It used to be that sending kids outdoors, to the park or a playground, was just a way to get them out of the parent’s hair for a while. It wasn’t always something we felt they needed otherwise they wouldn’t get all the exercise and fresh air they need. But with the plethora of electronic entertainments at so many kids command these days, it is getting more and more difficult to make sure that children are mobile, energised, and engaged in the wider world.
So many great games, and wonderful artefact of childhood culture have been completely forgotten. It is sad because with enough space in the park, a well-designed playground, and a fairly sized group of friends, games like these are hours of fun and wonderful childhood memories.
The best way to describe foursquare in simple terms is four-player tennis with no rackets, and using a basketball or volleyball instead. There are lots of variations on the rules, but very basically you have either four teams or four individuals, each standing in one of four squares. The goal is to hit the ball into one of the other teams quadrants, have it hit the ground, and then bounce outside the quadrants areas. Just like in tennis. A fast and furious test of hand-eye co-ordination, stamina, precision, and skill, Foursquare is a game that has been well loved by generations of children for a very good reason.
A slower paced and more thoughtful version of volleyball, semi-circle is essentially once again team tennis. While it can be played with a football, basketball, or volleyball, the most interesting way to play it is how it was originally created. With a tennis ball. You will need some court markings, ideally a normal netball or basketball court, but if you don’t have one a stick of chalk will draw things out nicely. The court is split into three zones, like a netball court, with the two endzones featuring a semi-circle protruding from the back. The goal is for one member of one team to throw the ball into the opposition’s end, have it bounce inside their semi-circle, and then bounce out. That will then score a point. If the ball bounces out of the semi-circle first, no point is scored. If the ball bounces in the semi-circle, but is then caught, no point is scored. If the ball is caught by one of the opposition before it hits the ground, the player that threw the ball is eliminated. Teams take turns to throw, and as with so many of these games, the score limit is up to how long is available before tea.
3.Kick the Can
Hide and seek might be a classic, but it works best in an indoor environment. Kick the can however is a much better variant if you are wanting your children to get some more outdoor enjoyment. One player is “It” and must begin searching out all their other opponents. The place they start from has an upturned bucket or can in play. If the “it” person finds someone, they tag them, whereupon the hider and the seeker break into a mad dash to reach the can. If the seeker reaches it first, the hider goes to ‘jail’ while the seeker finds more people. If the hider reaches it first and kicks it over, the game starts again with that hider now “It”. A great game to get some mad dashes and running into your kid’s systems, and get their cardio up and running.
A weird inversion of the traditional hide and seek game, instead of lots of seekers and a single finder, you have one hider, and an entire team of seekers. The hider should strive to find somewhere enclosed and undercover to hide themselves. Under a slide, inside a tunnel, beneath a bush. All these and more would work very well. When someone else finds them, rather than the game being over, instead the seeker must now hide with the first hider. This continues as more and more people find the hider. Compressing the participants tighter and tighter into a small space like… a can of sardines. While many might think this is a version of hide and seek that works best indoors, the challenge can be to make it work in new and interesting ways when outdoors.
The outdoor games time doesn’t have to be a lost art. With a little gentle instruction from parents, or lessons passed on between the different year groups of kids in the playground, kids will have plenty of fun and get all the exercise they could ever possibly need.