About three years ago, I wrote a little treatise on playground games. The inspiration was the deflating experience of trying to get my kids interested in a bakery box that came tied with actual bakery box string that we could use to make a Cat’s Cradle. Actual bakery box string! As you can imagine, they were underwhelmed. That got me thinking about the whole childhood culture kids miss out on today. Just this past weekend, I drove through an entire suburban development and didn’t see one person outside enjoying the beautiful weather, let alone a group of kids roaming the neighborhood in search of adventure. And at many schools, recess is an infrequent event at best.
Back then I asked, “Do kids still play clapping games and sing jump rope rhymes? Do they ever round up a bunch of their friends and start a game of tag or hide and seek? Do they tell each other scary stories they claim are true?” This last, I discovered, was still a thriving tradition when my youngest came home from day camp with a tale of a toddler on a cruise who jumped overboard so he could visit Sponge Bob. I got to use the teachable moment to explain Urban Legends, but for some reason, he declined my offer to print out the relevant page from Snopes to bring to camp the next day.
The answer, I found, was that Children’s Folklore had not totally disappeared. For my kids, it was revived by weekly park days with our homeschool group, where the kids organized their own games of Capture the Flag and Red Rover. It’s evident in smaller ways too. Like when they decide who gets the first turn on their shared computer with a quick round of Rock-Paper-Scissors.
And if trying to use fingers as a random number generator isn’t geeky enough for you, how about this: Rock-Paper-Scissors-Lizard-Spock. Here’s a little video demonstration.
Got it? Now go see if your kids will stand still long enough to let you teach it to them.