7 Forgotten Outdoor Games Kids Will Love To Play
by Brandon Hunt
Do you ever wish you could get your kids to put down the video games and spend more time outside?
Remember those days in elementary when a giant game that occupied the whole field was organized during lunch recess?
Here are a few games that you can play or teach your kids how to play. They can then take the games to their school and teach others.
With outdoor games all you need are enough people to play. The most equipment you might have to find, or establish, are boundaries, goals or pens. They’re great spontaneous cures for boredom.
You can also include the youngest of kids. Even if your four or five year-olds don't quite grasp the rules, they’ll just love running around with everyone else.
Benefit of Outdoor Games
We all know the inherent benefit of playing outside. The fresh air and sunlight invigorate the health of youngsters, with the added side effect of them expending a lot of energy.
Outdoor games are also good for developing strength in the legs and lungs, developing motor function, and stimulating blood flow.
Playing games outside just doesn’t help kids, it’ll get those of us who are a bit older moving, pumping that blood through our veins. Plus, kids love it when their parents and adults play games outside with them.
So, in looking for less well known games, I was fortunate enough to find an old copy of a book filled with games. It’s called Games For The Playground, Home, School and Gymnasium, first published in 1909. I’ve only picked out eight games out of hundreds. The instructions on how to play the games come directly from the book.
So, without further delay or rambling, below are eight games ( with instructions ) that I have never heard of, yet similar enough to more common games they should be easy to play.
The arms are folded across the chest. In this position the performer is required to lie down the back and rise again to an upright standing position, without assistance from either hands or elbows.
Two lines are drawn on the floor, five feet apart. Within this space two contestants face each other, the right toes touching and each stepping backward in a strong stride position with the left foot. Both players grasp a cane or wand, and each tries to pull the other across one of the boundary lines.
5 to 30 or more players. This is an admirable hide and seek game where there are many hiding places. One player is chosen for the wolf, who goes off and hides. The rest of the players are sheep, with one of their number as leader. A place is chosen for a pen where the sheep must stay and blind their eyes while the wolf is hiding. This pen may be a tree or a rock or a square or circle drawn on the ground. The leader counts one hundred, to give the wolf time to hide. The sheep then start out, but must all follow their leader “like sheep,” looking for the wolf in each place where the leader may search for him. This game differs from others hiding games in that the searchers are the ones who have to flee for safety when the hider is discovered. As soon as the wolf is spied, the leader cries:--
“All my sheep
Gather in a heap;
For I spy the woolly, woolly wolf!”
The sheep at once stand still until the wolf has taken a jump toward them, which he must do before he may chase them; but immediately that the wolf has made his leap, the sheep all turn and run for the sheep pen, the wolf following. As the wolf may not run until he hears the word “wolf” at the end of the leader’s lines, the latter often tantalizes the wolf by saying, “I spy the woolly, woolly — lamb!” or “the woolly, woolly— cat!” or names any other animal he chooses, with a pause before the name, to prolong the suspense of the impatient wolf, finally ending up with “the woolly, woolly— wolf!”
Any sheep tagged by the wolf becomes a wolf and joins the wolf the next time, hiding either in the same den with him or in a separate den. When there is more than one wolf, the leader halts his sheep whenever he spies a wolf, whether it be the original wolf or not, and all of the wolves join in the chase when the sheep run back to the pen. The game ends when all of the sheep have been caught.
The wolf has several resources at his command for catching sheep in addition to a simple chase. If at any time while in hiding he spies the sheep before they spy him, and considers their position in relation to the goal advantageous to himself, he may call, “Stand your ground, three feet!” whereupon the sheep must instantly stand still and then take three steps toward the wolf and stand again until he jumps toward them, when the chase for the sheep pen begins. The wolf may also exercise considerable finesse by running directly for the pen if he be in a position to reach it quicker or more directly than by chasing the sheep. Should he reach the pen first, he may then tag the sheep as they run in. One sheep may act as a decoy to engage the attention of the wolf while the others run into the pen.
10 to 30 or more players. The players stand in two lines facing each other, with a large open space representing a river between. One player, representing the water sprite, stands in the middle of the river and beckons to one on the bank to cross. This one signals to a third player on the opposite bank or side of the river. The two from the banks run across to exchange places, the water sprite trying to tag one of them. If the water sprite is successful, he changes places with the one tagged.
4 to 60 or more players. Can be played indoors and outdoors. One player is It and chases the others, trying to tag one of them. A player may escape being tagged by suddenly stooping or “squatting”; but each player may stoop but three times. After the third time of stooping, the player may resort only to running to escape being tagged. Any player tagged becomes It. For large numbers of players there should be several taggers.
10 to 30 or more players. A large circle is drawn on the ground or floor in the center of the play space. At either end of the ground a goal is marked off. One player, chosen to be stone, sits on the floor in the circle. The other players stand around outside the circle, taunting the stone by stepping over into his territory. Suddenly, and the more unexpectedly the better, the stone rises and runs for the other players, who are only safe from tagging when behind one of the goals. Any one so tagged becomes a stone and joins the first stone in sitting near the center of the circle. They also join him in chasing the other players whenever he gives the signal. This continues until all the players have been tagged.
Lame Fox and Chickens:
10 to 30 or more players. One player is chosen for the fox, and stands in a den marked off at one end of the playground. The rest are chickens, and have a chicken yard at the opposite end of the ground. The chickens advance as near as they dare to the den of the fox and tease him by calling out: “Lame fox! Lame fox! Can’t catch anybody!” The lame fox may take only three steps beyond his den, after which he must hop on one foot, trying to tag the chickens while hopping. All tagged become foxes and go home with him, thereafter sallying forth with him to catch the chickens. They must all then observe the same rule of taking [only] three steps beyond the den, after which they must hop. Should any fox put both feet down at once after his three steps while outside the den, the chickens may drive him back. Care should be taken that the hopping be not always done on the same foot, though a fox may change his hopping from one foot to the other. The chicken last caught wins the game and becomes the first lame fox in the new game. Where more than thirty players are engaged, the game should start with two or more foxes.
Those are just a few games you can organize without needing a lot of resources. The games are adaptable to the number of players and, in most cases, environment. If you’re interested in finding more games that have faded into the past, try perusing your local used book store ( which is where I found my copy) or scouring the internet might yield more.
Outdoor games are ideal for encouraging kids to release pent up energy. Plus they get interaction with friends and family, and learn how to play with others.