Time for a hands in the air poll - whop remembers going outside to play? This question may date some of us – sorry about that – but there was a time that most of us heard something like: “go outside and play”, often accompanied with “and don’t come back in until its dark”. So you would go to a friend’s house and see who wanted to get together. No game stations, no ipods or blackberries or texting – this was a time of face to face and make your own fun. Not to sound too retro or nostalgic about these days, but this post lists some of the games that are great to play outside, with friends and without any gizmos that need batteries.
It doesn’t get much simpler than this – a couple of kids and a ball is all that is needed to have a great game of catch. This is also one of those games that really bonds parents and children. The “old folks” can play despite bad backs, bum knees and sore muscles, plus it comes back later in life as a great memory for children to think back on playing catch with mom or dad. No batteries required.
Got chalk? Then you can draw the classic hopscotch and start jumping. No chalk – no problem. The hopscotch “court” can be made from sticks, clothes, leaves or just about anything that you have at your disposal outside. Its easy and as a kid, there aren’t too many things that are more fun that jumping. In my humble opinion, the classic Foursome of Child’s Play is Jumping, Running, Climbing and Chasing.
13. Cards and Boardgames
While this is not an outdoor activity, some days you just couldn’t play outside, with weather or temperature forcing indoor fun. And on those days when you couldn’t spend quality time with the Wii or Play Station or surf the net, kids had a blast with board games, puzzles or a deck of cards. This was low tech at its best, and on a positive note, board games are making a comeback and gaining a new popularity among children.
12. Grounders/Marco Polo
Grounders and Marco Polo are very similar. It is like a game of blind tag, where the seeker keeps their eyes closed, and the others have to give verbal hints at certain prompts so that the blind seeker can catch them. Hours of fun and no equipment needed – just playmates.
11. Cops and Robbers
The classic game of good guys and bad guys. The robbers pull off a heist, get chased by the cops, and once caught they go to jail. Depending on the rules, there can be escapes from jail, in which case the game goes on and on and on…
There used to be a “marble season” and “card season”, when kids would have sports cards (baseball, hockey, etc) and marbles of all types. There were a number of different games for each that you would play at recess at school and after school with all your friends. When not playing games, you could look at, talk about and trade as well. This was always a good excuse to just hang out with friends outside and let the time pass in a great way.
9. Mother May I
Children take turns asking the “mother” of the game if they can take so many steps forward, hoping to make it to the end of the race before the other children. The designated mother may say “Yes you may” or “No you may not but…” and make their own suggestions. Mother may suggest that you take giant steps, baby steps, frog leaps, crab walks or other moves… and of course you better do what mother says if you want to win.
8. Red Rover
It wasn’t uncommon during recess to hear “Red Rover, Red Rover send Jimmy right over” on the playground. Two teams line up holding hands and call a player from the other team over. That person then has to run through the line to try to break the chain. If they fail they join that team. If not, they can chose to bring a player back to their team. Sounds like good clean fun, but some schools have banned this activity due to rough behaviour or a perception that it is too physical.
7. Hula Hoop / Frisbee
Two of the low tech classic toys that kids love to play outside. These are known the world over, and have in fact evolved into sports and championship-ranked activities. But for play value, they always ranked high with the outdoor play time. Although still popular, I am sure that given a choice of time in the field with a couple of friends and a hoop and Frisbee or battling on the ‘net, you would find kids racing to the computer.
6. Four Square
Four Square was a great name because all you needed was chalk and at least 4 players. Four Squares were drawn on the ground and numbered and the object of the game is to move up to the highest ranking square. You move up by eliminating other players by getting them to hit the ball out of bounds on your serve. As each player is eliminated a new one can join the game at square 1.
5. Hide and Seek
As easy at it gets, and hours of fun. No explanation needed; game console not required. And so much fun they will play all day.
4. Kick the Can
There’s probably dozens of variations or names, but kick the can is a classic kids game and a variation on the classic hide and seek. A combination of tag, hide and go seek and capture the flag, kick the can has a player who is “it”, a jail and some kind of can or bucket. If a player is caught they have to go to “jail” but hope isn’t lost. If another player can make it to the can and knock it over everyone in jail is set free.
3. Tag and all Its Variants
Tag is fun and a good way to get some serious physical exercise. One person is “it” and has to tag/touch another player to make them “it”. The object if the game is to avoid being “it”. There are lots of variations on this game, such as freeze tag, where you are frozen in place when touched and have to be thawed by another player touching you, or toilet tag, where you freeze and put your hand out when touched because you have turned into a toilet, and another player has to “flush the toilet” (pull your hand) to free you.
2. Field Sports
This catch all category of field sports is everything and anything that involves going out the fields. Could be your school field, could be a park down the street – it usually involves bringing the ball, frizbee, bat – something that you and your friends play that involves some running, throwing, chasing etc.
1. Street Hockey
OK, I admit that this choice for top of the list is totally culturally biased, but that’s how it goes. As a Canadian, no list of playing outside is complete without the number one activity – street hockey! As a child, this is what the streets seem to be made for – that and for riding bikes. You would set up the nets, get the teams sorted out, and drop the ball with the classic cry of, “Game on!”.
This was life playing as a child before gaming, internet and digital TV with ten thousand channels.