Perfect for getting them to spend more time outside…
Has it come to this? An article, on a screen, which you’re reading while your kids play and probably vye for your attention, which encourages you to encourage your kids to get off their screens. That’s some breaking of the fourth wall stuff right there. You might want to see to that. People in glass houses…
But let’s focus. If you’re reading this then you’re probably of an era when children’s games were full of imagination, energy, activity, fun and friendship. And most importantly, done outside, in the fresh air and with abandon.
The Mirror recently reported that “The average child spends more than four-and-a-half hours per day on electrical devices – and just 40 minutes outside”. In other words “based on a 12-hour day, children are spending more than a third of their time looking at screens, and just 6% outside”.
Though their names and rules may vary from country to country, even town to town, most traditional children’s games needed little more than imagination and invention, passed on from child to child, from generation to generation, through word of mouth not Whatsapp or Snapchat. And there’s a real beauty in that. To keep the dream alive, and to get the little ones outside, here are 5 IDEAL old-school games to get your kids off their screens.
Once upon a time, the sunset on a residential street was defined by a hopscotch court chalked on to the pavement and players ignoring their mother’s calls of ‘dinner time’. Players took turns to throw a marker, usually a small stone or bottle cap, into a series of numbered squares, then hopped and jumped up the court and back, collecting the marker on their return. The marker had to land cleanly in the chosen square and players who hopped onto a line, missed a square or fell over, had to go again. The first player to complete all the numbered boxes was the winner.
More recently, a new playground craze of ‘scooter hopscotch’ has emerged, which sees kids hop on the back wheel of their scooters along the court – to very mixed results, we should add!
A kid’s scooter, such as the Yvolve range, is essential here, as larger model’s aren’t nimble enough to manage the small spaces. If you’re kid is going to start performing tricks, be sure to kit them out with all the safety gear; helmet, elbow pads, wrist guards and knee pads.
An autumn seasonal favourite for generations of children armed with the fruit of the horse chestnut tree, conkers had to be carefully drilled and threaded with a string or bootlace, before two wily combatants went head-to-head. While one holds out their conker dangling on its string at arm’s length, the other used theirs to strike. Some rules allowed for another go if the first missed or if strings got tangled, some were more rigid; one shot only, and if the target conker survives, the roles are reversed and the attacker becomes the target. And so it goes on until one of the conkers disintegrates.
Conkers which have claimed several opponents are known by the number they have vanquished, for example, a ‘sixer’. All kinds of myths did the playground rounds about how to create the ultimate unbeatable conker, most involving soaking in vinegar and baking in the oven. Some (us) were even known to insert stealth nails into their conker. Goggles at the ready, kids!
There are countless variations of clapping games, found in cultures all around the world. Usually, they involve two players facing each other and completing a clapping sequence as an accompaniment to a sung rhyme. The memorised sequences, sometimes very complex, involve players clapping their own hands, slapping against the palms of their partners, slapping their thighs and many more crossover or high and low moves. Memory, coordination and teamwork are just three of the benefits here.
Blind Man’s Bluff
A game popular in the 1800s (ah, the good old days when life expectancy was under 40 and kids worked in factories) which still survives today. One player is blindfolded and spun around to disorientate them. This ‘Blind Man’ then walks around with their hands out in front of them until they bump into another player. If they manage to identify the other person from the feel of their face, hair and clothes, the blindfold is removed and someone else has a turn. If not, then the game carries on.
Kick The Can
All you need is an old tin can, perhaps with a few stones inside, to enjoy this one. A child is chosen to be ‘it’ and the rest run off and hide while ‘it’ covers their eyes and counts to a set number, often ending with a cry of “Ready or not, here I come!”. ‘It’ must then find and tag the hiding children who, once caught, are put in ‘jail’ –a predesignated holding area.
The constant risk is that a child might dash from their hiding place and, before they can be tagged, kick the can. This means one of the prisoners, or in some versions, all of them, are released to rejoin the game. Only when ‘it’ tags all the other players is the round over and another can begin. Lovely stuff. Take us back to those heady, carefree days, please.