If you feel like the sight of one more Nickelodeon special or round of Mario Kart is going to send you over the edge, it’s time to say “Mother May I”… go outside. While tag and hide-n-seek remain childhood mainstays, many of the best outdoor games have virtually disappeared. This summer use our list of Old School Yard games to reintroduce your little techies to the wonderful world of outdoor play.
1. Sardines – This old school game is very close to hide-n-seek, but adds everyone into the mix. No more squeals of “They left me out…” This game generally works best with a large group of kids. One child hides while the rest close their eyes and count. As the group fans out, each child hides as they find the secret spot. Before long the hiding place becomes fairly obvious as more and more kids find the spot and “hide” together. The last person to find the hiding spot is the one who hides in the next round.
2. Mother May I – One child becomes the “mother” or “father” and stands across the yard from the other kids, lined in a row. Each child takes a turn asking the “mother” if they may take a certain amount of steps. The mother either say yes and all of the kids take the amount of steps requested or no, and the kids stand still. The first person to reach the “mother” wins and becomes the mother in the next round. A fun variation on Mother May I can include other requests by the mother. For instance, a child may say “Mother May I take four steps” and the mother can say, “No, but you can hop on one leg four spaces.”
3. Foursquare – For those who remember this playground classic, you put kids in one of four quadrants of a larger square, with the head place being “King.” The King can make rules the others must follow throughout the game. Each player in the square must hit the ball once, based on the “rules” of the King. Once a person makes a mistake, they are out of the quadrant and sent to the back of the line and another player comes into the first quadrant. The goal is to reach the King quadrant. The rules are long and varied, so click here to refresh your memory.
4. Heads Up, Seven Up – This game works best when trying to get the kids to calm down after some of the more rousing games on this list. A group of kids come to the front while the others lay down, close their eyes and stick their thumbs up. The group of kids at the front then silently presses the other kid’s thumbs down. After each person returns to the front, the kids with their heads down have to guess who they think pressed their thumb down. If their guess is right, the person with their head down gets to trade places with the person who pushed their thumb down.
5. Hand Clap games – Miss Mary Mack, Mack, Mack. All Dressed in Black, Black, Black. Hopefully these hand clap games will drown out your child’s eternal “why” questions. Why is she dressed in black? Why silver buttons? Why down her back?
6. Red Rover – Who can forget that taunting melody, “Red Rover, Red Rover, send Mary on over”… as it turns out, your kids. Bring this childhood fave back by having a group of kids interlace their arms in two rows facing each other. One group of kids than calls, “Red Rover, Red Rover, send (chosen child) on Over.” The kid who has been called runs toward the human line and tries to break through. If they are able to break it, they take a kid from the broken line back to their original line. If they don’t break through, they join the opposing line.
7. Jump Rope Rhymes – Princess (name of jumper called in); bit by a snake… how many doctors did it take? 1, 2, 3… There are literally too many jump rope songs to count, so grab a rope, grab some girls and pull out some old goodies like, “Cinderella, dressed in yella, Went to meet her handsome fella….”
8. Crack the Whip – A group of kids all hold hands in a line as the first person in line begins running in different directions. The result is a “whip” with the kids at the end of the tail needing to hold on tighter as the tail whips around. As kids fall off, others can secure a safer position closer to the head by taking a spot in the middle of the whip before other kids have a chance to grab back on.
What a throwback! Tell us some of your favorite old school games to teach your kids.
— Laurie Halter