Crayon Games

We play a lot of games around our house, and having little or no attention span among us, it behooves us to try and come up with new – and hopefully exciting – ones all the time. One new one that we started playing last week was inspired by an actual computer game that we tested out, but it can be just as fun at home in reality. It’s a crayon game, and all you need is a large sheet of paper and a crayon or two.

As a side note, the reason we use a crayon and not a pen, pencil, or marker is nothing all that deep; crayons just look cooler.
Basically, what we do is draw a small round object – let’s call it “The Ball” – and try and get it to hit a certain spot on the paper, abstractly and “visually”, inside our heads, using levers, pullies, and things we draw dropping from the sky. All the rules of Nature apply in this game, meaning we can’t “pretend” that a magical square can rise up from the ground. Having said that, if we want to DRAW the ground, that’s O.K.

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Bike Rides with Your Kids

As a parent, there are very few things that I enjoy doing with my daughter more than going on bike rides. And I think it’s something she’s always going to remember. We do all sorts of things while on bike rides, and bike rides with your kids can turn into some fun games.

Usually, we’ll start out not even knowing where we’re going to end up. I let her go just in front of me so I can see exactly what she’s doing, yet still be able to catch up with her quickly in case of a car coming or some kind of emergency.

We like to turn these rides into games, such as: We pretend that we’re explorers on a huge mission, trying to find the source of rivers or streams. Following trail after trail through the woods, we actually do find the sources of these bodies of water from time to time. And even when we don’t, we still end up finding other fun treasures along the way.

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Memory Games

Looking for something to do with your family that will be educational without being incredibly boring? Sick of the old, simple card games that you’ve played a million times? I understand; you can only play Go Fish so many times before you start to develop an unusual distaste for it. Well, there’s a couple memory games we play around our house – both with cards and without – that are really fun and stimulate the brain.

Don’t throw away the cards just yet. Have you ever played “Memory” with them? (we called it “Concentration” when I was growing up) Just lay out all the cards – usually in rows and columns – out on the floor or table and take turns trying to find matches. You’ll be surprised how intuitive kids can be at this game; I thought I was good at it until I played my daughter and she actually beat me!

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Cheap Winter Games

Sledding, skiing, and snowmobiling. How fun, right? Of course. But some of us can’t afford those big toys quite yet, and until we can, we’re going to need
some cheap alternatives. Well, look no further: I have a couple ideas for things you can do with your kids that are cheap, fun, and occasionally
educational. Let’s call it Winter Games 2010. Throw your jackets on and get ready!

Can’t afford a sled? No problem! Slide down that hill with your kids on a big piece of cardboard. If you think that sounds silly, sure, maybe it is. But
it does work, and shouldn’t cost you a thing.

How about skiing? Wouldn’t it be fun to be able to stand UP while going down a crazy hill? Well, I have answer for that one, too. Take an empty gallon jug
(previously used for milk, etc.) and tape it up to your shoes. It’ll be slick, so be careful, but if done correctly, you should have no problem eventually
getting the hang of it. Forage around in the woods for a couple large, sturdy sticks that you can use for poles, and you’re gold.

Snowmobiling: you’re on you’re own.

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Snowball Fights

On the rare occasion I let my kids drag me outside during the harsh Wisconsin winter months, I will say that I end up enjoying it. Why? Because we have snowball fights, and some of them end up being fights to end all fights.

I have two girls and a boy. When I say “rare occasion”, I mean once a week or so (it’s cold up here!).

And this isn’t really about the ACTUAL snowball fights, since we all know how to do it. But we have a couple things we do to prepare for them and make them more exciting that I’d like to share with you.

Depending on how many are in your immediate family, you’ll want to make a “fort” or “shield” for each person…or if you’re going to have teams, take that into consideration. Find a good part of the yard that has a couple trees for obstacles, too. If the snow isn’t “packy”, you can bring out buckets of water to throw on it. That’ll make it perfect. Build up a shield that is about shoulder high, so when someone knees, their head is still protected. You’ll want it low enough so when they stand up, they can see the rest of the field and be able to throw the snowballs.

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Playing Tag

Winter is for board games in my family, as we don’t really get out much. That’s dad’s fault: snow and I have an agreement, and that agreement is that we just don’t like each other. So when summertime rolls around, it’s time to get out, destroying that cabin fever by doing thing in the yard. Playing tag is one great family thing to do together, and it blows off some steam while burning calories for us, and giving our children some exercise.

Don’t worry: I’m not going to sit here and “tell” you how to play tag; we all know how to do it. I just want to share with you a little deviation from the norm that we like to do.

I usually get the shortest straw, so I’m “it” first. So far, that’s pretty much standard in tag. And we set up a “base”, which is usually a bush or tree; something generally soft that you can dive into if needed.
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Playing King of the Hill

Does everyone remember playing King of the Hill back when we were kids? You know the one: you find a giant snowbank and ruthlessly fight to gain the throne at the top. I know in my neighborhood, the game had a tendency to get a little rough, especially if the bullies showed up. But we still play it around our house, and it can be a fun way to blow off some steam and even bond with your kids.
Last winter, we didn’t get to play as much, since it really didn’t snow a lot. But there were a couple times that we did. It’s great when you see that snow plow coming down the street, throwing everything to the side!
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Playing Hide and Seek

For anyone else out there with a small apartment, I’d like to share how I play hide and seek with my daughter (or is it “hide and GO seek”?…eh, who cares?).

First of all, I’ve found that it’s less about the GAME than it is just spending time with her. I certainly don’t want to get preachy here – since I’m only talking about a silly childhood game – but it seems to matter less WHAT we do than with WHOM we’re doing it. Just giving them some of our so-called precious time seems to do wonders for their attitude and confidence. I mean, if we as parents don’t want to play with them, what is that telling them?
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How to Play Dodgeball

Does everyone remember playing this game back in grade school? My guess is that it’s gotten to be a big deal again, ever since the movie with Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller. But it’s weird: back when I was young, there seemed to be a few different variations of it, with one of them being called “Trench”. Let’s begin:

I’ll skip the version of the one they played in the movie and move right into what we called Trench. It was basically very similar to Vince’s version, except that when you got hit by the ball, you went to the OTHER side of the court (on the other side of the opposing team) and were in the “trench”. You had a chance to get yourself back “IN” and back into the game if you could peg another person. But if you were still in the trench when there was only one person “IN”, you were done. Game over.
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Bobbing for Apples

Is it winter? Look outside and let me know. In fact, go outside in shorts and a t-shirt and see how you feel. It makes you sad sometimes, doesn’t it? It does to me, which is why we have a ritual around our house during these “Cabin Fever” months. Every Saturday night, the kids, the wife, and I all get together and play games. One of them – and I’m not joking – is bobbing for apples. Sort of. I’ll explain:

Everyone knows the “standard” way to play this old game, of course: you put apples into a big tub, usually filled with water, and everyone takes turns “bobbing” for them. Bobbing I suppose means trying to grab as many as you can with your teeth.

But that’s boring. And I don’t even like apples.
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