We’ve all faced this scene on one occasion or another. The sun is shining, the sky is blue, the birds are singing in the tree tops — but our kids are slumped on the couch with their cellphones, playing Candy Crush.
Fear not. Here’s a selection of timeless alternate games for both fair weather and foul, guaranteed to bring a smile to their faces — and perhaps even a flush to their cheeks.
Games can bring people together, provide excitement and intrigue and pass the time. What are you waiting for?
They may drag their heels, but once outside they’ll quickly feel the benefits. Here’s a selection of old favorites that will bring a rosy glow to your kids’ faces, help them work off excess energy and fill them with happy endorphins.
Hide-and-seek is the mother of all games. One person starts counting, with their back to the other players. Fifty? One hundred? The choice is yours, but the players must hide before the counting is over. When the counter reaches the magic number it’s time to go seek. Where has everyone hidden? When all players are found, the game ends. The first player to be found now takes a turn to count and it goes around again.
Pro-tip: count your children before and after playing …
2. Kick the Can
Here’s a classic variant on Hide-and-Seek. In this version of the game, it still counts and the other players hide — but this time, when each player is found they are sent to jail. This is where the can comes in. The can is placed near to the jail. If a player who has not been caught can only reach the can and kick it before being seen they can free all the other players.
Pro-tip: choose an empty can to avoid explosions …
This fish-related fun game is an inverted version of Hide-and-Seek. To get this started, just one player hides while all the others count. When they reach the magic number, they fan out in search of the missing player. When each person finds the hiding place, they join the hidden player, each in turn squeezing in, like sardines in a can. The game ends when the last child finds all the sardines or when there’s no one left to look.
Pro-tip: the game lasts longer with more than two players …
4. What Time is it, Mr. Fox?
This one is all about listening, counting and running. No, your kids are absolutely not allowed to check their cellphone for the time. They must ask Mr. Fox.
“Mr. Fox” stands at one end of the space with his (or her) back to the others. They call out: “What time is it, Mr. Fox?” Without turning around, Mr. Fox calls back a time: “It’s six o’clock!” and the kids move six steps towards Mr. Fox. “It’s four o’clock!” They move forward four steps. So far, so good.
Here’s the catch. At any time, Mr. Fox may answer “Midnight!” When he does, he must turn and try to catch any of the kids near to him before they can run back to safety. If Mr. Fox succeeds in catching someone, that player now becomes a fox and joins with him. The game continues until all the players have been converted into foxes.
It’s all in the timing, however: if the kids reach Mr. Fox before he calls Midnight, they win and poor old Fox is out.
Pro-tip: add a frisson of danger by swapping out Mr. Fox with Mr. Wolf, who calls out “Dinner time!” …
It may be raining or snowing outside but that does not mean resorting to screens. Here are a few classic indoor games to keep your clan amused.
1. Pin the tail on the donkey
An ageless game for groups or parties. You’re going to need a picture of a donkey right from the get go. Only, don’t finish that picture. Leave the tail off. Now each kid takes a turn to pin a tail on that donkey. What’s the catch? They are all blindfolded. The child wins who gets their tail closest to the donkey’s tail end. You can also offer a special prize to the child who pins the farthest away.
Pro-tip: Don’t actually pin — use scotch tape or sticky tack. Kids, blindfolds and sharp points don’t play well together …
Mancala Games have been played for centuries. If you’re looking for a classic game that is a little more cerebral then look no further. A game for two players, Mancala is a game of strategy. Stones are picked up distributed one by one around a wooden board. Your child will strengthen math and problem-solving skills.
Pro-tip: Why not replace the stones with healthy raisins to add a little temptation?
The most despicable card game and guaranteed to keep a horde of kids giggling for hours. Here’s how it’s played.
All the cards in a deck are dealt between the players. Now each player examines their hand and takes it in turns to lay down cards in sequence. For example, if the first player has one ace, he or she lays it face down and declares “one ace”. If the player has three aces, they can lay all three down and declare them. The next player must add cards of the same number or move up to seven. And so it goes around.
What happens if a player does not have any cards of the right number? Well then, they must cheat. They can lay any cards down and make a declaration, whether or not it is true. The other players must decide whether to “call it” or let it slide. If a player’s move is found to be a cheat, that player has to pick up all the cards. The winner is the first to lose all their cards. Pro tip: try not cheating, just to mix it up.