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10 Timeless Games to Celebrate Backyard Games Week

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The week before Memorial Day is Backyard Games Week, and there’s no time like the present to learn some tried-and-true games, some of which you or your parents may have played during childhood. So gather a few friends or simple supplies and go out and play!

Marbles (Ringer)

They can be called Plainsees, Peewees, Bumblebees, Clouds, Swirlies, Cat’s Eyes, or Beach Balls. They can be made of glass, clay, agate, or steel. Marbles have been used for game play since ancient times in Pakistan, Egypt and Rome, and people of all ages play and compete today. The U.S. National Marbles Tournament has been held on the New Jersey shore since 1922. The British and World Marbles Championship, played annually on Good Friday, goes all the way back to 1588, when two young men duked it out with marbles to determine who would win the hand of a local milkmaiden. While there are many marbles games, Ringer is the classic.

You’ll need:

13 standard-sized marbles and one larger shooter marble for each player
A flat surface
Sidewalk chalk or string and tape

Draw a chalk circle at least 3 feet (and as large as 10 feet) in diameter on a sidewalk or driveway, or tape a string circle in place on a carpet. The larger the circle, the more challenging the game. Place the 13 smaller marbles in the center of the circle, in the shape of an X, or scatter them randomly. The first player sits just outside the circle and shoots his or her large marble (or shooter) into the circle, aiming at one or more smaller marbles, with the intent of knocking the smaller marbles outside of the circle, while leaving the shooter inside the circle. To shoot, place one or more knuckles on the ground and flick the shooter marble with a thumb. If one or more marbles are successfully knocked out of the circle, with the shooter left inside, the player collects the marbles he or she shot outside the circle and shoots again from the place where the shooter landed. If the shooter lands outside the circle as well, the next player is up. The second and subsequent players do the same. Shooter marbles stay where they landed during each round. Players can also choose to shoot the shooter marbles of others further away from the circle, so that that player will have a more challenging place to shoot from during the next round. Play continues until all the marbles have been knocked out of the circle. Players count their marbles to determine a winner.

Slow Tip: You can make your own marbles, the ancient way, using polymer clay. Roll solid or multi-colored pieces of clay into the shapes of marbles and bake according to package directions. Don’t forget to make a few larger shooter marbles.

Jacks

This classic game never goes out of style and, while it can be challenging at first, players do get better with practice. Sets of jacks can be found in many markets.

You’ll need:

10 metal jacks and a bouncy ball (usually sold in a set)
A hard level surface, like a patio or driveway

Scatter the jacks onto the hard surface. Throw the ball up (approximately 6 inches, though this will vary) near the jacks with your dominant hand. While the ball is in the air, scoop up one jack along with the ball, which has now bounced. Put the jack aside. Repeat, this time picking up two jacks. Keep increasing the amount of jacks you pick up. If the ball bounces more than once on that turn, the play moves to the next person. When there are no more jacks left on the playing surface, players count their jacks to determine a winner.

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Pick-Up Sticks

It’s called Spillikans in Canada, Plockepinn in Sweden, Mikado throughout Europe, and Kau Cim in China, where the sticks were used as a fortune-telling device. Canisters of pick-up sticks can usually be found in toy and variety stores – or make your own from twigs!

You’ll need:

A set of pick-up sticks, or approx. 41 sticks
A flat surface

Hold the pick-up sticks in a bundle, then release them so that they land in a pile. Players take turns trying to remove one stick at a time, without disturbing any other sticks. When a stick from the pile is disturbed, the next player takes a turn. Some players use a designated stick to remove other sticks. Commercial sets of sticks are often color-coded, so that some sticks have higher point values. When all the sticks have been removed from the pile, players total either their number of sticks or the values of the sticks based on their colors, according to package directions.

Red Rover

Because it’s a game of strength, Red Rover should be played with a few precautions, which are noted. One benefit of the sometime-controversial game, is that the game ends when everyone ends up on the same side, so there are no winners or losers.

Divide into two teams. Each team forms a line, approximately 30 feet from the other. Team members all hold hands.
The first team decides who they are going to call over. They then call out, “Red Rover, Red Rover, Let ___ come over.”

The person named breaks from his or her line and runs as fast as possible in between any two players on the opposing team, in an effort to break through those team members’ arms.

If the runner breaks through, causing those opposing players’ hands to drop, he or she chooses one person for the opposing team to join his team, and they both go back and join in that team’s line.

If the runner fails to break through, he or she joins the opposing team’s line.

Each team alternates calling people over until all the players end up on one side.

 Note: To prevent injury, players should join hands, and not arms, so that they can easily unlink, and keep their hands at waist level. Players should be roughly the same size.

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Duck Duck Goose

South Asians know it as Kho Kho, Ghanaians as Antoakyire. German children play a version called Plumpsack, which involves dropping a handkerchief at one player’s spot. Young children play this timeless game around the world.

Players sit in a circle, facing each other. Choose a player to be It. That person walks around the outside of the circle. As they walk around, they tap each person on the head and say, for the first few or many, “duck”, “duck”, “duck”. Finally, It taps a person on the head and says, “goose” and begins to run around the outside of the circle. The person who is tapped as a goose gets up and chases It around the circle. If the goose is able to tap It before he or she sits down in the goose’s spot, then It goes into the center of the circle. If the goose does not tag It, then the goose is the next It and the last It returns to the circle. Players can only come out of the middle once a new player gets tagged and goes in.

Red Light, Green Light

Another game played around the world, Red Light Green Light has many variations. In the Czech Republic, it’s called, “Cukr, káva, limonáda, čaj, rum, bum!” (“Sugar, coffee, lemonade, tea, rum, boom!”)

One player is chosen to be the Stoplight. That person turns their back to the group, which forms a line approx. 10-30 yards away (depending on ages of players.) The Stoplight calls out “Green Light” and the players advance toward it as quickly as they can. When he or she wishes, the Stoplight calls out “Red Light”, at the same time turning around to see the runners. The runners must stop immediately. Any player caught moving after a call of “Red Light” has to go back to the starting line. Green lights/red lights are repeated until the first player reaches and tags the Stoplight and is declared the winner. If all the players are out before they reach the Stoplight then the Stoplight wins that round. The winner becomes the new Stoplight.

Slow Snippet: Many cultures count 1-2-3 in their language and then shout a particular word instead of saying “Red Light”. In Mexico, it’s “calabaza” (pumpkin), Israel “herring”, Italy “estrella” (star), and France “soleil” (sun).

Mother/Father May I

This game has both random and whimsical aspects that speak to small children, in addition to requiring some creativity in thinking up and executing new steps.

One player is chosen to be the Mother. The other players form a line approx. 10-30 yards away (depending on ages of players.) The first player calls out, “Mother may I take _____ (number) _______ (type) of steps?” Mother answers either “Yes, you may” or “No, you may not,” and the player advances or stays where they are. (Some people play that Mother can offer an alternative number and type of step.) Players continue to inquire and take various steps. The first one to reach Mother wins and is the new Mother.

Steps can include:

  • Baby Steps – As small as possible
  • Newborn Baby Steps – Crawling
  • Giant Steps – As big as possible
  • Backward Steps – With back toward Mother
  • Bunny Steps – Hops on two feet
  • Scissor Steps – Feet cross or uncross on each step
  • Robot Steps – Stiff and robotic
  • Cinderella or Princess Steps – Ballet twirls
  • Umbrella Steps – starting by standing with legs apart and facing the side of the field instead of the front, each step begins with the back leg and makes a 180-degree arc so that the player moves forward and faces the opposite direction on each step

Capture the Flag

Another game from many of our childhoods, this one works in a backyard, field or neighborhood street.

You’ll need: 2 flags or bandannas. The games works best in an area with varied terrain, such as trees or other landforms.

Divide into two teams. Mark a line in the center of the play area. Each team’s territory, or base, is one either side of the line. Each team also picks a spot for its Jail, usually far from the flag. Determine a time period (5-10 minutes) during which each team hides its flag within its own territory, usually in the part farthest from the opponent. Once flags have been hidden, the teams meet in the middle. Each player tries to enter the other team’s territory and find its flag. In addition, the player has to bring the flag back into his or her own team’s area without getting tagged by an opponent. Tagged players go to Jail and sit out the game until tagged by a teammate, at which time they can rejoin the play by walking back into their own territory first. Players can only be tagged within the enemy’s base. If a player is tagged while transporting the flag, the flag is dropped at that spot. The game is won when an opposing flag is successfully captured and brought to the home base.

Kick the Can

My husband, Michael, has fond memories of epic Kick the Can games in his Pennsylvania neighborhood growing up. They’d continue for hours, as good games often do, with kids hiding behind trees in the conjoined backyards, strategizing and running, sometimes long after dark, on leisurely summer nights.

You’ll need:

A large can or bucket
Flashlight, optional

Place a can on the ground and designate an area near it as a jail. Choose an It, who counts to a high number (usually between 50 and 100) while the other players hide. When the number is reached, It moves away from the base and starts to look for the other players, who in turn are attempting to return to the can to kick it. If It sees player, It calls out that person’s name, (while shining a flashlight on them, if at night) and tries to kick the can first. If that happens, the player goes to jail. If the player reaches the can first and kicks it, then that player can hide again and any jailed players are freed. The game ends when everyone except It is in jail.

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Tag and its Variations

Based on the simple premise of chasing and catching, Tag is one of the most common and enjoyable games around the world. It’s great for giving players an opportunity to run around. There are tons of creative and cultural variations to Tag, which may be known as Tip, Tig, Dobby and Chasey. To play, simply choose an “It”, who counts to a set number before chasing others. When It tags a player, that person becomes the new It. Some play with a safe, tag-free Base.

Try these variations of Tag:

Freeze Tag

Once players are tagged by It, they are frozen and must stay perfectly still. They become unfrozen when another player runs up to them and tags them. If a frozen player moves before being unfrozen, and is seen and called by It, that player is out of the round.

Statue Tag

On offshoot of Freeze Tag – When tagged, players freeze in an especially dramatic pose, like a statue, and stay there until tagged again to be free.

Blob Tag

Once a player is tagged by It, the two join arms and become a blob, which chases players together to try to tag them. Other players who are tagged also join arms and become part of the blob. Some play that when the blob reaches four people, one splits off to become a new blob. The last person standing alone becomes the new It.

Octopus Tag

You’ll need: a soft ball or rolled-up pair of socks, optional, a playing area marked with two ends

Players all start at one end of the playing area. It, in the middle, calls, “Fishes, come swim in my ocean!” Players try to run toward the other side without being tagged or having a ball successfully thrown at them by It. Once tagged, players become tentacles, who stand in the spot where they are tagged, but stretch their arms in an effort to help tag others. Players who reach one side can be “safe” or can proceed back to the other side. The last person standing becomes the new It.

Slow Tip: Try Octopus Tag in a swimming pool.

Pizza Tag

Choose two players as It. The remaining players start at one end of the playing area and count off, in order, “Pepperoni”, “Mushrooms”, “Sausage”, “Olives” and “Cheese”. The two Its, or Pizza Makers, take turns calling a topping. Players who are that topping try to run past the pizza makers to the other side of the playing area, where they are safe. Once tagged, players sit or stand, and stretch their arms in an effort to help tag others. Players who reach one side can be “safe” or can proceed back to the other side. The last two people standing become the new pizza makers.

T.V. Tag

When players see It approaching, they must crouch down and say the name of a TV show to be safe. Show names can only be used once per round. If a player can’t think of a TV show in time, he or she is It. It must move once a player crouches down. You can also play with Girls’ names, Fruits, Animals, any category you’d like.

Everybody’s It

Everybody is It, meaning anyone can chase and tag anyone else. If a player is tagged, he or she “freezes” by bending over forward. Players can un-freeze the frozen by running through the hoops they make with their bodies. This game usually ends when everyone is tired.

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Looking for other fun backyard games and ideas? Check out the Backyard Games Series. I’m proud to be a participant with the following bloggers:

- See more at: http://www.pisforpreschooler.com/home/backyard-games-week-series#sthash.uwU1xYv2.dpuf

- See more at: http://www.pisforpreschooler.com/home/backyard-games-week-series#sthash.uwU1xYv2.dpuf

- See more at: http://www.pisforpreschooler.com/home/backyard-games-week-series#sthash.uwU1xYv2.dpuf

These activities are adapted from Fed Up with Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World, which contains 300+ more fun family activities.

Backyard Games Week logo: Philanthropy in Motion

Photos: Susan Sachs Lipman, http://www.healthpostt.com/, wikimedia commons Rademenes777

Other Slow Family posts you might like:

It’s Time for Summer Backyard Family Fun
12 Fun Family Activities for Screen-Free Week
8 Fun Things to do While it’s Still Summer
Recess: Playground and Jump Rope Games
Slow Nature: Have a Cloud Race

 

12 Fun Family Activities for Screen-Free Week

When I speak to families about slowing down and enjoying family time, one of the things that comes up over and over is screen time. Screens dominate many of our lives, often to a greater degree than we wish. While many of us parents can attest to the addictive nature of technology, we struggle with ways to reduce it in our children’s lives.

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It is perhaps a bonus, then, that the wonderful Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has proclaimed May 5-11 to be Screen-Free Week. Sometimes this kind of added incentive is all we need to inspire us to action. More than once, parents have told me that their children’s favorite memories include episodes of family game nights by fire- or candlelight during power outages. You can create your own “power outage” by participating in Screen-Free Week. And, even if you don’t go completely screen-free, you might want to pledge an hour or so a day or night to have some good screen-free fun. Who knows? That fun might just become a habit or your own favorite family memory.

Here are 12 ways to celebrate Screen Free Week:

Make a Paper Boat and sail it in a creek, pond or bathtub.

Make a Bird Feeder. Our local birds have gone nuts for ours and we plan to make more.

Make easy Wreaths, Crowns and Baskets to celebrate May Day and spring.

Enjoy Loom and Finger Weaving. You can do this anywhere!

Keep a Moon Diary as a way of observing the night sky.

Slow your pace and have a Cloud Race.

Get a jump on summer by making S’Mores. Camp under the stars if it’s warm enough.

Start a Backyard Garden.

Bake your own Soft Pretzels. These are really easy and fun.

Play a different fun board game every night. We like Boggle, Sorry, Taboo, Pictionary, Scrabble, Mancala, Masterpiece, Monopoly and Hi-Ho Cherry O.

Discover The Joy of Quiet.

And, if you’re really missing your screen? Make your own Shoebox TV!

You’ll need:

Shoebox or a square-shaped box and lid
Cardboard tubes, from paper towels, foil or plastic wrap, or wooden dowels
4-10 pieces of printer paper (8 ½ x 11”)
Drawing materials
Scissors, craft knife and tape

Cut a large opening for the TV screen into the bottom of the box, leaving an even border of 1” or more all around.

Holding the box horizontally, cut two holes on the top, each about 2” the side and 2” back from the cut-out section. Your dowels or cardboard tubes should fit into the holes.

Cut two bottom holes that line up with the top ones.

Cut the cardboard tubes, if necessary, so that about ½ “ sticks out on the bottom and 1-2” on top.

Decide on a story you want to tell that primarily uses pictures.

Place the paper horizontally (cutting, if necessary, to fit the tube length) and draw one picture on each page, adding words, if desired. Leave at least 1” on each paper edge and at least 2” on the left edge of the first picture and the right edge of the last picture.

Lay the pictures out, left to right, in the order they will appear. Turn them over and, keeping the order, run a piece of tape down each back seam where two pictures come together.

Tape each end of the paper story scroll around a tube or dowel and roll on the back sides of the scroll, so that the paper image is at the front of the tubes and the paper is tight and sized to the box.

Place the tubes into the holes and place the lid on the back. Decorate the front of the TV, if desired.

Gently turn the tubes to make the pictures move.

Slow Tip: You can also use images from magazines or comic-books to create your story.

You can make multiple story scrolls and change them through the back of the box. In doing so, you’ll join nearly every ancient civilization in telling stories using scrolls, starting with the Egyptians, who created them on papyrus.

The Shoebox TV craft is adapted from Fed Up with Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World, which contains 300+ more ways to enjoy screen-free family fun.

You might enjoy these related posts from Slow Family Online:

Eight Fun Things to Do While It’s Still Summer

Six Fun Family Activities to Enjoy This Weekend

Hooray for Low-Tech Toys

Graphic: Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood, Photos: Susan Sachs Lipman

12 Fun Family Activities for Screen Free Week

When I speak to families about slowing down and enjoying family time, one of the things that comes up over and over is screen time. Screens dominate many of our lives, often to a greater degree than we wish. While many of us parents can attest to the addictive nature of technology, we struggle with ways to reduce it in our children’s lives.

It is perhaps a bonus, then, that the wonderful Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has proclaimed April 29 – May 5 to be Screen-Free Week. Sometimes this kind of added incentive is all we need to inspire us to action. More than once, parents have told me that their children’s favorite memories include episodes of family game nights by fire- or candlelight during power outages. You can create your own “power outage” by participating in Screen-Free Week. And, even if you don’t go completely screen-free, you might want to pledge an hour or so a day or night to have some good screen-free fun. Who knows? That fun might just become a habit or your own favorite family memory.

Here are 12 ways to celebrate Screen Free Week:

Make a Paper Boat and sail it in a creek, pond or bathtub.

Make a Bird Feeder. Our local birds have gone nuts for ours and we plan to make more.

Make easy Wreaths, Crowns and Baskets to celebrate May Day.

Enjoy Loom and Finger Weaving. You can do this anywhere!

Keep a Moon Diary as a way of observing the night sky.

Slow your pace and have a Cloud Race.

Get a jump on summer by making S’Mores. Camp under the stars if it’s warm enough.

Start a Backyard Garden.

Bake your own Soft Pretzels. These are really easy and fun.

Play a different fun board game every night. We like Boggle, Sorry, Taboo, Pictionary, Scrabble, Mancala, Masterpiece, Monopoly and Hi-Ho Cherry O.

Discover The Joy of Quiet.

And, if you’re really missing your screen? Make your own Shoebox TV!

You’ll need:

Shoebox or a square-shaped box and lid
Cardboard tubes, from paper towels, foil or plastic wrap, or wooden dowels
4-10 pieces of printer paper (8 ½ x 11”)
Drawing materials
Scissors, craft knife and tape

Cut a large opening for the TV screen into the bottom of the box, leaving an even border of 1” or more all around.

Holding the box horizontally, cut two holes on the top, each about 2” the side and 2” back from the cut-out section. Your dowels or cardboard tubes should fit into the holes.

Cut two bottom holes that line up with the top ones.

Cut the cardboard tubes, if necessary, so that about ½ “ sticks out on the bottom and 1-2” on top.

Decide on a story you want to tell that primarily uses pictures.

Place the paper horizontally (cutting, if necessary, to fit the tube length) and draw one picture on each page, adding words, if desired. Leave at least 1” on each paper edge and at least 2” on the left edge of the first picture and the right edge of the last picture.

Lay the pictures out, left to right, in the order they will appear. Turn them over and, keeping the order, run a piece of tape down each back seam where two pictures come together.

Tape each end of the paper story scroll around a tube or dowel and roll  on the back sides of the scroll, so that the paper image is at the front of the tubes and the paper is tight and sized to the box.

Place the tubes into the holes and place the lid on the back. Decorate the front of the TV, if desired.

Gently turn the tubes to make the pictures move.

Slow Tip: You can also use images from magazines or comic-books to create your story.

You can make multiple story scrolls and change them through the back of the box. In doing so, you’ll join nearly every ancient civilization in telling stories using scrolls, starting with the Egyptians, who created them on papyrus.

The Shoebox TV craft is adapted from Fed Up with Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World, which contains 300+ more ways to enjoy screen-free family fun.

 Related posts from Slow Family Online:

Eight Fun Things to Do While It’s Still Summer

Six Fun Family Activities to Enjoy This Weekend

Hooray for Low-Tech Toys

Graphic: Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood, Photos: Susan Sachs Lipman

Which Monopoly Token Should Be Replaced?

Which Monopoly token would you replace? That’s the question that Hasbro, maker of the popular 80-year-old game, is putting before its fans, many of whom, while having a favorite, can’t imagine the game without all eight of the current tokens:  race car, top hat, Scottie dog, shoe, wheelbarrow, iron, battleship and thimble. Of those, the wheelbarrow and the Scottie dog are relative newcomers, having joined the game in 1952. The others have been in play since shortly after the game was first marketed (originally using dyed wooden pawn pieces) in 1935.

Some tokens have come and gone over the years. A lantern, purse and rocking horse made it through the early period only to be replaced by the wheelbarrow, Scottie and a bucking bronco. A cannon entered the canon. (Many of us probably remember the cannon and the bronco.) An airplane briefly took flight. A bag of money appeared more recently. More than 20 Monopoly tokens have been made over the years.

Eric Nyman, senior vice president for Hasbro, maker of the board game that is played in 111 countries and has more custom editions than we can count, says that, while he acknowledged that “the tokens are one of the most iconic parts of the Monopoly game and we know that people are emotionally tied to their favorite one,” the new token will be “more representative of today’s Monopoly players.” The new pieces under consideration are a diamond ring, guitar, robot, cat or helicopter.

You can vote for your favorite tokens, new and old, on the Monopoly Facebook page until February 5. The winning token will be produced later this year.

Those who don’t like this change take heart: This 75th anniversary circular Monopoly board, which replaced the game’s traditional paper money with debit cards, didn’t seem to gain any traction.

Early Monopoly History

In my opening paragraph, I wrote that the Monopoly was first marketed in 1935. Its invention, however, goes back to 1904, to The Landlord’s Game, which was invented and patented by Lizzie Magie, as a way to teach economics, taxation and “land grabbing”. The game was played quietly for years, around Pennsylvania in particular. The first person to write up the current Monopoly rules, and give the properties their names based on street names in Atlantic City, New Jersey, was Charles Darrow, who patented his own version of the game and sold it to Parker Brothers. Parker Brothers eventually bought off Lizzie Magie for $500. Read more on two fascinating Landlord’s Game and Monopoly history sites.

Games that Help Kids Learn About Money

Although financial acumen is most likely a bi-product of Monopoly, rather than a goal, there is certainly much kids can learn by playing. Math, counting, reading, planning, budgeting, decision making, and negotiating all come into play, along with a little luck. There can even be an important role-play dimension, if players take the original “landlord” intent of the game seriously.

These are five lessons Monopoly teaches about finance.

Here are more games that help kids learn about money and business. Games and toys that help with role-play, such as toy money, order pads, paper to create menus and signs, cash registers, and sale items (such as art supplies or plastic food) are also terrific, because they help kids learn many interpersonal skills, in addition to financial ones. Many kids gravitate toward playing “store” or “restaurant”.

 What Does Your Monopoly Token Reveal About You?

All this talk of tokens made me wonder if a player’s choice of Monopoly token holds a clue to his or her personality. According to Philip Orbanes, author of the forthcoming book, Monopoly, Money, and You, it does. Find out what your Monopoly token reveals about you.

I must admit, as a (mostly) “hat” player, I was accurately captured.

Photos: Hasbro, UnderConsideration.com (Landlord’s Game)

 

8 Fun Things to Do While It’s Still Summer

Although school has started or will soon start for many, Fall doesn’t officially begin until September 22. That still leaves plenty of time to get outside and enjoy some of summer’s simple pleasures.

Whistle with a blade of grass

This classic pastime is fun to do when sitting in the grass with friends or family, or even by yourself.

Find the widest blade of grass you can. It should also be long and relatively thick.

Hold your thumbs upright, so they face toward you and touch at the knuckles and tips.

Place the grass between your thumbs, holding it so that the piece of grass is taut and there is a little air on each side of it.

Purse your lips so that a small but strong bit of air comes out of their center and blow into the opening where the grass is.

Make a daisy chain

This is a charming activity to do while relaxing in a grassy meadow or field. If you’d like, make your chain into a necklace or crown.

You’ll need:

• Small daisylike flowers (pick only from grassy fields where they are in profusion, as it may not be okay to pick flowers in some protected areas.)
• Pin (your fingernail will work as well)

Carefully prick a pin or fingernail into the daisy’s stem, approximately
1/3 of the way down from the flower.

Gently thread a second daisy stem through the hole, taking care not to break it. The second flower head now rests atop the first stem.

Continue to add daisies to the chain, until you have achieved a length you like. Attach the ends, if desired.

Catch fireflies

They’re called fireflies, lightening bugs, glowworms, and moon bugs. They wink at us with their intermittent glow in darkening skies on humid nights. For many, seeing and catching them is the ultimate summer nature experience.

You’ll need:
• Flashlight
• Net
• Clear, lidded jar, with a few holes punched into the lid, using a hammer and nail— if you don’t have a lid, use plastic wrap, punched with small holes and secured with a rubber band
• Leaves or a moistened paper towel, placed at the bottom of the jar

Find a humid environment— the best are fields or forests with bodies of water nearby, although fireflies are also found in parks and backyards. Though fireflies live all over the world, they are rare in the western United States.

Turn off all surrounding lights, if possible. Let your eyes adjust to the dark.

If you don’t see fireflies, turn a flashlight on and off in a flashing motion to attract one.

When you spot a firefly, place the net over it and gently transfer it into the jar.

You may be able to catch it right in the jar. Fireflies are not dangerous to touch, but be careful not to crush them.

Keep your fireflies for a short time, releasing them again the same or the next night, to ensure their survival.

Skip a stone

Learning to skip stones takes a lot of practice and perseverance, but it’s an impressive skill once you master it.

Find a calm body of water.

Find a smooth, flat, lightweight stone. The flatness will allow it to skip; the lightness will allow it to be tossed a long way.

Balance near the water and fling the stone with the wrist, as you would a Frisbee.

Try to have the stone enter the water at a 20° angle. If the angle is smaller, the stone will bounce but lose energy. If the angle is bigger, the stone will sink.

Keep practicing!

Play tag in a park

There are so many fun tag games, you needn’t limit yourself to basic tag. Try this fun variation:

Blob Tag

Once a player is tagged by the person who is “it,” the two join arms and become a blob, which chases players together to try to tag them. Other players who are tagged also join arms and become part of the blob. Some play a version in which, when the blob reaches four people, two split off to become a new blob. The last person standing alone becomes the new “it.”

Camp in your backyard

Camping out in sleeping bags is fun any time of year— in a backyard, on a porch or balcony, even on the living-room floor. Wherever you roll out the sleeping bags, enjoy some traditional camp activities:

Sing traditional or silly campfire songs like Go Bananas, She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain, Boom Chicka Boom, and Rose Rose.

Make shadow puppets by shining a flashlight onto a tent or house wall. Hold your hands between the light and the wall in various shapes like these:

Rabbit— Make a fist with one hand. Place the other palm
over it and make a peace sign (for ears) with two fingers.

Hawk— Link your thumbs together, with your hands facing
away from you. Stretch out your fingers and hands and flutter
them like wings.

Make s’mores, banana boats, hobo popcorn and other classic camp treats.

Gaze at the Stars

With its possibilities for clear skies and warm nights, summer often offers the best opportunities to get out and gaze at the stars. Begin to get to know the night sky by locating a few key constellations, like the Big Dipper (visible over much of the Northern Hemisphere in summer) and orienting toward those. The Big Dipper appears like a ladle (bowl) and handle. To find the North Star (Polaris), extend an imaginary line up from the top corner of the ladle that is furthest from the handle. Polaris is in turn on the handle of the Little Dipper, which appears upside down and facing the opposite direction from the Big Dipper. (In the Southern Hemisphere, orient to the Southern Cross.) If possible, buy a portable star chart or get acquainted with the major constellations in your area and season. Consult your chart to find other stars and constellations, based on the ones you’ve already found.

Make summer fruit jam

Head to a farm, backyard or market while summer fruit is at its ripest, and pick your favorite peaches, apricots, plums, figs or berries and then make them into jam. If you’ve never tried canning, you may discover a terrific new hobby as you make family memories and lovely jars of jewel-colored jam that you’ll be able to give as gifts or open in the depths of midwinter to remind you of sunny summer.

These activities and more can be found in Fed Up with Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World.

Photos: Susan Sachs Lipman, Public Domain

 

CLIF Kid Backyard Game of the Year Playoffs Sat. 7/14 in San Francisco

For the second year in a row, the CLIF Kid Backyard Game of the Year Contest inspired kids from 6-12 to create the ultimate slow games, ones that can be played outdoors with simple or minimal equipment, like hula hoops, balls, or household items.

Last year’s winner, 9-year-old Sara from Plaistow, N.H. (shown here with Julie Foudy, three-time Olympic soccer medalist) created a Sponge Ball Fill-Up Game. You can even download instructions to play!

This year, there are six finalists in the CLIF Kid Backyard Game of the Year Playoffs, and the public is invited to Marina Green in San Francisco to play their six imaginative games: North Pole South Pole, Footloose Derby, Dance Tag, Tortoise and the Hare Ball, Sidewalk Chalk Adventure and Zombie Hunt. The finalists will be competing for a $10,000 educational scholarship, among other prizes. The Playoffs will take place Saturday, July 14 from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.

The games will be judged by an expert panel that includes Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods and The Nature Principle and Founding Chairman of the Children & Nature Network, Olympic Gold Medalist Jonny Moseley, and Emmy Award-winning CBS 5 journalist Dana King.

The event is free to the public and the first 200 kids will receive a free T-shirt. There will also be live entertainment and organic snacks from CLIF Kid.

Marina Green is in San Francisco at Marina Blvd., between Scott and Webster Streets.

Here are some photos from last year’s Playoffs. And here’s to playing simple, original games outdoors!

Photos: CLIF Kid

 

6 Fun Family Activities to Enjoy This Weekend

For many, Memorial Day Weekend signifies the beginning of the summer season and a return to outdoor fun. Here are a few great activities that will help you make the most of it.

Make and Fly a Popsicle Stick Airplane

Everyone loves to make and fly airplanes, and the rounded popsicle-stick ends on these make for a fairly safe, satisfying, and easily assembled flying machine.

You’ll need: 5 popsicle or craft sticks per plane.

Stack three popsicle sticks and then fan them out so that one end of each stick is still touching the others. Glue the tops together. Weave a fourth popsicle stick over the first stick, under the middle stick, and over the third stick in the triangle. Weave a fifth popsicle stick the opposite way—under the first stick, over the middle stick, and under the third stick in the triangle. If desired, add a dot of glue at each juncture for extra security, and let the glue dry. Paint your airplane or leave it natural. Take it outside and fly as you would a paper airplane. Hold the middle stick and try to launch it decisively and parallel to the ground.

Camp in Your Backyard

Camping out in sleeping bags is fun any time of year—in a backyard, on a porch or balcony, even on the living-room floor. Play low-tech games, like cards and charades. Make traditional camp treats, like s’mores. If you’re outside, enjoy a game of flashlight tag, played by tagging players with beams of light.

Make Patriotic Cookies

These red, white and blue cookies are festive and fun to make anytime. Enjoy the creative process and enjoy the response when you bring them to a party or potluck. In addition, they taste particularly yummy!

Paint and Plant a Flower Pot

Looking for a simple garden project or a teacher or other gift? Paint a clay flower pot with tempera paint. Let it dry, fill with dirt, and plant your favorite plant or seed inside. You can also cover a pot with seed packets or other paper products and attach them with adhesive material, such as Mod Podge.

Get Your Garden Growing

Memorial Day Weekend can be a great one to get into the garden. There are fun gardening projects to interest every age gardener and lots of easy ways to get a garden started, even if you’ve never been much of a green thumb.

Play an Old-Fashioned Outdoor Game

Will you be with a group of people over the weekend? Get outside and play an old-fashioned game, like Hide and Seek, Duck Duck Goose or Tag. Or play Pickup Sticks with real twigs!

You’ll need: Approximately 41 twigs.

Hold the twigs in a bundle, then release them so that they land in a pile. Players take turns trying to remove one stick at a time, without disturbing any other sticks. When a stick from the pile is disturbed, the next player takes a turn. Some players use a designated stick to remove other sticks. When all the sticks have been removed from the pile, players total their numbers of sticks to determine the winner.

Enjoy your weekend!

Photos: Susan Sachs Lipman, VA State Parks

Celebrating 100 Years of the Mill Valley Library

 

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of participating in an old-fashioned party to celebrate my wonderful town’s library, which turned 100 years old. Originally built as a Carnegie Library, in what is now a stately brick house, the Mill Valley Public Library has grown from an institution with 750 donated books to one with 132,000 books, a digital collection, a team of librarians, and live offerings almost every day it’s open, from noted local authors to pre-school story times, to performances outdoors and in. No wonder our library thrives while others around the country are forced to close. Hundreds of visitors per day find it relevant and exciting, a true community hub.

It was terrific then, and very fitting, to honor the library’s Centennial with a gathering in the grove of redwoods that adjoins it. There was a free and continual program of old-time music, a birthday cake, announcements and proclamations, sodas and hot dogs, crafts, library trivia contests, and games, which I led with Research Librarian Cara Brancoli and which, in keeping with the historical spirit, included Tug-of-War, Three-Legged Races, Sack Races, and Egg-and-Spoon Races. We also had jacks and hula hoops out for free play. Wonderfully, many children, especially the smaller ones, rolled the hoops, just as children may have done 100 years ago.

It was truly lovely and warm (in spirit, if not temperature.) Liz Greer of Mill Valley Life took some wonderful photos that really captured the event, as did Hans Roenau in the Mill Valley Patch.

Photos: Top, Liz Greer. Bottom, Ken Friedman. Others: Susan Sachs Lipman

 

 

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