Do you remember being a 12-year-old kid that used to run out in the streets after school and play with the other kids in the neighbourhood? You probably spent all afternoon riding bikes, playing games in sandpits, chasing a ball, fighting, and then returned home when it was already dark. Αnd several times, even the grown-ups were taking part in those games. From making an indoor tent with your kids or just creating your own playdough, family time is something really special! So, why don’t you take it outside?
Children don’t play outside anymore. Their free time has been reduced due to their strict school schedule. Plus, it’s not so safe for a kid to play outside anymore. So, what happens? Children spend their free time in the house watching TV or playing computer and video games. In other words, the times when children played carefree in the streets and alleys are long gone. The screen has taken the place of hide-and-seek, and football. But what does it matter? How important is it for a child to play? How does the child benefit? Stay with us and find out why it’s so important! We have a list of amazing games that you can share with your little ones for amazing family times!
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How important is it for a kid to play?
You have to admit it! You can’t work all the time. You’re not a machine. Sometimes need to take a break. If you don’t stop working for a few hours per day, your performance will drop, you have a hard time concentrating, your health will deteriorate.
The same goes for children as well. Even if they don’t have to study, they need to play. It’s an important factor in their development. How? Through board games like Jenga, hopscotch, and even though the simple and for some meaningless, peek-a-boo, children learn to use their imagination, think, and communicate with others.
From a very early age up to school-age kids, playing can help children develop physical, emotional, social and intellectual skills. It helps them control and reduce stress, think creatively, collaborate and understand the world they’re living in.
What are the benefits of playing outside?
The majority of children today spend just half an hour a day playing outside. The rest of their free time is spent in front of a screen, TV, computer, tablet or phone. In this way, they lose the valuable benefits that the games outside offer them. Don’t kid yourself! Outdoor plays are even better than indoors. Let alone compared to computer games and TV.
Who wants their child to be stuck in front of a screen? Who does not want their child to be physically and mentally healthy and to be surrounded by healthy peers as well? Believe it or not, the best way to achieve this is to let it play and encourage it to do it outside. As strange as it may sound, playing outside has a positive impact on children’s overall well-being. It can affect their weight, strength and immune system. As you can see, the benefits that kids can gain from outdoor activities are multiple and can affect different aspects of their health.
We could, somehow, categorise the benefits according to the different areas that affect the outdoor game: Physical, Social, Emotional and Intellectual.
When compared with kids that spend most of their free time staying at home, children who play outdoors have great differences in their growth. Their main ones lie in weight, strength and immune system. Generally, children who spend their free time outside have:
- Improved overall health
- Boosted strength
- Improved fine motor skills
- Reduced BMI (Body Mass Index)
Playing outside can greatly impact kids on how they manage to interact with others, increase their self-esteem, and learn teamwork and communication skills. Don’t leave everything to birthday parties and BBQ gatherings! This is what they get:
- Increased openness with parents
- Greater self-awareness
- Appreciation for the environment
- Improved peer-to-peer relationships
Usually, children who play outdoors tend to benefit emotionally as well. To be more precise, they:
- Learn to use all of their five senses
- Become independent
If you believe that forcing your child to study will help them become smarter, you need to see the bigger picture! It will help them, but they need extra help that they won’t find in books. That’s what they get while being outdoors playing:
- Aid with brain development
- Develop and improve communication skills
- Expand their learning space
Why is playing with your kids beneficial?
Besides the need to play alone or with other children, they also need to play with their parents. It makes them feel that you love them, care for and appreciate them. The most important: Spending time with your kids builds a strong bond. They can feel they can trust you and share with you any problems and concerns. Plus, you can help them broaden their minds and imagination, as you can explain to them more about everyday life and the world. A parent-child game can help develop:
- Working memory
- Gross motor skills
- Cognitive flexibility
- Regulation of emotions
- Peer group leadership skills.
But children aren’t the only ones who benefit from the parent-child games. It’s also beneficial for grown-ups because while playing with your children, oxytocin, a hormone responsible for parent-child bonding, is released. Spending time playing with your kids daily helps you relax and stop thinking of anything that might concern you.
What to play? Check these 14 games
If you have a garden, you are so lucky. There are so many garden games to play with your children, you might feel that a weekend isn’t enough. From craft ideas to game ideas, from DIY ideas to obstacle courses. So many great games and garden activities that you’ll have lots of fun with the whole family. Let’s see some back garden game ideas you can enjoy with your kids:
1. Hide and seek
The traditional outdoor game! All parents have played with their children, and all children have played it with friends at school, at a park and actually everywhere. Someone closes his or her eyes at a home base and counts to 30, 20, 10; it depends. The rest of the players run to hide. The person who has closed their eyes runs to find all the other players.
Make a hopscotch grid with chalk on the pavement. Number the squares from one to nine, pick a small stone and toss it onto Square number 1. Hop over the stone and hop with a single or both feet following the drawn pattern. Balance on one foot, get the stone from square 1, hop over to the start. Continue with square 2 and so on. You can also play this game inside. You need to get a mat and use a bean bag instead of a rock.
Αll young girls have played, at some point in their childhood, this fun game. It’s a great way for a child to become good at speed and skills. Your kid can play on their own and with friends as well. Two players hold a rope by its ends and swing it in a circle. The other players take turns jumping over it while chanting a rhyme or counting. The winner is the player who has completed the jump and moved out without contacting or stopping the rope.
You can play this game either indoors (in case of a rainy day) or outdoors as long as there’s a flat surface. You have to scatter the jacks on that surface, like when you are rolling dice. Toss the ball, which must bounce only once, and you have to pick up as many jacks as possible and catch, at the same time, the ball with one hand before it bounces for a second time. You have to pick up the jacks in the right order.
Another favourite and timeless children’s game. What do you have to do? Draw a circle with a chalk. Then the opposite player scatters his or her marbles inside the circle, and you have to knock them outside of the circle using one of your marbles.
6. Simon Says
It’s a very comfortable game since you don’t need any special equipment and you can play it from your back garden to your car. One player is Simon and starts the game by saying “Simon says,” and the other player’s action. The other players have to do what Simon tells them to do. If Simon requests an action without saying, “Simon says,” the players must not do anything. If a player does that, then they lose the game.
7. Musical Chairs
Arrange a circle of chairs facing out of it. There should be one less chair than the players, and a player should be in charge of the music. When the music starts, the players go around the chairs. When the music stops, players have to sit down in the nearest chair as soon as possible. The one player who does not have a chair is out of the game, and one of the chairs is then removed. The game keeps going like that. It ends as soon as there are two players left with one chair. The winner is the player who will sit in the last chair.
This is one of the funniest games since players end up laughing a lot. The group of players have to sit in a circle. A player whispers a strange word, sentence or phrase to the player sitting next to them. The second player whispers it to the next player, and so on. The last player says the whispered sentence out loud. The sentence is usually changed from the original.
9. Freeze Dance
A player should be in charge of the music. When the music starts, the rest of the players dance as crazy as possible. When the music stops, the players should freeze in their position. Anyone who moves is out of the game. The game ends when there’s one player left.
10. Traffic Cop
This game is a little more demanding. You need to have bikes, wagons, pedestrians, scooters or whatever is available and a large area or a street with little traffic. A player directs traffic to make sure players don’t run into each other. It is a family fun game and helps kids learn about waiting to cross the street and traffic safety.
11. Water balloons
It’s a great summer party game! All you need is some water balloons in two different colours filled with the same colour as the balloons. Divide your garden into two areas and make two teams. Each team choose a balloon colour. Place the water-filled balloons in a bucket and place them in the centre of your playing area. What’s the aim of the game? To hit as many players of the opposite team as possible with the balloons.
Who hasn’t thrown one at the beach! The rules are simple! You have to catch it. Choose a rectangular playing area with two end zones. A player has to catch the frisbee in one of the end zones to score a point. Once a point is scored, teams change ends.
13. Kick The Can
This game requires at least 3 players, a lot of hiding places and an empty can. Choose a player to be “It”. “It” hits the can, and the others run and hide. “It” gets the can, closes their eyes and counts to one hundred loud enough to be heard by the other players. When finished counting, “It” tries to find the other players. When they find a player, they have to call out the player’s name and race towards the can to kick it first. If the found player kicks the can, the game restarts. If “It” kicks the can first, the hider goes to jail. The other players who haven’t been found yet can come to kick the can without being spotted by “It”. If a hidden player kicks the can, the jailed player will be released, and the game will begin again.
14. Red Light, Green Light
A player stands at one end and is the “traffic light”. The other players are at the other end. When the traffic light faces the group, they say, “Red light!” and everyone has to freeze. Then, the traffic light says “Green light,” and the players try to get close to them. The traffic light turns around quickly, again saying, “Red light!”. If a player moves while the traffic light is red, they have to move back to the starting point. The player who grabs the traffic light first is the winner and the next traffic light.
Doing outdoor activities with your children will make you feel like a kid again. As a plus, your children will bond with you. You’ll be able to teach them how to solve problems and to rely on their powers. You can spend time with them and have some fun. Most importantly, your children will trust you and feel confident to share their problems and concerns with you. Just let them be kids!