How to Play

In my last post, I mentioned how I grew up playing on a play set in my backyard, but that is not the only way children can play. Although we usually think of play as running around a playground and sliding down slides, there are options that are cheaper and don’t require many tools.

For lower income areas and families, buying toys for children to play with can be stressful and difficult to do. Below are some ideas for games that need little to no tools and can be enjoyed by the whole family.

  • Take a walk around the neighborhood. Be sure to watch for cars when crossing the street. 
  • Go for a hike at a nearby park. Have your children look for leaves, sticks and rocks during the hike.
  • Scavenger hunt: use objects in your house and hide them around your neighborhood and have children search.
  • Capture the flag: Divide a large group into two teams. Each team has a flag at their home base, and try to run to the other team’s base to steal their flag, while protecting their own.  All you need is two flags or markers. Whoever captures the opponent’s teams’ flag first wins.
  • Red Rover: divide teams into two and have teams stand about 20 feet from one another, facing the other team. One player on one team chants “Red Rover, Red Rover send ___ on over.” The one player who was called over then runs over to the opposite team and tries to break their hold.
  • Hopscotch: Draw a hopscotch grid with chalk and number the squares 1 to 9. Throw a rock onto the grid and follow the single foot and double foot hop pattern.
  • Jump rope: Buy a jump rope for cheap and use it to try out new jumps. Crisscross, one-foot and jumping backwards are all fun and challenging jumps to try!
  • Four Square: You divide a court into smaller squares numbered one through four. You bounce the ball to each person in another square and then they catch it. If you throw the ball too far, or don’t catch the ball when it is bounced to you, you move down a number.
  • Kick Ball: Get a ball and go to your local school and use the baseball diamond. Gather up all the kids in the neighborhood and split into two teams, keeping score when a player gets to home base.


Challenge your family to spend less time in front of the television and computer, and enjoy time outside playing and exploring. Be sure your play space is safe and you stay away from traffic and other dangerous items. Having engaging play will help children focus, stay healthy, and develop creativity. In addition to the games above, challenge your children to make up their own games and play them as a family. If you’ve found any games that aren’t listed above and your children loved them, share them in the comments section below. I’d love to hear about them.


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