What was your favorite game as a child? Was it played outside or inside? Were the rules strict or did you make them up as you went along? If you were able to close your eyes and imagine a day playing that game, who would you be with, what would you hear and is the thought making you smile right now?
The first time I heard of unstructured play was when Scott Wentworth mentioned it to me as one of his goals with Come Alive Outside . . . to remind us all of what it was like to play without a schedule, rules or strict supervision. Scott and his team have since gone on to do many events in Picton, Ontario, Canada, focused on helping kids simply get outside and play. That’s why it didn’t surprise me when Sarah Walker, his enthusiastic Come Alive Outside champion and the Prince Edward County Come Alive Outside Program Coordinator, suggested that they put together the Come Alive Outside Book of Games. As you read the next article and then look at this fun book you can download and even contribute to, you will see the interesting balance we need to find between today’s technology and yesterday’s standard of outdoor play. Consider as you read it if the simple awareness of our need for activity and play along with an acceptance that times have changed can blend the best of both worlds.
– Jim Paluch
Using Technology to Get Outside
We have written a lot about social problems and health problems that are connected to people spending most of their time indoors, wired into their computers and other gadgets. There is no doubt that when you read a newsletter that we’ve written about Come Alive Outside, you were sitting at your computer or looking at your emails on your phone. It has often struck me as kind of ironic. We advocate people turning off their computers, gadgets and gizmos and getting back outside to listen to the birds and get their hands dirty, but we can only do this by using the same technologies that we are advocating against!
Getting kids off the couch and away from their gadgets and gizmos is a message that a lot of people identify with because it is such a common scene in most houses across North America. In the conversations that we have with people about our sedentary, technology-saturated lifestyles, it’s easy to demonize technology. The problem with this is that technology is a fact of modern life. It is not going away, and it is only going to become more entwined with our everyday lives. Technology is not the problem that we’re trying to address by helping people Come Alive Outside. We’re trying to reverse the trend of indoor entertainment replacing outdoor activity. In the effort to reverse this trend, we’re best to embrace the facts of modern life, start where we are, and find ways to use technology to get people back outside and interacting with the great outdoors in meaningful ways.
The Come Alive Outside Book of Games
Over the past two months, Sarah Walker from Come Alive Outside Prince Edward County has been working on a project that exemplifies how technologies with the power to connect people from across the planet can be used to create something that gets children outside and playing safely in their yards, parks and forests. The idea is to gather a collection of beloved childhood games from people all across North America and compile them in a way that children and families can find inspiration for getting back outside and playing the kind of games that help children connect with one another and the natural world that they live in.
Think what a shame it would be if children today never got to experience the thrill of playing your favorite childhood games simply because they never knew that it was more fun than playing Angry Birds. What if grass stains become a thing of the past because children only know how to level-up on their favorite video game but have never heard of Capture the Flag. Sarah Walker sent out a call for people to submit the rules to their favorite outdoor games, and as the submissions started to roll in, The Come Alive Outside Book of Games has become more than just instructions for how to play outside; it has become a historical record of the games that made our childhoods memorable.
The initial response to the call for games was phenomenal and we’re very excited to announce the completion of the first edition of the Come Alive Outside Book of Games! It is available today and free for everyone to download, print, copy, share and use in whatever way you think will get the most people outside and playing in their yards! The effort is ongoing and now extends to you reading this right now. As you read through the book, I’m sure you’ll find some games that you’ve never heard of. I’m also pretty sure that in your hometown or in your family, you grew up playing games that someone else reading this newsletter has never heard of. We live in an age where we can share things across the world with a click of a mouse and a few minutes of typing. Embrace that and add your favorite childhood games to the project!
Think for a moment of how great it will be, perhaps a year from now, when we have collected thousands of the coolest games that children love to play not just across North America, but around the world. You can be part of that story. Click the picture below to download the Book of Games or contribute your own games to the collection.
– Andy Paluch