don’t know how u r, but some games let ur kids tickle u. I’m actually ticklish on my armpits, belly and sides. Belly and sides make me giggle but my armpits are worst. My 6 year old still baby tickles but my 9 year old daughter tickles so good I cant keep my arms up unless i hold on to something.
    1 Keep ‘em up game –
    Get child to lay down and put there arms up. Then tickle them slowly in a spot they arn’t really ticklish. Work ur way to more ticklish spots until they cant keep there arms up any more. If u have 2 kids, make it a competition and see who can go longer.

    2 I bet u can’t game –
    You bet your child that they can’t do something (like “i bet u can’t keep you arms up for 10 seconds while i tickle your belly” or like “i bet you can’t go 10 seconds with out laughing while i tickle you armpits”). Then you tickle them and see if they can do it. If they loose, then you get to tickle there tickle spot for how ever long you want. But if they win, then mommy has to get tickled on her tickle spot for how ever long they want.

    3 Dress-up tickle game –
    Look out, here your child gets to tickle you. Take them to your dresser and they have to pick u out ONE peice of clothing. You have to put on the peice of clothing they pick. Then go to there room and pick them out a peice of clothing that they have to put on. Then you get to tickle them. Tell them they have to put there arms up as long as possible. Then its there turn. You have to now lay down with your arms up and let them tickle you until there done. Then you can repeat and pick different outfits. (9 year old daughter loves this, but i would recommend that you set some of your tank tops and spaghetti-straps out on the bed cuz kids can unfold a whole door or laundry in a few seconds)

    • These all look like fun games, i tried the dress up game with my daughter (8). She absolutely loved it. I found out that my sides are kinda ticklish and she loves tickling me. My armpits arnt really that ticklish (i feel a tickle but not quite enough to make me laugh).
      We are in Michigan so we are often in long sleeves and sweaters and this game makes it easy to tickle them. This morning my daughter came up and asked me to play. She says that she loves it so much because she gets to tickle me.

      • Im glad u had fun with it:-) my kids love tickling me to. I tried to get them to play with eachother but they wont play unless they can tickle me. And i don’t have your advantage of sweaters… we are in TX where it is 90 degrees in the winter so i always wear a tank top. Kids do to and like swimming in our pool. Oldest daughter (9) will never put on a bathing suit with out asking for a tickle. She will come up to me with her sister (8) and say “mummy, carissa is gonna hold my arms up and will u tickle as long as u can.” No one could resist gving her a tickle in her little pink flower bikini. So cute.

        And like was said in the posts before, never make your kid play a tickle game. Always ask them and get a yes. The only time u should tickle with out direct permission is circumstantial. Like if Sydney is lying on the couch with her arms up and i walk by and give her underarm a little poke. But never give a real tickle with out permission.
        Kendall´s latest post: Magical holiday fun starring my hometown: Fortville Winter Festival Giveaway!

    • We played the i bet u cant game. My kids played against me as a team, and they got to tickle me when they all completed the same challenge. And i didn’t make it easy!!! My daughter (12) is SUPER ticklish on her armpits, my other 2 are most ticklish on there bellys and sides. So i said “i bet u cant keep ur arms up while i tickle on your sides and armpits for 10 seconds!!!”
      My armpits arnt too ticklish, a good tickle on my underarms might get a giggle out of me. My belly is in the middle, when i get a good tickle there, i giggle a lot and pull away. My sides and ribs are really ticklish tho. When i get a good tickle on my sides and/or ribs, i start laughing loud and uncontrolled. My daughters know that, they are 8, 9, & 12. When i loose, one tickles my ribs, one gets my sides, and one gets my belly. I can go like 10 seconds before curling up in a ball. They ask to tie me up but i haven’t let them. Im sscared to do it, but i also would like to let them tickle me senseless. They would tie me up to the bed, arms up with my armpits, belly, ribs, sides, and most of my legs showing. Should i do it???????????? Let my kids have a ton of fun at the price of getting tickled????
      kim´s latest post: Magical holiday fun starring my hometown: Fortville Winter Festival Giveaway!

      • Thats SOOO weird!!! My kids, led by my 10 year old, asked to tie me up and tickle me to just yesterday. I was thinking it too. Give my kids a whole lot of joy and fun for the price of a really bad tickle for me. She said that i have to get “the worst tickle ever” bjt it would make her very happy and “feel like a big girl” if i let her. She said i had to make myself more ticklish than ever. “That i would be the best mommy ever”

        As i said, im really ticklish on my armpits and my sides and ribs are pretty ticklish too, and my belly is the least. (But when they all tickle my belly, i still can’t help laughing). Im also ticklish on my inner thighs, sides/back of knees, and feet I heard from a friend that if u put a little baby oil on a spot, it makes u way more ticklish. I would prob put baby oil on my tickle spots (on my underarms, sides, ribs, belly) and give her a time limit that she had to stop after. Like 5 mins. Then rest and do it again. She knows all my tickle spots and will tickle me good.
        ???when she asked to do this. I said ill see. Now all the other kids (3 total) want to do this too. Should i let them each tickle me seperate or should i let them tickle me all at once??? More tickling overall? Or less tickling but have all of them tickling my most ticklish spots at once? Please help me decide what to do. I want input from everyone
        Kendall´s latest post: Magical holiday fun starring my hometown: Fortville Winter Festival Giveaway!

  12. My daughters are ticklish all over but sometimes they will have there 2 sisters hold there hands up and feet down and ask me to “give me the worst tickle ever” or “tickle me till i pee” (never had one pee). I usually just tickle belly and waist area. What are some spots i could tickle them for fun. This is usually before pool so wearing bikini. There 7, 8, & 9
    kim´s latest post: Magical holiday fun starring my hometown: Fortville Winter Festival Giveaway!

  13. Heather, where is your most ticklish Spot?


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