In the quest for a simpler more creative summer, one of the key steps may be to cut (hopefully not literally) the electronic cord. Unplug, at least part of the day, and help children learn games that do not require electronic assistance.
Classic Summer Games. A Less-is-More summer could not be complete without some classic summer games. Play red light green light, hopscotch, kickball, or try flashlight tag after dark. Play marbles, jacks, or swing the statue. Check this site for more classic summer options—I’ll bet you know how to play most of them. If not, ask grandma. And, of course, rainy summer days are the perfect time to bring out classic board games. You know they are hiding in the back of your closet. Remember Candyland, Monopoly, Clue, and Chutes and Ladders? Kids still love them. I suspect you do, too.
Races and Homemade Competitions. Some of my most vivid summer memories are of spontaneous neighborhood races. This is particularly interesting because by no stretch of reality could I ever have been called an athlete. In fact, I didn’t enjoy participating in races, but I loved organizing them.
We created start and finish lines, and occasionally even waved starting flags, and we were ready to go. We had running races. We had bicycle races—with two-wheeler and tricycle divisions. And we had silly relay races—backwards walking, crab walking, even races while spinning a hula hoop. The thing that makes these things perfect for a less-is-more summer is that no adults were involved. Perhaps someone said, “Why don’t you have some races?” but beyond that, no adult intervention. There was no stress about these races because there were no prizes, virtually no audience, and no one really in charge. If your children want more ideas, you can send them here—but don’t organize things for them. Organizing neighborhood races is a great way to practice problem solving and get exercise, all at the same time. Of course, children can invent all manner of other homemade competitions, but we’ll leave that to them.
Back to Historical Basics. Children have always played games. The nice things about early and traditional games is the materials are simple and easily available. Explore these traditional games with sticks and stones. Try different kinds of tag from around the world, or explore a whole collection of traditional games around the world. For a glimpse at U.S. history, try some pioneer games, or take a look at last year’s post on pioneer activities. Historical games will be enough to keep you busy all summer.
Water Games. The nice things about water games is all you need is water. And kids. If you have water deep enough for swimming, you’re home free. Jump (safely) in the water. Swim through friends’ legs. See how long you can stand on your hands. Throw a ball around or throw a toy and dive for it. It’s all fun. If there is enough space, play more formal games. Play tag in the water or try a three-legged race. But if you don’t have a pool or lake, don’t despair. Try this collection of outdoor water games. Who could resist things like “Pop Goes the Water Balloon” or “Don’t Get Wet”?
Create a Game. Whatever type of game you play—classic, historical, racing, water, or board—the best games of all may be the variations you invent yourself. When the opportunity arises, encourage young people to invent their own games. Perhaps your family can invent a game that will become your vacation tradition. What’s your version of tag, or stickball, or hopscotch? Or on a day too hot or rainy for outside play, explore WikiHow’s instructions for creating your own board game or download one of these templates. Or if that’s too much for a simpler summer, just track down some cardboard and crayons and get out of the way.
Whatever your game, have fun with it. There are places enough in the world for high-pressure competition; summer games do not have to be among them. So get out that lemonade and encourage young people to play together. It’s what memories are made of.