Physical education activities teach children a host of lessons that they can apply in daily situations throughout their lives. These include how to play cooperatively with a partner or a team to meet a group goal, obey rules, choose teams, play hard while respecting the opposition, use stealth and silence to your advantage, and how to persevere and adapt when rules change mid-game. Many traditional games require little or no equipment and can be adapted for indoor or outdoor play.
A staple of the baby boom generation’s childhood, recreational rope jumping largely declined in favor in recent years as youngsters spent more time indoors, on computers or in organized play activities. Two youngsters hold the rope ends and twirl it rhythmically while the group recites a rhyme that advances the play and rotates rope-holders. One traditional jumping rhyme in which the jumper jumps the rope on each word, is “Engine, engine number nine, running down the railway line, if the train should jump the track, will you want your money back?” On the word, “you,” the jumper points to any member of the team, who then answers yes or no. The jumper spells out the word, y-e-s or n-o, jumping on each letter, and concludes with “and you are now out,” jumping out of the twirling rope on the word “out.” That jumper then becomes a rope-end holder, while the former rope holder joins the jumping line.
Sharks And Barracudas
This group chase-and-tag PE game involves two evenly distributed groups of youngsters. The sharks group carries blue flags, while the barracudas wear orange flags. Each group names a leader. The groups line up in parallel “home lines” some distance apart, with the lines marked with sidewalk chalk, cones or some other marker. The sharks turn their backs to the barracudas, who then try to sneak up on the sharks. As the barracudas draw near, the sharks leader calls out, “Here come the barracudas!” That’s the signal for the sharks to turn around and chase the barracudas back behind the barracudas’ home line. Barracudas who don’t make it home become part of the sharks team and wear a blue flag as they line up with the sharks. The game continues with the sharks sneaking up on the barracudas. The barracudas leader waits until the sharks approach within tagging distance, then shouts, “Here come the sharks!” Barracudas pursue the sharks, and sharks who don’t make it back to their line become barracudas. The game continues until class time runs out or one side defeats the other.
Red Rover, Red Rover
This is a traditional strength-testing team game that requires no equipment. Two teams of equal size line up, holding hands. The two teams face each other. The distance between them should be enough to allow a youngster to build up to a run as he crosses the area. The teams take turns calling over a member from the other side with the group call, “Red rover, red rover, let Susie come over!” Susie lets go of her teammates’ hands and races as fast as she can toward the other team, choosing the weakest hand-holding link to try to break through the line. If she succeeds in breaking through, she returns to her own team and takes the strongest member of the opposition team with her. If she fails to break through, she joins the new team. The game progresses until all players are on one team.
Kate Sheridan is a freelance writer, researcher, blogger, reporter and photographer whose work has appeared in numerous newspapers, magazines and trade publications for over 35 years. She attended Oakland University and The University of Michigan, beginning her journalism career as an intern at the "Rochester Eccentric." She's received honors from the Michigan Press Association, American Marketing Association and the State of Michigan Department of Commerce.