“Forgotten Neighborhood Games,” by Scott Strother (Review)

By , June 5, 2008 10:06 pm

How many of you know the game of Hopscotch, Red Light Green Light, or Monkey in the Middle? I would guess that most of you parents know these games. But what about your children?

Do you or your children know how to play Exchange, Sardines, or Hot Box? Perhaps not.

That is why every family interested in getting their children outside for some good old-fashioned play NEEDS this book in their library.

Author Scott Strother’s preface reminded me of how much fun I used to have playing spontaneous neighborhood games with my friends.

Two experiences inspired Mr. Strother to write this book: 1) Coaching 6 to 16 year-olds in tennis, and realizing that they had no idea what he was talking about when he referred to some of the very common games from his childhood; and 2) A paper that he wrote about childhood obesity and today’s children’s sedentary lifestyles.

Here are the highlights:

  • Games are classified and organized according to activity level. The first section is Activity Level V, “…games that require the most exercise. These games mainly entail constant running or movement and are highly active.” Each section decreases in intensity until the final, Activity Level I – “…games where mostly walking or limited physical exercise is required. These games are still active and outside, but are not as physically demanding as the others.”
  • There is only one game per page and the information is complete, and very clearly presented. Each game description specifies number of kids, ages, time allotted, space/area, equipment, description (startup, object, and play), and the author’s personal comments.
  • Many of the games require children to determine who is “it.” Do you remember doing that? Well, I suspect that choosing who is “it” might be another lost art. Fortunately Forgotten Neighborhood Games also has a section entitled “Picking the ‘It'” which includes a description of the process, and a few rhymes from which to choose.

When I first began this blog in February of 2007, I had planned on having a “Children’s Games” page where I would write up the rules for various outdoor, neighborhood games. Like the author of this book, I had noticed that most children today are too focused on video games and TV to spend much time outdoors playing active and social games like these. I did write a few game posts which I later eliminated. The task was just too daunting.

Although it is sad that a book like this might be necessary to teach today’s children how to play this way, I am so thankful that Mr. Strother took the time to write this very comprehensive, yet easy to use book. The blog equivalent of Forgotten Neighborhood Games is precisely what I had in mind in back in “the old days” when I first began Unplug Your Kids.

My advice would be to use this book as a reference to find a few games to teach your kids. Or better yet, if your children read well enough, have them explore it on their own. As the author says:

It might take a little effort at first, learning the games and getting other children to play, but once kids start learning these exciting games, they will not want to stop. Do not be afraid to go find kids and coerce them outside for some fun. More and more children from the neighborhood will start to get involved. Everyone will begin looking forward to playing and will meet more often. Instead of sitting around inside, kids can meet each other, make friends, get exercise, and have a ton of fun! This is what childhood is all about. Kids need to get back outside, exercise, and love it…and this book is the guide!

Forgotten Neighborhood Games: Get Kids Back Outside and Loving It! is another useful tool for parents to help get children away from “The Box” and back outside. Deserves to become a classic.

10 Responses to ““Forgotten Neighborhood Games,” by Scott Strother (Review)”

  1. Who couldn’t use some fresh ideas!? This book sounds great, and I am looking forward to reading/sharing/playing with my children. Thanks!

  2. Hmmm, you’ve gotten me thinking now… I’ve been noticing the similarities between the games I played as a child and the Chinese ones that Jaylene plays. Hee hee, maybe I should translate them into English and write a book! lol

    Julie K in Taiwans last blog post..Rock on

  3. Tamara says:

    Sounds like a neat book. Now I am trying to think of all the games we used to play as kids.

  4. This sounds like a great book but we don’t live in an area with many other kids, do you think most of the games require more than 2-3 kids?

  5. Mom Unplugged says:

    Hi Heather,
    That is an excellent question. I went through the book and tallied the games with a minimum of 1, 2 and 3 players. Here are my results:

    Can be played alone: 6 games
    At least 2 players: 42 games
    At least 3 players: 27 games

    Hope this helps!

  6. Anna says:

    Perfect timing! I was just trying to come up with a list of kids activities for our summer neighborhood block party on National Night Out in August. That looks like the perfect resource!

    Annas last blog post..Looky Looky Looky!

  7. Kate in NJ says:

    We have always played a lot of these games at family get togethers and parties..the kids and adults teaming up sometimes.
    Great fun!

    Kate in NJs last blog post..Gardening,cooking,and rockin’ out

  8. Thank you for your kind comments!! I really enjoyed writing this book. I have had it picked up by a national publisher (Sourcebooks, Inc. – a great company) and it has been nicely refurbished and improved and it is being released August 1st titled “Adventurous Book of Outdoor Games”.

    It is available at barnesandnoble.com and amazon.com already for pre-order (full relase 8-1-08). Please order a copy and help me spread the word to get kids outside again!

    Thank you!

    Scott Strother

  9. Sharon says:

    I am so glad I came across this page. It seems my daughters are the only ones in their circles of friends who know ANY of the SO MANY songs my mom taught me as a child. This book review made me think of that immediately.

    Thanks for working to keep the “good stuff” alive!!

    Sharons last blog post..Peace of Paper

  10. Paintball Games says:

    Hey great post and also this looks like a great book.
    In my experience the routines that seem to succeed in getting children off their posteriors and out playing seem to simulate some element of what they are already used to.

    As an example, we run paintball centres and get a lot of children who come and play outside and run around in our centres because we have created “Game Zones” that simulate computer games such as “Wolfenstein Castle”, and a “Tomb Raider” scenario.

    I think we should step back and take an audit of what the youth’s in society ar currently doing and enjoy doing and then modify that to tempt them out to participate in more health activities.


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