Susan Ramsay | Jul 08, 2015

“Red Rover, Red Rover, we call Susan over.” As a child I loved this game. My friends and I formed two lines facing one another and, with clasped hands, began our Red Rover chant. Whosever name we inserted into the chant had to leave their line and race toward ours. If the person we called over could not break through, they joined our line. If their speed and weight caused our hands to let go, one of us would join their line. Eventually one of the lines had all the players and the game was over.

Songs and chants imbedded into games like Red Rover, skipping and ball bouncing, and counting activities in games like Hide and Seek and Hopscotch were always a lot of fun. We were with our friends and on the move. It never crossed our minds that while played we were practising literacy, sequencing, memory and math skills.

Active and social games are important to children’s development today too. Though schools are now closed and schoolyard games have halted for summer break, camp counsellors know the value of these games and draw heavily on ones that trigger children’s thinking, social development, muscle movement, and laughter.

Games played together as a family are equally valuable. Whether at the beach, camping, visiting friends or relatives, playing outside, or inside on a rainy day, parents who play with their children create lifelong memories that nurture learning as well as attachment and bonding.

Perhaps you are already familiar with these non-tech games that have stood the test of time:

Sending a Letter is a game that originated in London, England and was first known as Sending a Letter to Canada. This game, a variation on Leapfrog, starts with the first player crouched down so that a second player can pretend to write a letter on his or her back. After writing the letter, the letter-writer gently slaps a stamp onto the first player’s back and leaps over the back saying “Sending a letter.” Change this game slightly for children learning alphabet letters by finger-writing an alphabet letter onto the crouched player’s back. The crouched player shouts out the letter they felt written on their back before the leaping player slaps on a stamp and jumps over.)

O’Leary is a ball bouncing rhyme: 1,2,3 O’Leary/4,5,6 O’Leary/7,8, 9 O’Leary/10, O’Leary/Catch me. Children bounce a ball each time a number is spoken, bouncing it under one of their legs whenever “O’Leary” is said. Use the rhyme to count backwards too, or adapt the game for toddlers by rolling the ball between toddler and parent instead of bouncing it. Clap hands each time “O’Leary” is spoken.

Let’s Play: Traditional Games of Childhood by Camilla Gryski is a treasury of active games for young children that include variations on age-old games for jumping ropes, marbles, hopscotch, leapfrog, seek and find, tag, ball bouncing, clapping rhymes and more.

Trish Kuffner, author of several parent resource books for babies through to preschoolers has written The Wiggle and Giggle Busy Book: 365 Creative Games and Activities to Keep Your Child Moving and Learning. Geared for children 3 to 6 years of age, Kuffner suggests physical activities for each day of the year as an alternative to watching television or playing videogames. The book includes chapters on outdoor, indoor, water, rhythm/music and holiday activities, as well as some information about what to expect in children’s early stages of development.

Red Rover Red Rover/We call a parent over/To play and have fun/While we skip, jump and run.

Susan Ramsay is the Early Literacy Specialist for Hastings, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington. You can contact her at 613-354-6318 (ext 32) This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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