Technology Alternatives And Games from Our Childhood


TechnologyAlternatives2Oh, technology! You horrible, evil, wonderful thing! Our lives revolve around it – computers at work, cell phones and laptops at home, flat-screen TVs, iThis and iThat, apps, gaming consoles, and hand-held gaming devices. I could swim in a sea of them and revel in the joy of having everything I need within an arm’s reach – instant contact with friends and family, my favorite TV shows, comfort movies, comfort food/recipes, an escape in the form of a game of solitaire, or taking a peek into someone else’s life via social media.

On the 11th, Tricia wrote a great post (here) about going “hands free” as a mom and the beautiful, precious moments that she experienced during those “unplugged” times with her children.

Technology can be such a gift, and I still find myself in awe of it sometimes. Just last week, my 2-year-old noticed the moon outside the window in the middle of the day. She asked me if she could fly there, and I tried to explain what was involved in taking her first moon-vacation. She had more questions than I could answer, so I grabbed my phone and searched YouTube for “Apollo 11 moon landing.” I found a half-hour educational video, courtesy of NASA, showing the highlights of the moon landing. I used AirPlay to transfer it to our flat-screen TV in a matter of seconds.

Here in our living room, my daughter was able to witness the actual events as my parents would have seen them on television as children. She was glued to the TV for the full 30 minutes, asking question after question. I tried to keep up as her eyes darted from the TV screen, where Neil Armstrong was taking his first steps on the moon to the bright, day-time moon, so far away outside our window. She saw our planet, the size of a kickball on our TV screen, which triggered a new series of questions.

“Ah, technology is amazing!!” I thought. And it is. And there are so many ways to connect as a family over technology.

TechnologyAlternatives1But, then there are the days when I think, “Please, darling daughter, just watch one more episode of Care Bears, so that I can load the dishwasher without you intervening and stealing a nasty, old milk cup and trying to drink out of it”

And that’s fine too, I think, in moderation. But, the other day we spent some “hands free” time playing a toddler boardgame, and I felt that reconnecting moment that Tricia wrote about. And when my daughter got bored with the game, I remembered that we used to build card-houses as kids, so I set up one for her. I had forgotten that feeling of working so hard on something just for the sake of building anything with your bare hands and laughing hysterically when it comes crashing down – looking in your child’s eyes when they experience the excitement of discovering some new game, toy, or skill for the first time. No video game or app can recreate that.

So, I’ve been putting together a list of games from my childhood that I want my daughter to grow to love. Most of these are free, cheap, and can be added to your summer “bucket list.”

I’ve also made a free downloadable PDF of this list if you want to print it and hang it in your mud room for those “hands free” afternoons or any time your child says, “I’m bored!”

>>>Download Free PDF Here<<<



  • Dress up in old clothes (Do makeup/war-paint!)
  • Build and decorate forts
    (Fitted sheets and a card table make a quick fort.)
  • Re-purpose household items to play:
    House (pots and pans)
    Bank (old computer equipment, old checkbooks)
    School (chalk/marker-board, paper, stickers)
    Store (food boxes, re-usable grocery bags, and old grocery cards)
  • Baking
    (Use applesauce instead of raw egg, so younger children can play with and eat the batter.)
    Play Boardgames
    (Melissa & Doug have great boardgames for all ages, and many local toy stores carry them!)
  • Do Puzzles
  • Build Card Houses
  • Color with Crayons
  • Finger-Paint
  • Play with Stamps
    (Use household items to stamp in paint or ink.)
  • Play Hide and Go Seek
  • Duck, Duck, Goose
  • Musical Chairs
  • Hot Potato
  • Simon Says
  • Jacks
  • Marbles
    (Use metal, retractable tape-measures or paper-towel tubes to make marble tracks.)
  • Try Cat’s Cradle
  • Hand-Clap Games like Pat-A-Cake and Miss Mary Mack
  • Play Telephone
  • Freeze Dance
    (One child plays music, while the others do silly dance moves. When the child stops the music, everyone freezes. Anyone moving is out.)
    Make Music (out of anything!)
  • Make a Sensory Table
    (Fill a bin with rice, water, beans, or flour, etc.)
  • Homemade Play-Dough (flour, water, and salt)
  • Make roads for Matchbox Cards
  • Build with Blocks, Legos, Lincoln-Logs


  • Play Hopscotch
  • Mother, May I
    (One child is the “mother,” and each other child takes turns asking, “Mother May I… take two steps, a hop, a jump, etc.” The mother has to say “Yes, you may.” If a child moves without asking permission, they have to start over. The winner is the child who reaches the “mother” first.
  • Kick Ball
  • Red Light – Green Light
    (One child is the “streetlight” and yells “red light” or “green light”. A group of kids on the other side runs toward the “streetlight” only when “green light” is yelled. “Red light” means stop, and if someone moves, they have to go back to the beginning. The winner is the child who reaches the “streetlight” first.)
  • Climb Trees
  • Try Freeze-Tag
    (When someone gets caught, they “freeze” until someone else tags and “unfreezes” them.)
  • What Time is It Mr. Fox?
    (One child is “Mr. Fox” and yells out times “1 o’clock, 5 o’clock, etc.” The other children take that many steps toward the “Fox” until he yells “midnight”. Then Mr. Fox chases and tags as many kids as he can.)
  • Red Rover
    (Two teams form two lines and join hands. Someone from the first team tries to break through the second team and vice versa, taking turns. If the child fails to break through the team’s line, they become part of that team.)
  • Jump-Rope and Double-Dutch
  • Bubbles!
  • Sidewalk Chalk/Paint
  • Marco-Polo
  • Sprinkler Time!
  • Play the HORSE/PIG Basketball Game
    (The first player announces what shot he is going to make and takes his shot. If he misses, he goes to the end of the line. If he makes the basket, the next player must make the same shot. If the second player misses, he gets an “H,” and it is the next player’s turn to announce a shot and try to make it. Each time a player fails to make a shot that his predecessor made, he gets another letter until someone has spelled “horse.” At that point the player is out. The other players continue play until only one player is left.)
  • Flashlight Tag
  • Capture the Flag
  • Shadowing
    (Look online for multiple variations of this Hide-And-Go-Seek/Tracking game.)
  • Try Bug Hunting
  • Backyard Camping (in real tents or forts)
  • Backyard Cooking (mud pies, grass cakes, and leaf cookies)
  • Build Fairy Houses (using anything found in nature)
  • Skateboard/Rollerblade/RideBikes!
  • Have a Picnic
  • Make a Lemonade Stand

My amazing childhood! Thanks, Mom, Dad, and friends! Also:

For more ideas, Google: outdoor game ideas; outdoor games of the 80s/90s; games of the 80s/90s.



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