It is a happy talent to know how to play.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
“There’s nothing to do. I’m bored!” As parents, we’ve all heard that complaint. These days, technology is often our default solution to the problem of boredom, but it hasn’t always been so. Previously, children were generally expected to entertain themselves; play was their answer.
Creative play seems to be a universally human activity dating back thousands of years. Children in ancient Egypt, Rome, and Greece played many of the same games children play today. Play may seem trivial, but through it, children learn skills and conquer fears, furthering childhood development
. Play, for both adults and children, allows its participants a temporary respite from daily life. A playful mindset can be an antidote to modern day stress.
Play can also be a valuable bridge for relationships. What child doesn’t adore a parent or grandparent who is willing to suspend adulthood for a classic game of Hide and Go Seek or Go Fish? Playing with children is a deeply intimate activity that strengthens bonds while transferring our culture and values. Think back to your favorite childhood games or the games your parents played – games like Kick the Can, Tag, Sardines, or Red Light, Green Light. At Bright Horizons, we wholeheartedly believe in the value of play for families. In this article, we offer a round-up of old school games to play with children that are worth reviving.
Games for Anytime
There’s real value in games you can play anywhere – the doctor’s office, while you’re stuck in traffic, or waiting in line at the grocery store. These games are relatively quiet, quick, and require no materials. Celebrity, similar to the game Animal, Vegetable, Mineral, is an old favorite. One child thinks of a famous character from a book or movie. The other players must ask questions about the character, such as “Where does this character live?” or “What does this character enjoy doing?” until the players can guess the celebrity’s identity.
In the classic game Telephone, one player thinks of a word or phrase and whispers it to another player, who whispers it to someone else. The game continues until the word has been shared with everyone. The last person says the word, which is usually very different than the original one. Other “anytime” games include I’m Going to Grandma’s or the Alphabet Game.
Children have always used pretend play
to make sense of their world. Pay attention to your child’s interests and offer a few props to get them started. Young children love acting out or using puppets to portray simple fairy tales, such as “The Three Billy Goats Gruff” or “The Three Pigs.” Older children can plan and develop their own plays.
Children love dramatic play with adult roles. One child who loved animals transformed dishtowels into bandages and set up a stuffed animal veterinary office. Transform old clothes, shoes, and hats into a costume box.
Silly active games offer a physical release to children, while teaching them skills like taking turns and following directions. During mild weather, head outside for some outdoor play
. Start a rousing game of Tag or Red Light, Green Light. Teach your child jump rope rhymes and games or use sidewalk chalk to make a hopscotch.
Indoors, children can play timeless old games like Charades, Hide and Go Seek, or Sardines
. How about Jacks, marbles, or the feather game (children blow a feather to try to keep it in the air)?
Keep a few classic games to play with children in your parenting arsenal. The next time you hear the familiar refrain, “I’m bored,” you’ll be prepared with simple, fun activities the whole family will enjoy.
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