Classic Childhood Games
Follow the Leader. Hide and Seek. Simon Says. Red Light Green Light. Tag. You don't need equipment. Kids of different ages can play together. They're super fun. And they're spilling over with life lessons.
Yesterday, the kids and I were playing Follow the Leader and I was struck by what a wonderful metaphor it is and how many skills they were building as we played. Each one took a turn leading - even the littlest. They especially liked leading me. One was having a hard time getting the others to follow him. We had a quick exchange about how to invite friends to follow and lead in such a way that they could keep up.
Since there's so many versions of tag, kids get to practice teamwork and communication skills as they decide what the rules will be. Sometimes I like to ask them, "how are you guys going to make sure everybody stays safe while you play? "They brainstorm a short list - no tagging with a stick - hands only, tag gently, only on the body - not the face.
Simon Says and Red Light Green Light are great for listening and following directions. Plus, how much do you love the empowered face of a toddler as she shouts, "red light!" I like a free for all version of Red Light Green Light - it's not competitive, just fun. I call out things like, "green light, be a monkey!" "Red light." "Green light, pretend you're in sticky gooey mud." The options are endless for how the kids can move and express themselves. ...Really tires them out for nap.
If "play is the work of childhood" as the psychologist Piaget said, these classic games are easy opportunities for kids to work on social skills while getting exercise and having a ball. And they barely need us grownups to help them play - which is just exactly how it should be.