Outside Games and Activities for Bored Children
Climbing a Tree
No Batteries Necessary
I remember telling my mother that I was bored. She immediately found some chores for me to do and I never used the “b” word again. Instead, if I was bored I went out to find things to do. And there are so many things kids can do to entertain themselves. I think the concept has been lost somehow. Here are just a few of the games and activities I used to do on a long afternoon. How many of these do you remember?
Do you remember like I do, a rousing game of hopscotch with your sisters or friends? I remember it taught me balance and agility and tested my competitiveness. It is physically exerting and yet not exhausting like running or even hiking. A piece of sidewalk chalk and you are there.
For those who have forgotten the rules, each contestant using a distinctive stone or bean bag throws their marker on a number starting with 1 and ending with 10. They then must jump on one foot, on all the squares except the one with the marker while keeping balance. If in throwing the marker, they miss the number they are throwing at, they miss a turn. Markers on the line don’t count.
Kick the Can
I used to love this game in the summer evenings after the sun went down. We used an old coffee can for the home base and someone was “it” protecting the can. The IT person had to detect and call each of their friends, sneaking up on the can, while his/her foot was on the can. When a person was “called” they were put in “jail” unless someone else was able to sneak up undetected by IT and kick the can. This set everyone free. When everyone is called then the first person caught is the new IT.
I remember we kicked the heck out of Mom’s old coffee cans and loved every minute. I even learned how to detect people when I virtually couldn’t see by noticing the movement of shadows against the streetlights. It was later discovered that I was technically blind and needed corrective glasses. That makes me even more proud of the nights that I was able to catch all my friends and siblings at Kick the Can.
Okay, this takes me back. I was just about 5 when Hoola Hoops first came out and I could really make that thing turn. Later when I was a Preteen, the “Shoop, shoop, Hoola Hoops” came out and it was back in fashion. I don’t think they have ever really gone out of vogue since then. I find you can still get them at most Dollar Stores. The point is that they are good exercise and surprisingly entertaining. Try using more than one and keeping it going at the waist, nice and upper thigh.
Whether roller skates, roller blades, ice skates or skateboards are used, skating is excellent exercise and lots of fun. Participants can skate in groups or all by themselves. They can just get where they are going or do tricks. However, these days it is recommended to wear protective knee and headgear. When I was a preteen, we had little pavement nearby our home and only a cement patio was skate worthy. In just that short patio space, though, my sister managed to lose her balance and fall, breaking her thumb. So caution is advised.
Not exactly a game but definitely an activity: Riding a bicycle is great exercise and good clean fun. If you have somewhere to ride, it is great. This is something that can be done in groups or singly. My mother used to send me up the street to buy fresh bread and I felt very adventurous on just that short trek up the road. Today, we must be sure of our neighborhoods and our children to let them go very far on a bike. It is almost better to go out in groups only so we are sure of our children’s safety. Also, it is wise to buy protective headgear for your bike rider.
Climb a Tree
What better exercise than to climb a tree and see the world from a different perspective. Children are natural climbers. I know mine was. They often climbed up on cabinets and bookcases and I was happy to send them outside to the trees. If you have the right equipment and the time maybe you could plan a treehouse.
Make sure your trees are strong enough for climbing and designate which ones are and aren’t to be climbed, for safety.
Outside vs Inside
Do you believe the children of today are missing something because they have access to electronic games for entertainment instead of playing outside.
Build a Fort
We lived near a wood dump where some construction had been done but the old wood had not been hauled off. I remember many happy afternoons dragging plywood panels from the stack and putting together our own make-shift fort. My sisters and I set up house, brought our dolls, and were in the middle of high tea when the burr-head boys from up the street came by. They wanted to join us in the fort. So we decided it would be okay if they wanted to be our husbands. The scoffed and spit and said basically no way. So we sent them on their way… no boys allowed. It’s funny how some things stick in your mind. However, our fort must have been something special if the burr-head boys wanted to join us in the first place.
At the end of the day, Dad made us dismantle our fort, and drag the old wood back to the pile. That fort was made and remade many times during that summer and the next and the next. Later we got a hold of some cardboard boxes that made much better, less splintery forts. We even got artistic and painted windows and curtains inside our fort. Our imaginations soared and our creativity with it. I still love the memory of fort building.
The summer is best for exercise and fun swimming. This is a great activity for children and should be done with someone acting as watcher/lifeguard. With supervision, your swimmer can swim alone or in a group. I remember we made up many swimming games.
We made up the mermaid game where you could only swim with your arms and torso. It was fun, but short-lived because it is exhausting to swim without using your legs.
We made up a toss game with several variations. We tossed colored rings into the pool and did a “ready, set, go” count down to all jump in and retrieve as many as possible from the bottom. The one with the most rings wins. Of course, my favorite was the money toss. My uncle would often come along and throw a handful of change into the water, count down and watch us all dive for the most money. We weren’t very graceful but we enjoyed ourselves immensely.
Fly a Kite
The hardest part is waiting for a breezy day, but when one comes, it’s time to fly a kite. Sometimes Dad would come home with a kite for each of us and sometimes we would spend a rainy day making our own, but either way, kite day was the best. We would often spend a long afternoon in the horse pasture away from any “kite-eating tree,” and clear into the evening flying our kites and watching them glide and dip at the end of our strings. My favorite memory was of my Dad running to help my brother get his kite aloft. It was such a fun sight.
It is unfortunate that we live in a day and age when our children cannot just go off walking anywhere they want. To go hiking today, you almost have to plan an outing, drive to the mountains or wilderness and bring a picnic lunch with you. However, these are some excellent enjoyable outings. I loved my time in the mountains away from the noise of the city, just listening to the birds and breeze in the tall trees, with my Dad beside me. Hiking can be the best game/memory maker a youngster engages in.
When hiking do forget to bring along the binoculars. I loved bird watching on those long walks in the woods. The birds were first and foremost unfamiliar to me till Dad pointed them out. Like John James Audubon, you have to get still and really look to see them in their natural habitat and when you do, it is amazing. Very educational as well as engaging. You never know where it may lead. Your child may develop a lifelong love for the woods, nature, and birds, through your time hiking.
Why not try a bird watching game. The one who sees and identifies the most birds wins. It encourages observation. My kids also liked collecting specimens of plants and weeds to press in books and identify later at home. I have a Nature Journal full of specimens and drawings from doing this myself.