Tina Fey’s Rules of Improv Comedy Will Change the Way You Play With Your Kids

Several years ago, I sat by the campfire, completely engrossed in the book Bossypants, by Tina Fey.

I’ve been a fan since Weekend Update with Jimmy Fallon.

But reading this book, especially as a parent, made me love her even more.

As I read her Rules of Improvisation, I couldn’t help but think about how they applied to playing with my boys.

Tina Fey’s 4 Rules of Improv

*Comedian Tina Fey has Four Rules of Improv that resonate with both business and funny people:
  • The first rule of improvisation is to AGREE.
  • The second rule of improv is to not only say YES, say YES, AND.
  • The next rule is MAKE STATEMENTS. (Neeson does great in this department)

*source: http://www.openculture.com/2013/06/the_dos_and_donts_of_improv_comedy_.html

You can also read a full excerpt from Tina Fey’s Rules of Improvisation That Will Change Your Life and Reduce Belly Fat* here.

Now Let’s Apply the Rules to Playing With Your Kids

I can’t help but think they will also resonate with parents who want to do a better job when it comes to engaging in imaginary play with their kids.

Picture this scenario:

Your child hands you a plastic banana and says, “Nana wants to talk to you.”

Think about how you would typically respond.

You could take the banana from your child and say, “what do you mean Nana wants to talk to me? This isn’t a phone, it’s a banana. Bananas are for eating silly.” Or you could assume your child meant the actual banana wanted to talk to you and shut him down by telling him bananas can’t talk.

But where is the fun in that?

In an improv comedy sketch, the scene would die there, and your play session would also hit a brick wall.

Or, you could follow the rules of improv and see where this could go.

Instead of correcting your child, let them take the lead. They are your “partner” in play, just like your fellow improv comedian is your partner in the scene.

Follow the first rule and agree.

“Why thank you, Johnny.” you say, as you take the banana and put it up to your ear.

But you can’t stop there. You have to agree AND add to the scene.

“Hello, Nana! How are you today? Johnny says you wanted to talk to me.” 

Or… perhaps you begin having a conversation with the banana as if IT was who wanted to talk to you.

Either scenario could be quite fun.

In Tina Fey’s rules, you also have to make statements instead of asking questions. You can’t ask your partner a bunch of questions about what Nana wants to talk about, you have to make statements as if you’re talking to Nana. And then maybe you say, “Yes, sure, Johnny is right here. Of course, you can talk to him again.” Which turns the scene back over to your partner.

There are no mistakes, only opportunities!

Perhaps Johnny meant that Nana was the banana’s name and that the actual fruit wanted to talk to you. But when he handed you the plastic banana, you pretended it was a banana phone. Oops!

But remember, there are no mistakes in improv.

You put the banana up to your ear and say, “Hi Nana! Johnny said you wanted to talk to me.”

Chances are, your kid won’t correct you because he instinctively knows the rules of improv are to agree. BUT if you messed up and were supposed to talk TO the banana, you can easily pivot if he calls you out on it. Just keep going.

Remember, there are no mistakes.

It’s Ok to Look and Be Silly

I hear all of the time, that people just don’t enjoy playing with their kids. They don’t know how to pretend. If you struggle with this, start with some easy games, like restaurant or grocery store.

They seem to be the easiest to join in because you can order food and your child will just bring it to you. Then you hold it up to your mouth and pretend to eat it.

The opportunity to let your guard down and just be silly is one of the greatest gifts of playing with kids. They think everything you do is amazing! You don’t have to convince them. Just join them on their imaginary adventures.

You might be surprised where they take you, and just how much fun you’ll have along the way.

If you try this with your kids, I’d love to hear how it goes. Leave me a comment below or come chat on Twitter. 

Gift Ideas for Kids Who Love Coding

I have a confession. I got my boys interested in coding because I am fascinated by everything that’s available to them. I play the Learn to Code apps right alongside them. I even created this Pirate Coding Game to keep them interested when they were first learning, without constantly being on a tablet.

I’m embarrassingly obsessed.

But what the heck, this is my blog so I’m going to let my nerd flag fly. I actually enjoy coding. I feel good about buying coding related toys for the kids because it’s helping them develop logical and critical thinking skills that are important for their futures.

And they are fun.

I like to play with them.

So, here’s my list of recommendations based on ages and what I’ve learned so far.


Paid Versions of Favorite Coding Apps

I have been working on a guide to kids coding apps, it feels like forever. We’ve been playing a lot and experimenting this past year. There are so many, it feels impossible to get to them all and I wanted to make a really comprehensive guide. I’ll be publishing it in pieces so it actually gets done. So if you want to know when I publish new stuff about coding for kids, Sign Up Here

Along the way I’ve noticed that, while you can play and learn a lot for free, there will come a point when you’ll want to pay for the advanced levels. I suggest trying out the free versions first and then decide which is best for your kids. The guide with my opinions is coming soon, I promise.

Here are a few apps we’ve been playing with and testing:

Coding Toys for Younger Kids (ages 4-8)

Your kids aren’t just going to be able to pick up a tablet and code an advanced game. They need to learn to think logically and then apply those thinking skills to different programming languages. There are some great toys on the market that address these first steps of thinking in a fun and playful way that kids love.

I haven’t tried it yet, but the Osmo Coding Game is also recommended for ages 5-12.

Also at this age, a tablet makes sense so that kids can play and explore the various coding apps available. We love our LeapFrog Epic Tablet. It’s Android based, so you can get apps from the Amazon Underground App Store, but also play age appropriate educational games available from LeapFrog.

Gifts for Intermediate Coders Ages 8+

As kids get older, the possibilities multiply and start to get pricier. Here are some suggestions if your child is in the 8+ age range. My kids aren’t quite there yet, but these are on my radar for the next few years. *unless of course they come out with something even cooler by then, which I’m sure they will and I will update my suggestions.

More Expensive and Advanced Coding

And then there are the advanced robotics toys. Here are a few ideas. As my boys get older and I learn more about things like Kano and Arduino, I’ll be passing along that info to you. So make sure you Sign Up Here to receive updates.

Send Me More About Coding

Monthly Coding Projects Delivered to Your Mailbox

If you’re looking for a gift that will inspire kids to code all year long, or even for just a few months, make sure you check out . It’s a monthly subscription box for ages 6-14. Each box contains dozens of programming apps from simple to more advanced.

Kids start with the code from the book and type it into the (This also gives them typing practice). Then they change it to make it their own, play it, or share with friends. The apps work on any mobile device.

We received a sample box and my 6 year old LOVED the trading cards with sample codes that came with it. Visit the to order your first box today.


Are your kids interested in coding, or would you like them to be? I’d love to hear your questions. Submit them in the comments below or email me!

How to Play Go Fish

Go Fish is the very first card game I taught my boys. The original object of the game is to win the most “books” of cards. A book is any four of a kind, such as four kings, four aces, etc. We modify the game and aim to collect pairs instead of books. 

How to deal: We deal 5 cards to each player because we usually play with 2 people. If you have 3-4 people playing, deal 7 cards each.

Then place the remaining cards in the center of the table. We spread them out to look like a pond.

How to Play

The first player asks, “Do you have any 8’s?” (Or any number that they have in their hand that they want to use to make a pair.)

If the other play doesn’t have it, they say “Go Fish” and the first player draws a card from the pond. Continue to play like this, making pairs as you go. 

How to Win

The way to win changes every time we play. Sometimes the first player to 5 pairs wins. Sometimes we make books of 4 instead of pairs. Sometimes we just play until we run out of cards.

How to Play Slap Jack

Can you win all the cards by being the fastest one to slap the jack? This game takes quick reflexes. While it might be frustrating for a kid who hates to lose, I think that’s a great learning opportunity.

How to deal:

Deal the entire deck, one at a time to each player. The piles do not have to be even. Don’t look at your cards and straighten them into a neat pile.

How to Play

Each player takes turns placing one card from their pile face up in the center of a table, forming a pile.

When you see a Jack, be the first to slap it and you get the entire pile. Shuffle it into the pile in your hand and continue playing.

If you slap a card that’s not a Jack, you have to give the player who laid that card, one of your cards. If two people slap, the first person with their hand on the Jack gets the pile.

How to Win

The object of the game is to get all the cards.

If a player runs out of cards, they stay in the game until the next Jack is played. If they don’t successfully slap it, they are out.