Monday, April 18, 2011

Outdoor Adventures: Ball Games by Erin Uda

Some of my favorite outdoor memories involve our back patio, which was concrete and had been poured into four large squares. It was the perfect four-square court. My siblings and I would play the game for hours, making up our own special moves (or modifications) to give ourselves any advantage we could. When I became a camp counselor, I was amazed at how the entire camp would come together for a kickball game. No matter the age, this game was a perpetual favorite. And even now, as a mother of two school-age boys, ball games are still important. I don’t go one week without hearing a dodgeball story where one of them caught the ball and got someone out, or became the hero of their team by staying in the game until the end and knocking others out of play. These stories bring back memories of my own elementary school adventures in dodgeball, helping me to remember what life is like at that age.

Ball games are unique in the way they can tie our generations together. They are a staple of the PE gym and playground; a universal skill for any American child. As mothers, there are so many benefits to introducing our children to these games and spending time playing them together. Not only do they encourage coordination and imagination, they’re also inexpensive, easy to play, and provide endless teaching and bonding moments. What parent doesn’t want their child to be a good sport, whether they win or lose? And what child would pass up the opportunity to play ball with their childhood hero – Mom?

So grab a ball (playground balls can be found almost anywhere for under $5), get outside, and share some sun and fun together with your children. And when you’re done playing, come back and share your stories with us! Let us know your favorite strategies for winning, adjustments that make play easier for youngsters, and all those 4-square mods that come flooding back once you’re King.

I don’t have space to list all of our favorite ball games, but here are the top 3 at our house, plus one extra:

If you’ve never played this before, you must not have grown up in the US. It’s such a ubiquitous part of our culture that they’ve made a movie about it – but I wouldn’t recommend watching that movie with the kids…

An easy version of baseball, this is an American classic.

Some popular mods:
Bus-stop – like dribbling in basketball, only slower, and with two hands
Tree-top – almost like a volleyball set, toss the ball above your head and then spike it down into your opponent’s square
Bubbles – bounce the ball repeatedly about 5 inches above your hands, you must remain stationary when using this mod

This game is the most fun for little ones, although I’ve seen even college kids get into it. Try using different types of balls each time you play – it also works well with a Frisbee. The rules at this link aren’t the be-all-end-all for this game; use your imagination and make it fun for everyone.

Suggested Books:
  • The ultimate playground & recess game book Guy Bailey – 796.1 B152
  • My yellow ball; Dee Lillegard – P Lillegard
  • The story of red rubber ball; Constance Levy – P Levy
  • Balls; Melanie Davis Jones – B Jones
  • Watch me throw the ball!; Mo Willems – B Willems
  • Little Pig’s bouncy ball; Alan Baron – B Baron

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