23 Classic Summer Activities That Kids Don't Do Anymore
When's the last time your kids played hopscotch or jumped rope? It seems a whole generation — or two — of games have been eclipsed thanks to new rules and changing habits. Here's a nostalgic look back at the days of spending leisurely hours playing free or low-cost games such as Old Maid, hide-and-seek, and more.
"Red Rover, Red Rover, send Mary right over." This classic playground game would bring a player rushing across, trying to "break" the linked hands of two players on the opposite team. Run too fast and get through and you'd win — but might end up on the ground from the momentum.
Ask a kid how to play marbles and you'll likely get a blank stare. They might not even have ever seen a real marble. For those who not only played but competed, it's a sad statement on the loss of another of life's simplest pleasures.
It had a bit of a sadistic element, and cheaters would often change their position to avoid detection. But the best part of hide-and-seek was being found in an unexpected place — and scaring the person who found you.
Pile everyone in the station wagon, get a good spot, set up the sound system, and sit back and enjoy. Today, a drive-in movie experience is about reclining seats, blasting the air conditioner, and an array of foods that make the local diner's menu seem downright limited.
Stoop ball (akin to baseball with no batting where a ball is bounced against a building's front stairs or stoop) and stickball (with a broomstick standing in for a bat) elicit memories of old-time Brooklyn, when kids who didn't have uniforms, ball fields, or parents to drive them everywhere still managed to have a bit of competition and a lot of fun. Today, with leagues for every age, skill level and game, such simple things have been lost to time.
Exercise, strategy, and teamwork were byproducts of this kids' game that turned a simple kitchen remnant into an afternoon of entertainment, tiring the kiddies out along the way.
This one had exercise built right into its rules. You'd throw the ball high or wide to avoid it being snatched by the "monkey" in the middle, the one reaching wildly to end their turn in the center. Shorter kids definitely were in trouble.
In a tent or under the stars, kids had backyard sleepovers that had nothing to do with "glamping." This was all about the transistor radio and some ghost stories, followed by a chilly morning when you wanted nothing more than to run inside and have mom make you a hot breakfast.
There's a bit of summer magic in this forgotten activity. The yard or picnic ground at dusk suddenly became studded with little glowing specks, ones you might catch in a jar or in your hands.
Kids hitchhiking to the local concert, pool, or shopping center has thankfully fallen by the wayside for much of America. Yes, the danger was always there, but it seemed like a way of life for those without a car.
How fun was it when the summer barbecue was dying down, when the parents were done cooking and cleaning and having their own time, to have a game of flashlight tag? The rules were simple, the excitement palpable — and hey, at least one kid usually made everyone laugh (yes, we were mean) by tripping.
A trip to the lake usually gave an older family member the chance to show off their prowess skipping stones, tossing a flat stone just right so it would jump a few times before sinking. How many skips can you get to be the champ?
Can you point out the Big Dipper? For many kids, summer was all about looking up at the nighttime sky and learning about the constellations. It was a part of scout trips and family outings, but it seems like today most kids see the stars via elaborate planetarium shows.
If you were a teen in the '70s, you likely slathered yourself before heading out to the beach, pool, or best friend's deck. No, you weren't applying sunscreen, but rather suntan oil so you could get the darkest tan possible. Ah, what we've learned over time …
A classic playground game and recess mainstay, hopscotch taught a few skills along with the fun of jumping. Players honed tossing skills, learned a bit about balance, and sometimes competed with others.
On the surface an innocuous card game, the premise of Old Maid makes a loser out of the person left with the unpaired card, often depicted as a wrinkled, sad older woman. Today's women know that getting married or finding a partner doesn't define a "win."
With anti-bullying a priority for schools, playing dodgeball has fallen out of favor. Targeting a player and then throwing something at them seems a bit out of touch in today's enlightened times.
Sure, they still have Double Dutch competitions and the like, but for many kids of old, it was all about simply jumping rope alone, up and down the driveway. Who knew we were doing aerobics?
Another playground favorite, Four Square required little equipment, and its playing surface could be drawn with chalk. This elimination game calls for enough skill that it's inspired adult play leagues around the country.
Though there has been a bit of a board game resurgence in recent years with family game nights and some addictive new titles, most kids would rather play something electronic.
Summertime is usually homework-free, though teachers may sneak in a summer reading list. For those with an interest in reading, summer used to be the time you could just read whatever you wanted, whenever you wanted. And there wouldn't be a test afterward.
Many beaches and public pools emphasize safety and restrict what can go into the water, but there was a time the waves would be rocking everything from floats and balls to rafts.
"I'll be down by the stream" was a common refrain in my neighborhood growing up. Just heading outside to "play" — any kind of ball, drawing with chalk, playing jacks, or exploring the woods — was the norm, as kids used to have much more freedom to roam. Just be home in time for dinner.
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