My home was a resort town and the small area where our home was a park like setting with about 20 cottages/houses surrounding a huge open park which was collectively owned by all of the property owners. That way no one could build on it or sell it and the children had a guaranteed place to play.
The park was perfect for playing games and in the summer when the cottages were inhabited with large families from the city we who were permanent residents (about 5 of us) were joined by over 20 other children. There was always something going on. In the daytime most of us were at the beach but on cooler days there might be a baseball game going on or just a game of catch.
Evening was when the fun was had. For most of us the rule was, “Come in when the street lights come on,” so after supper the children would begin to pour out the doors and after a short huddle the evening game would begin. Most often it was hide and seek. The rules were simple for us because the boundaries were clear. We all knew we couldn’t go to the beach or past the fences or street on the other two sides. The park was lined with over 50 huge old elm trees on both sides of the roadway and darting in and out of them while running to home base was simple.
Red Rover was an ever popular game. Usually the oldest got to be the team captains and they would select team members based on their strength. Of course the youngest children were picked last but the teams were careful to put stronger kids beside the weaker in the lines that stretched about six yards across. The teams would take turns inviting their opponents to break through the line of linked arms and whichever team broke through most often won.
Simon Says was also played in lines with each group trying to get to the other’s line first by taking steps or long steps, runs or cartwheels without falling for the trick and having to start over again. The trick was if the person calling said “Simon says do …” you could move but if they only said “says do…” and you did it anyway you were caught.
I realize in trying to explain the rules that the rules were actually fairly arbitrary and were likely made up as we went along. What ever the rules were, they must have worked because there weren’t many times when anyone went home crying.
Baseball was something more likely to be played in spring and fall on weekends when the cottages were open and we always had lots of people for the teams. It was also something the adults would join in with on occasion. Football never seemed to work because it wasn’t something all the children could get into and was a bit rough. Some of the boys would play it in the fall once in a while but they would be run off by the little kids who wanted to play other things.
With all those trees, those who lived there year round, had fun playing simpler things like building leaf houses in the fall. In the winter “Duck, Duck Goose” was the favourite after a fresh snow and we built huge snowmen and had exhausting snowball fights.
At least once each summer there would be a bike rodeo. The boys would build elaborate ramps for bikes to go flying from and there would be bicycle races as well as tricycle races for the younger children. I’m not sure who provided prizes but as I recall they were usually in the form of bubble gum and penny candy. I think everyone got a prize.
Sometimes the girls were less likely to participate in some of the rougher games and we could be found drawing hopscotch squares in the sand pit which was also home base or skipping or playing double dutch with our skipping ropes on the road.
I think boys played outside no matter the weather. Rainy days were good for catching frogs and such. For the girls, rainy days mean playing with dolls or my all time favourite, paper dolls. Colouring was something that could fill hours of any day as well.
I don’t believe I ever heard the word “bored” when I was a child and oh the social skills we learned from all that playing together. We learned about honesty, fairness, respect, following rules, bending them to suit those who couldn’t run as fast and about community.
Listen for just a moment. Can you hear the laughter. Can you smell the musty smell of small sweaty bodies covered with dust. Can you hear “Oh Mom, can we just stay out five more minutes?”
Thanks to fellow blogger at Writing! Oh My for reminding about summer games.