School’s out and, wow, has the sun has been out as well! Summer 2018 is going to be one to remember. And if it’s anything like the (rose-tinted?) summers of our childhood it will be filled with long sunny days spent outdoors, playing games with friends and family.
The outdoors is free and anything but dull if outdoor games are on the agenda. The options are endless, the variations are infinite, and that is part of their attraction. Children negotiate whose game to play, which rules to follow, whether to vary the rules for different age groups and maybe even go as far as assessing and amending the rules half way through to address frustrations. Boundaries are worked out, agreed and set. Some children will be empowered by everyone playing their game, others will learn to deal with the feeling of defeat when their game is not chosen, yet. Delayed gratification is a useful skill to learn in a time where instant gratification is often more prevalent in childhood. They also present an opportunity to develop a sense of fair play, an awareness and understanding of others, that being caught is fine (!) and how to be a good leader and team player.
If you’re looking for something to distract everyone from screen time, outdoor games are brilliant. Nobody spares a second thought for anything else when they are trying to hide, evade or tag their family or friends. This is equally true for ALL age groups! Immerse yourself in an outdoor game and truly escape the pull of scrolling, gaming and the never-ending job list. Games are play in their most fundamental form.
Games are also a surprisingly good way to reconnect with nature. As you are crouched behind a tree or a bush, being as still and quiet as possible with every sense on high alert, you can’t help but observe your surroundings. Watch the leaves flutter in the wind, tune in to the sounds around you, discover the wildlife going about their business in your vicinity. Watch children who struggle to sit still for long indoors master the art of hiding quietly. Before you all leap out and make a run for it, enjoying those endorphins that running and competing release!
Here is a taster of some of our favourite games. Follow the links to get a full run-down on ‘how to play’ and rules.
Hide and Seek
A basic game of Hide and Seek can start with two people. Set the count (10, 20, 100) to match the age range or time taken to run and hide. Take it to the garden, the park, the riverside, the woods and fields. Up the anti and make it Hide and Seek Tag (found means tagged not simply seen) or reverse the rules and play Sardines (one person hides and the others join them when they find them until they are all packed into the hiding place like sardines).
A great running game where one person is ‘it’ and has to chase others and tag them, the person who is tagged then becomes ‘it’. Play it in the garden or anywhere else but be sure to set boundaries (smaller area = quicker game for younger children) and a means of communication so everyone knows when it’s over. Spice it up by playing Freeze Tag (if tagged the person freezes and can only be unfrozen by someone who is not ‘it’), Blob Tag (if you are tagged you hold hands with the tagger and all help tag) or Tiggy Tag (if you are tagged you are also ‘it’ but free to run individually until the last person is caught).
Wide games is a generic term for running team games that are best played in larger spaces with trees and bigger groups. The rules are more complex so the games take longer to complete and are suited to slightly older children. There are hours of fun to be had with some serious strategies to be developed! Capture the Flag involves boundaries, territories, jails, a place for each team’s flag, a surrounding safety zone and team roles. To win you need to capture the other team’s flag and bring it back to your own territory. Kick the Can combines tag, hide and seek and Capture the Flag!
Games for Limited Space
There are also plenty of games for times when you are in the garden or a space with less trees or things to hide behind. Relay games are lots of fun! Something as simple as a sponge can be transformed into the Great Sponge Race - make two teams of three or more and pass the sponge under the legs of one, over the head of the next to the end of the line and back, first one back to the start is the winner. Simon Says is great for listening skills and can boost confidence and self esteem if you can persuade a child to be Simon. Hopscotch can be set up anywhere with chalk or sticks and a stone or similar object to throw. Red Light Green Light and What’s the Time Mr Wolf usually result in much screaming and running around in delight!
Outdoor Games can be enjoyed anywhere, anytime. There’s no tech and no kit required. Know the rules, share ideas, make them up or change them, let the imagination fly! Roll them out when you’re on holiday, when you have friends or family to visit, after lunch when the adults are catching up, when you’re out for a walk and want to elongate your time outdoors, when you see a big space and just have to run around in it or when you have a large group of kids and need to channel their energy somewhere!
Sarah wrote an outdoor column for Small City Big Personality. It was all about encouraging and inspiring families to get outside and reap the benefits of our amazing Great Outdoors. Have a look for top tips!
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