Thursday, August 4, 2011

Childhood Summer Games

Subtitle: What were we thinking, and where were our parents?

If you're a parent, you've probably uttered following words to your kids at some point this summer: "You know, when I was a kid we didn't have (insert electronic device here). We played outside." We say it as if it were a much healthier and wholesome thing, as if we all went outside and laughed and everyone got along. But when I really think back, these games tended toward the brutal.

Here are a few outside games guaranteed to give your kids more than carpal tunnel on their video game arm.

Crack the whip: Everyone joins hands--how nice!--in a big line. This is where your mom pats herself on the back and then stops watching. The most popular (read: bossy) neighborhood child gets to be the leader, who proceeds to run quickly in the curviest line possible. Do not let go of anyone's hand! The people at the end become the whip crackees, and their necks are flung back and forth in a way that would make "Wipeout" seem like a walk in the park.

Red Rover: This game is for a large group of children, so we played it in school with credentialed instructors supervising us. Half the class stands on one side of the field, and half on the other side. Again, you all join hands and then one side chants, "Red Rover, Red Rover, send (one kid's name) right over!" That kid then runs as fast as he can and tries to break through the other team's wall of arms. The force of the running child will certainly break your hands apart, so you have to hold each other's forearms. This is guaranteed to break a radius, if not an ulna, but if you're the one to let Jimmy break through, your popularity on the playground will take a serious nosedive.

Mother May I: This game will not hurt you physically but someone will always end up with a bruised ego. The leader stands at the end of the driveway and everyone else lines up at the other end, with the goal of reaching the leader first. Then it goes something like this:

Leader: Best friend, take 10 giant steps forward.

Best friend: Mother may I?

Leader: Yes you may.

and then...

Leader: Little brother, take 8 baby steps forward.

Little brother: Mother may I?

Leader: No you may not. You may take 5 giant steps backward.

Little Brother: Mother may I?

Leader: Yes you may.

I won't even go into King of the Hill or pink bellies. What was your favorite "wholesome" childhood game?


  1. Ugh, I haaaated Red Rover. I was always the weak, wimpy kid who was afraid to hold on.

    I liked tag.

  2. I always liked tag- the game where someone bears down on you to try and "tag" you but generally ends up pushing. Terrifyingly fun. The one I never understood was flashlight tag. Who EVER thought that was fun?

  3. Haha! When I saw the title of your post, three words immediately came to mind: "Red" "Rover" and "brutal". You have all three covered. The kids at the annual Home Schooling picnic play this, and I just wince.

    As far as the games I used to play, we used to play Bike Tag, which is just what it sounds like. We would all go up to Crestview Elementary on our bikes, and whoever was it would try to tag/ram/t-bone someone with their bike. Fun!

  4. Hide-and-seek was always fun, at least for those hiding, and played at twilight it had special appeal. However I never totally understood the expression of "ollie ollie oxen free" ... I mean really? what does it mean? All oily oxen are in free ?

    Kick the can was also fun ... as long as no one got kicked in the shin. Yeah I guess we were a bunch of bruised and battered kids. :D

  5. My kids love playing hide-and-seek-tag when we camp in the desert. Of course they fight an argue about the rules (counting, base or no base, etc.) but that is one of their favorites. And it makes me feel like things don't really change. Like when they play Marco Polo in the pool. Really? I played that 35 years ago.