Pioneers had their fun inside and out. In most cases there was more room to play in the great outdoors. Try some of these fun activities & games:
Hop, Step and Jump
Mark a starting point (on the ground if possible). Everyone lines up behind the line. One at a time, each person takes a hop on one leg, then one long step, then one long jump with both legs. Mark each person’s spot or have them stay in their spot until everyone has had a turn. The person who covers the most distance is the winner.
Tug of War
Sometimes called “Americans and English,” tug of war can be played with or without a rope. The object is to get the entire opposing team over the line. When played without a rope, two players hold onto each other’s hands and the remaining team members line up behind each other, each putting their arms around the chest of the man in front of him, like a hug from behind.
Hoops and Graces
In Victorian times, “Graces” was considered an appropriate activity for both boys and girls. By pioneer times, though, it was considered an exercise for ladies only, and was meant to help them learn to be graceful.
Each player holds two long tapered rods and a small light hoop, (often decorated with ribbons), is shared between them. One player crosses her two rods and places the hoop where the rods form an x. As the player pulls the sticks apart the hoop flies through the air and the other player must catch it on one or both rods. The hoop continues to be passed back and forth.
Blind Man’s Bluff
One player is blindfolded and put in the middle of everyone else. When the blind man catches someone, he must try to identify who it is by a quick feel of the head and shoulders. If he gets it right the caught player becomes the blind man, if not, play resumes.
Sometimes the players spin the blind man before he starts trying to catch them.
Large hoops are set into motion and the person runs along side it, keeping it rolling with a stick. Hoop-rolling contests can be held to see who can roll their hoop for the longest amount of time or who can roll it the farthest.
Players form a circle and must keep some downy feather afloat within the circle without touching it. They may blow or wave their hands to create a breeze.
Birdie in My Cup
Players form a circle and one player goes to the center with a cup of water. He says, “I have a little birdie in my cup. What color is it?” He then goes around the circle and asks the same question of each player, who in turn give their answer. If the answer is incorrect, the player holding the cup puts his fingertips in the water and flicks water on the incorrect player’s face. When a player guesses the correct color, they switch places and that player becomes it.
If it’s hot outside, the one who guesses correctly might get the whole cup of water splashed on his face and then the cup is refilled for the next round.
Players all choose an instrument and either they or the conductor comes up with the sound each instrument will make. For example, boom for the drum, plink for the harp, baroomph for the tuba, etc. After each player knows their sound, a song is chosen to which everyone knows the tune and the band members “play” their instruments as the conductor conducts. The conductor may ask members to play louder or softer.
One player is it and covers her eyes while the other players hide. When everyone is hidden they all call out “Whoop!” The player who is it then looks for the hidden players. If she sees one she must call them out by name, “I spy John!” If your name is called you must run to the place from which the person who is it started searching, while the person who is it tries to tag you. If you are tagged, you become it.
Everyone sits in a circle. One player throws a handkerchief in the air and calls out one of the elements, air, earth, water, or fire. If air, water, or earth is called out, the person whom the handkerchief touches must name a creature that belongs to that element before the caller counts to ten (which she does as quickly as she can). The one with the handkerchief then tosses it and calls out another element. If the animal is wrong, has already been named, or if time runs out, that player must pay a forfeit.
If any player calls out fire, everyone must be silent because no creatures live in that element!
Fly Away, Pigeon!
The players make a circle with one person in the middle. Everyone puts their right forefinger on their knee. If the person in the middle raises her finger and calls out an animal that can fly such as, “Fly away, pigeon!” or “Fly way, sparrow!” the others must also raise their fingers. However, if the one in the middle calls out something like, “Fly way, horse!” the other players must not move their fingers or else they must pay a forfeit. If the player calls out something that flies by accident, such as a feather, leaf, piece of paper, etc. players must make up their minds quickly as to whether they should raise their finger or not. This usually ends in disputes as to whether the item can fly or not and the one in the middle gets the final say. It should be played at a fast pace so that the other players don’t have too much time to think!