Saturday, June 16, 2012
Subtitle: 101 Delightful Diversions Using Everyday Items
Author: Heather Swain
Genre: Entertainment, Activities
Publisher: Perigee (Penguin)
Pub. Date: May 1, 2012
I'm sure we've all lamented at one time or another how the age of internet and video games has changed life for children and adults alike. We, adults, find ourselves in sort of a zone, addicted to electronics, and feel relief mixed with anxiety when we "unplug". And children all over (this country, anyway) often have to be encouraged to play outside more and take a break from the computer or game systems. But isn't it true that sometimes the simpler things in life are the best? I remember, as a child, playing games in the yard or with household items; I remember making a mancala game "board" using an egg carton; I remember, rather than buying movies, recording them when they played on tv. Sure, we had to fast forward through the commercials, but there was something liberating about this "organic" way of playing and watching movies. (And I'm sure it's liberating for the pocketbook too...)
Play These Games is a book full of these "organic" activities using every day items that you would either have at home or basic craft items that you may already have or are easy to find. This book is broken into 17 categories of activities by the main item used including balloons, books, cardboard boxes, hula hoops, plastic soda bottles, and paper. There is also a last category of 15 variations of the game of tag. It's a great way to teach children how to be creative with the things they have around them and how to have fun without plugging in a machine. In addition to the actual activities that include a materials list and instructions, each category starts off with fun information about that item. Then almost all the activities end with a related fun fact. Each activity also has small illustrations or diagrams to use.
Do you remember bean bags?? I remember at the babysitter's house, actually, making our own bean bags which are fun just in and of themselves, but Play These Games has a whole category of games that can be played using bean bags. Now, some of these games are more complicated than others, and many definitely require adult supervision or help. There's one game using craft sticks that is so simple but that I bet is really fun. It's called "stick toss" and requires putting dots on one side of three craft sticks and the backside of one stick striped. You're then awarded various points based on the combinations you get from throwing the sticks in the air. It actually reminds me of a very popular Korean game, so I know this is one I'd like. The accompanying fun fact states, "This game is based on a Native American game called Pa-Tol. Other games, such as Lacrosse, Pic-Up Sticks, Cat's Cradle, and Marbles, are also based on games that Native American children played for centuries." (p. 92). And here's a fact included about buttons at the beginning of its chapter. "Which came first, the button or the buttonhole? Turns out, it was the button. The earliest buttons didn't hold anything closed. Insetad, they were worn for decoration during the Bronze age..." (p. 47).
Some of the activities are more complicated while some are quite simple, but there is a good variety of both. This would be a great book to inspire fun games around the house (though quite a few require a small group of children). But it would also be a great way for parent and children to bond. For some more inspiration, check out this website about "Caine's Arcade", a child who created his own "arcade" out of cardboard boxes. Maybe check this book out for fun ideas for the summer!