Put the phones and tablets down (for a minute) and rip into some fun for all. Sweat and laughter included.
“Right, that’s it kids – time for a break from those damn phones and tablets. Get some exercise!”
“But Dad, you’ve been looking at your phone for an hour….”
“That’s completely different.”
“It just is!”
Well… not really.
At a recent barbecue at a park with several families I witnessed a flashback to a golden age of outside hijinks and larks.
The parents agreed that the kids “should do something” other than throw rocks at ducks in the pond and the kids reasonably asked for ideas. Some wanted to play soccer, there were a few badminton rackets lying around, but nothing everybody could or wanted to play.
And so it began. Parents and kids put their heads together and came up with some games some had never played or had almost forgotten about.
Some of the parents were admittedly inspired by hours of drinking delicious cask wine and beer in the sun. Other parents were less keen to actually have to do something themselves but the children had decided.
First the classic – Hide and Seek. Whoever was found then joined the original searcher to find the others. It was tweaked to be played like Tag, with a team of hiders and a team of seekers.
Spotting someone didn’t mean they were caught, they had to be tagged.
The sugar rush from chocolate snacks, juice and shiraz was starting to kick in.
Stuck in the Mud followed, this time with three people being “it”. Parents were an easy target although the more wily or exercise – shy participants were intentionally caught in order to be able to just stand around with their legs apart.
Still, fun stuff with everyone being able to participate.
“Next! What’s next?” came the cries, many of them from parents.
One couple had lived in Japan and their children introduced Kick the Can, which is a worldwide thing. Ridiculously easy to set up and play.
One person counts to a minute or whatever and an empty can or bottle is placed near them. Everyone else runs off to hide.
The goal is for those hiding to run to the can and kick it before the “IT” person sees them.
If the IT person spots someone they have to shout the person’s name and place their foot on the can. That person is out!
However if someone is able to kick the can before IT can eliminate them then IT has to do it all over again.
After trying a few rounds on a big open space, a 6 year old pointed out it would be more fun played near trees or buildings. She reasoned that would lend more places to hide behind.
Delirious with joy, parents demanded one more game but exhausted children insisted on going home. The next day was a school day after all.
However the families were onto something. Games were fun. Sure, in some cases alcohol made them more fun but it was something to think about for future get togethers.
What they discovered was a whole treasure chest of games just demanding to be at least tried.
Here’s a sample of some other games from around the world.
Kabaddi (originally from India)
Originating in Ancient India, Kabaddi is a big hit in South Asia and has a World Cup including teams from England, Iran, Kenya, Japan and the USA.
It’s also tailor made for family shindigs.
The rules are devilishly simple. Make two teams and divide a playing area into halves.
One member from a team runs into the other team’s territory. They have 30 seconds to tag as many opposing players as they can.
For every player they tag, they get a point.
Of course, there’s a catch.
They have to escape back to their territory/area without being tackled by the other team.
As fun as tackling someone is, there are also less violent options.
You could have the tagging person wearing a hat or cap which the other team must try to grab as the tagger runs back to safety.
Another version is giving the tagger a tail (long piece of string) dangling from their pocket to be grabbed.
There’s literally nowhere to hide in this game so prepare to sweat.
Keep the Ball (Mexico)
The simpler the better and Keep the Ball ticks this box.
You only need a ball and fellow humans.
Assign someone to be timekeeper or better yet, use a phone or Bluetooth speaker so everyone can hear – even people having separate picnics. They won’t mind and will probably join in.
Make two teams, mixing adults with kids and use a ball easy for everyone to throw and catch.
Decide a time period – 3 minutes is a good start – and one team starts with the ball.
They have to throw the ball to another team member while the other team tries to intercept it.
Whoever has the ball at the end of 3 minutes is the winner.
To prevent cunning players from hogging the ball you can give everyone 10 seconds to pass the ball once they receive it.
Guaranteed noise and burned calories.
Luta de Galo (Brazil)
Literally meaning “Fight of the Roosters”, this game can be played by 2 as others wait their turn or by everyone at once. Both are fun.
Each player puts a hanky or piece of string into their back pocket or their pants / skirt.
The goal it to try and take the hanky/string from other players but you can only move by hopping. Awkward, exerting and silly.
The game is traditionally played without using the right arm, keeping it against your chest but this rule can be waivered if need be.
You can start off with 2 players facing off and then have a more chaotic everyone in version.
Enjoy the tumbles and sneak attacks.
Lion’s Treasure (Kenya)
Who doesn’t like stealing meat from hungry lions? Thankfully, in this game you can.
Choose 2 or 3 members to be lions and give them a bunch of “meat” or treasure. Anything will do – shoes, drink bottles or actual meat if you’re a stickler for reality.
Spread the treasures out on the ground and have the lions try to protect it.
Other members must try to creep up and steal the lions’ treasures without being tagged. If tagged they are out.
Another variation is to make 2 teams of starving, crazed lions.
Make a time limit of say, 3 minutes and give a bunch of treasures to each team.
Everyone then has to try and steal treasures from the other team.
When time’s up just count whoever has the most treasures or meat.
Goal Ball / Circle Ball (Worldwide)
Every country from Pakistan to Peru has claimed to invented this game and to be honest, who cares! It’s fun.
This is literally a hands-on game. Have everyone form a circle, legs apart and feet touching. Use a medium sized ball that’s easy for everyone to hit across the ground.
The object is to hit the ball with your hands through another player’s legs or goal.
To defend the ball from going through your legs you have to bat it away with your hands.
Players can bend at the waist to hit or block but bending of the knees is a strict no-no.
Once everyone gets the hang of it, throw in another ball!
If the ball goes through someone’s legs they’re out and the circle gets gradually smaller.
You can make it easier by giving everyone 3 lives each or just play for laughs.
This game tends to start off quietly as players get their heads around the concept. The decibels start to rise and it eventually becomes a shriek-fest.
You probably don’t have to play all of these games in one session but by all means go for it.
These are just some starters – there are plenty of games out there just waiting to be discovered or created.
Plenty of cheap belly laughs and you’ll be tricking everyone into getting some exercise.
What a host.