My dad used to play this game with me when I was little, and now I play it with my son:
Place your child in a swing and stand in front of it. Frown. Say, “Go away!” and push the swing.
Now open your arms and smile. Say, “Come here, Nicholas!” [or, for best results, substitute the actual name of your child] and look really eager to see him until he gets to you . . .
Then scowl and say, “No, go away!” and push him.
“Come here, darling, please come here!”
“Ugh! Go away!”
“Come here, Nicholas!”
“No, I said go away!”
. . . and so on. The more you exaggerate your body language and tone of voice, the funnier it is.
Even pre-verbal babies love this game. They catch right on to the idea that you’re pretending to push them away, only to long for their return, and that the swing will always return them to you. Toddlers and preschoolers continue to find it hilarious, and the fun continues until, as best I recall, about six years old, at which point a kid is too leggy to push from the front anyway.
I’ve been playing this game with Nicholas since he was about seven months old. One of my favorite things about it is the way other families, who apparently have not seen this game before, immediately catch on and see the appeal. I’ve seen little kids who speak only Russian or Chinese watch us for just a few rounds, then point to us and look expectantly at their parents, and the parents quickly begin to play the same game in their own language.
I suppose there’s some sort of profound analogy to the parent-child bond and the conflicting desires to push the fledgling out of the nest and to keep him safe under my wing . . . but mainly it’s just good, simple playground fun! It works for me!
UPDATE: Three years later, I’m linking this article to a carnival of springtime ideas for families. Nicholas, now seven years old, has outgrown this game physically but still finds it funny and likes to try it every so often.