Games are an important activity of many children's get-togethers--birthday parties, family reunions, picnics and holidays.
Sometimes getting these matches started can be a little unnerving. Who is going to be "It?" What about teams? Timid players? Bullies?
However, once underway, contests usually take flight on their own. Then we adults can contentedly sit back and absorb the youngsters' joy.
"On the playground of life,
game playing equips each of us with the 'rules...'"
Bob Keeshan, Captain Kangaroo
Following are suggestions for getting started and easing sticky points:
Most youngsters do not want to be "It." " It," of course, is the runner, chaser, chooser, or guesser.
Since volunteers are rare, be ready with one of the following methods of picking "It."
1) Simple--Everyone yells, "Not It!" The last one to say, "Not It" is "It."
2) Another stand-by--Someone shouts, "Last one to the _______(insert tree, bench, porch, etc.) is a rotten egg." --that is, "It." All race to the named spot; the last one to reach it is "It."
3) "Rock, Paper, Scissors"--This is more efficient with smaller groups. The first one out is "It." If there is a tie of first ones out (example--two children were scissors), continue Rock, Paper Scissors until only one loses.
Suggestion for larger group--Two children begin. The loser from the initial round plays another child, that loser players a third bout, and so on. The final loser is "It".
A refresher--To do "Rock, Paper, Scissors," three times one beats the fist of one hand into his palm. Then he holds out one hand (simultaneously with other players) with the symbol for either a rock (fist), paper (a flat palm) or scissors ( fore and middle fingers make a V).
A rock can smash scissors.
Scissors can cut paper.
Paper can cover a rock.
4) A familiar means--Draw straws or twigs or pencils. Anything handy can be used as long as all are the same with one exception. The one who picks the different one is It.
The children can count off. Depending on the number of teams needed, each child says a number, (example--one, two, three--one, two, three, etc.) The ones are one group, twos are a group, threes make up the last group.
The best way to get evenly matched teams is for captains to choose their players. But how are captains decided?
Once again, try to let the youngsters pick. Usually, they can handle this by consensus or vote.
If it's the first time they have encountered organizing a contest or it's a very young group, enthusiastically but discreetly help them. For older ones, just a nudge and a little direction will be sufficient. They catch on very quickly.
Because of the preset rules, games almost run themselves...and it's good for children to have that freedom. However, a grown-up needs to be on hand--just in case.
First of all, you might get to play! With little ones, an adult sometimes needs to take a really hands on approach. Assume a happy-go-lucky attitude and have fun.
Keep a watchful eye so you can--if necessary-- unobtrusively step in to assist. Among possible responsibilities:
Watch safety issues before contests start. (Check for broken glass on the playing field, for example). But despite all precautions, bumps and bruises will occur. It's part of it. If it's hot and sunny, be sure water and sun screen are available.
Start the contests as mentioned above.
Explain the rules and boundaries, what the goals are, where the bases are, etc.
Also, a sticking point might be a subgroup that will obviously dominate the activities. Now, it's not a fault that they are naturally athletic or born leaders. In fact, we should celebrate and encourage their God-given talents. But it's beneficial to encourage general agreement about what game to play and remind everyone to take turns. These are group games, not sports competitions (which certainly have their place, just not here).
If there is any unsportsmanlike conduct on either side, take action immediately . Pull the offender aside for a quiet reminder. If that doesn't correct the situation, go up the scale of forcefulness until people behave.
If necessary, keep score or referee. Try to have a child do this. But if worse comes to worst, then do it, but, of course, very professionally, fairly.
At the conclusion, be sure that winners and losers congratulate each other on a game well-played.
Games are a wonderful and vital part of childhood. With just a tiny boost from parents, children run, jump, skip and hop with abandon into a memorable world of fantasy and excitement.