Hide and Go Seek. Kick the Can. Hop Scotch. Red Rover. Mother, May I? Bike riding. Skating. Tree climbing. Jumping rope. These were some of the games and activities we used to entertain ourselves for hours on end.
Hide and Go Seek is a game that mimics predator and prey play. Someone hides, and someone else comes looking for them. The purser hides their eyes and counts to an agreed upon number before going on the hunt.
Kick the Can required only a used can Mom provided from the kitchen, often an empty soup can. The game was usually played in the driveway or street, and could involve any number of kids. It was soccer before any of us knew what soccer was.
Hop Scotch involved a driveway or sidewalk —often the sidewalk coming from the curb up the house—and the use of chalk. Starting on two feet, we’d have to hop on one foot for a couple of blocks, then get a 2-footed respite, then continue again to the 2-footed block on the other end. Developing both balance and rhythm were critical to success at hop scotching. Girls seemed especially good at it, and singing or chanting while doing so was not only accepted, but encouraged.
RED ROVER was a group activity. You needed at least six kids to play it, and eight or ten worked even better. Each side lined up facing the other, clasping hands with their teammates. One team would send a runner at the other team, which runner would crash in between two of the other team’s players, where their hands met. The runner tried to break the hands apart, while the defending team tried to stop the attack and catch the runner. If the runner broke through, they grabbed a player from the other team and took them back to join their team. If the runner didn’t break through, such runner was captured by the team that stopped them.
Mother, May I? That game involved one person exercising mother powers, while other kids asked permission to take steps toward the mother figure. It sounds kind of silly, and looking back, I suppose it was. “Mother, may I take a baby step?” The answer might be “yes, you may.” “Mother, may I take a giant step?” The answer might be “no, you may not.” It was a completely arbitrary game, but we played it anyway.
Bike riding, tree climbing, and skating were things one could do with others or by oneself. I logged many miles just biking for the sheer joy of feeling the wind in my face, and the pedals under my feet. Tree climbing was a way to get a look at the world from a much higher vantage point. Skates were attached to shoes, and tightened with a skate key. Then the skating required only a driveway, a sidewalk, or the street.
Jumping rope could be either a single or group activity. If there were at least three kids and a rope, two could swing the rope around, and the other kid or kids could run into the swinging rope and jump. Singing an appropriate song was encouraged. If one was by himself or herself, a single jump rope would do.
All these activities kept us healthy, developed our bodies, gave us rhythm, strength, and enhanced hand and eye coordination. Childhood obesity was rare in those days, and we ate a lot of sugar and fat in those days.
Kids playing outside and using little in the way of props was one of the things parents and kids of the 1950s and 1960s really got right.
© 2011, Jim “Pappy” Moore, All Rights Reserved.
Jim “Pappy” Moore is a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home. firstname.lastname@example.org