This week, we’re going to do a traditional games series. You are probably familiar with many of these, but just in case some of the details are fuzzy since when you played them as a child, we’re here to clarify. You might find a few variations that you’re unfamiliar with, as well.
Red Light Green Light
Have the children line up at a starting line, and set a goal line opposite. They may run when you say “green light,” walk slowly when you say “yellow light” and must stop when you say “red light.” Adjust how strictly enforced the rules will be based on age, but if the child “moves” after “red light” they have to go back to the start. With older children, the first to cross the finish line becomes the next caller.
One variation for older children, especially when they’re giggly and struggle to keep quiet, is to have the person calling out “red light/green light” face away from the group. If the caller thinks someone is close, they can try to identify them by name. If they are right, that player has to move back to the start. If they are wrong, they lose their turn as caller.
An easy classic. Someone is “it” and they have to chase and tag someone else and so on. For younger children, reverse the rules: the “it” child runs from everyone else. Variations can include freeze tag, color tag, link tag, and “up and down” (in this version base is anything off the ground: perfect for tree-climbing older kids).
Another classic. Draw the hopscotch shape with chalk on the sidewalk or in your driveway. Younger children can jump from square to square. Older children should hop. For an added challenge, include a rock. Throw it at the shape, and the tile it lands on should be skipped. Use numbers, shapes, or letters to make the frame even more engaging, or get creative and expand beyond the traditional cross-like shapes.
Hide and Seek
Have someone count, while everyone else hides. A variation can include a game of tag to decide who is it in the next round, once everyone has been found. Younger kids can play, as long as Mom or Dad is around to help. You can also hide toys a la an Easter egg hunt for smaller groups.
Easily enough, when “Simon says” precedes a direction, it should be completed. If it does not, the children should stand still. For younger children, “Simon” should be an adult, directions should be simple, and there should be some lee-way in standing still. Older children will have fun taking turns being “Simon,” and should be completely still or be out. Last one standing gets to be “Simon” in the next round.
This game can be played anywhere. (Who doesn’t remember playing this on road trips before iPads were a thing?) Simply say, “I spy with my little eye something…” Younger kids will appreciate color clues, while older kids will like letter ones. To make it an activity, have the children run and retrieve the object, with the optional added challenge of being silent.
“THE FLOOR IS LAVA!!” Use pillows, cushions, low tables, toys, literally anything, to make it across the room without touching the floor. It will make a mess, and it does encourage climbing, so proceed with caution.
Treasure Hunt or Scavenger Hunt
This requires a little set up on your part. You’ll need to hide objects around the play area and make a map. Scavenger hunts are also a great way to enjoy a long walk or a hike. Here’s an example of something you can take with you on your next walk:
The most basic form of competition, but you can make variants to make it more interesting. Think of animals to imitate, or use old pillowcases as sacks. Older kids will have fun trying a three-legged race, or racing with an egg balanced on a spoon or a book on their heads.
If you have a rope, this is simple. Tie a scarf to the middle and see who can pull it across the goal on their side.
When Ms. Ashley was in high school, her history teacher used tug of war to explain the imbalance of resources during the Revolutionary War. He put all of the football players on one team, and the rest of us on the other. So when teaching older children the importance of balancing things, be they algebraic equations or resources in historic battles, the game can be used as a fun and memorable illustration tool.
Use a broom and turn on some lively music. Officially, players are not allowed to touch the floor with their hands as they bend backward to move under the bar without touching it. Younger children will simply have fun running around in circles and socializing with the group, so create house rules, and remember having fun is more important.
We hope these games jog your memories, and that you enjoy sharing these traditions with your children. Remember, the point is to have fun and get moving, and that this is a good time to learn the social skills of sportsmanship and healthy levels of competition.
Ms. Ashley and Ms. Bri