What to Play?: Build Your Own Entertainment

What to Play? by Carrie St. John

User Designed & Constructed

It is cold outside. Infrequent snow fall downtown has left little snow for sledding this season or to properly build snow people. What to do outside? During a recent play date I bundled up my children and said, “Outside. We all need some fresh air.” A short walk around the neighborhood would get the bodies moving for a few minutes. It happened again. Just a few minutes of “what to do?” stares and mumbles had them thinking and planning.

A snow shovel by the door and the hula hoop hanging on the rack untouched since September were all they needed. Obstacle course planning and building began. The empty tree stand was the starting point. Jump ropes marked out a narrow, winding path. The shovel, hula hoop and a few buckets made a twisting in and out path as they dashed to the finish line between the trees. Those on standby waiting for turns threw ice cubes from behind a bush as last minute distractions. The entire course had to be completed on a scooter without stepping off or stopping. Items were added and others taken away. An hour later all were frozen and ready for down time inside with hot chocolate.

Questions to get the kiddos thinking for course construction:

  • How do you get around the course? walking, running, bikes, scooters, sleds…
  • How many kids at a time? one, pairs of two…
  • Do you use a stop watch to time each other?
  • Do the other players use distractions such as jolting sounds, snowballs or other surprises to throw people off course?

On extremely cold days make a course inside. Use pillows and boxes for barriers, strings and yarn for traps and outdoor objects like hula hoops for jumping stations. Simple sheets of paper can make a barrier that needs to be jumped over. Yard sticks make great limbo sticks. Make a mess and run the course throughout the house. Younger siblings can join in with crawling on knees or bellies or by practicing simple jumps and tip toe tricks.


Carrie St. JohnCarrie St. John

Carrie was born, raised and attended university in Michigan. As a child she rode bikes and explored her rural neighborhood freely with siblings and neighbor kids. Mom and Dad never worried. The kids always made it home after hours wading in the creek and climbing trees in the woods. After college she moved to Kyoto, Japan to study traditional Japanese woodblock printing. In 1995, she began a career at a small Chicago firm designing maps and information graphics. Life brought a move to Northampton in 2001. Carrie completed her MFA at UMass in 2004. Her little love, Sophia, was born in 2005. The two live in downtown Northampton where they constantly make things, look forward to morning walks to school and plan each spring for additions to their plot at the community garden. Carrie continues to do freelance work for clients here and in Chicago.

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