If a year of youth can be compared to a sandwich, summer is the meat. For me personally, it was the most satisfying part of the year - even more than Christmas! It is the quintessence of carefree living and the time when, unlike during the school year, you are free to let your imagination and daydreams get the best of you. The best part about summer was playing outside. Of course we all shared in the obvious activities: riding bikes, pickup basketball/soccer/football games, water balloon fights, and pool outings, among others. What I am writing this article about is the less obvious games of my youth. These are the games that stand out in my mind as memorable times where we were most creative and resourceful...or simply the games that I found to be the most fun. This article is the smell of sunscreen, the taste of a freeze-pop, and the feel of grass between your toes. Enjoy!


Hide and Go Seek

...5...4...3...2...1...READY OR NOT, HERE I COME! We have all played hide and go seek at one time or another, but can you remember the excitement you experienced when you thought you found the perfect hiding place? Hot spots when I was a kid: parents closet (behind their hanging garments), bathtub with the shower curtain drawn, under the bed, coat closet downstairs, pantry (incase they never find you, there are snacks), and behind the sofa. Do you ever remember hiding really well and the game felt like it would last forever? You finally do a little *cough* and hear the seekers feet pounding ever closer to your hideout. "I found you - you're it!!!"


Seek and Go Find
As my best friend and I grew older we felt we had grown past the days of playing Hide and Go Seek. Plus, we knew all the good hiding places and what's the fun in that? It was at that point we invented a new game called Seek and Go Find. In this game one player would write out a set of riddles on scrap pieces of paper and hide them while the Seeker would sit in a room and wait. Once all of the riddles are written out and hidden, the writer hands the first riddle to the seeker. The first riddle will lead them to where the next riddle is hidden and that riddle to the next, and so on. The final riddle/clue leads the seeker to the prize/toy at the end! This was a great way to keep our minds active during the summer months and was also a great exercise in friendship/sharing because it forced us to give up a toy that was ours to our friend. We would hide clues pretty much anywhere: in the microwave, outside in a tree, the mailbox, etc. It was a pretty elaborate game to be dreamed up by 8/9 year olds.

Message for you, sir!


Trampoline Games
Trampolines were the Mecca of my childhood existence. My neighbor was lucky enough to have one and nice enough to share it with me. Nothing is more fun as a kid than to get on one and bounce around for hours. What made it more fun? My Mom didn't want me to get on it! While jumping we used to play a game that was kind of like synchronized bouncing. We would bounce in unison, count down, and do synchronized routines that sounded something like this: 1, 2, 3 - butt, knees, butt, knees, stand, Indian style, butt! Much laughter ensued. Another great, and in hindsight, very dangerous thing we loved to do was get into our swimsuits and put the sprinkler underneath the trampoline. This created a bouncy, slippery, deathtrap of fun! What a great way to keep cool on those scorching summer days.

My Mecca


Deathtrap.


Pool Games

A trip to the pool is not an original experience in and of itself but it's what my friends and I did there as kids that brings back the fondest memories. Our public pool was fairly large; it had the basic 4ft-8ft section, 18ft diving board area in the middle, and lap lanes on the far end. Once we were old enough to wander out of our parent's sight without consequences we would strap on our goggles and head over to the lap lanes. Choosing the open area where no adults were swimming we would very carefully dive to the bottom of the pool and pick at the loose pool tiles. That's right, we were little thieves! My best friend's older brother coined the term "Black Tile Bandits" and we made it our personal business to swipe as many shiny pool tiles as we possibly could. We would eventually bring along paperclips to help dislodge them, and backpacks to store them out of our parent's sight. We later made little cards with our logo and gang name on them. We slipped the cards into those clear plastic baseball card holders with the open end taped shut for protection. I am proud to say I still have my card to this day, though I sadly have misplaced or thrown the tiles away over the years.

The booty.


Acorn Launchers
Ok, you are just going to have to take my word for it when I say that I am not a redneck. I grew up in the suburbs of Virginia, to be exact. When I was a kid my father always gave me allowance. Once you get older and your toys get more expensive, 5 dollars a week just doesn't cut it anymore. One day my father handed me one of those plastic beach buckets and said "I want to mow the yard but there are too many acorns out there. They may hurt my lawnmower. I will give you a penny for every one you collect in this bucket. How does that sound buddy?" As a 9 years old kid, this sounded great! So I ran over to my best friend's house and she grabbed a bucket and we began collecting acorns, one at a time, until the buckets were full. We very carefully counted them out and collected our earnings. At this point we didn't know what to do with the 500+ acorns, so we found some slingshots and spent the rest of the day launching them into the woods behind my house from our perch on the swing set. I don't know why, but I will always remember how much fun we had that day with 2 plastic buckets and a bunch of acorns.

Bucket O' Acorns.


Outside Fort

Every kid had one or wanted one; we decided to build one. In between my house and my neighbor's house was a small sliver of woods unclaimed by either of our parents (but probably claimed by the government). One day we decided that we were going to use this neglected piece of land to make a fort; a place of freedom, where we are the rulers and grownups are only invited if we say. We spent one long day clearing out the underbrush and the next day collecting sticks for the walls. It took nearly a week but when we were finished we had a well constructed wigwam with a kitchen table, two plastic chairs, a garden with freshly planted carrot seeds, cleared dirt paths lined with logs, and a lamp post with a poorly constructed mailbox. For weeks we refused to go inside for lunch but brought our food into our new fort home and enjoyed the luxuries of our wilderness getaway. If I could relive one thing from my youth it would be the feeling of pride I got every time I saw our little clearing in the woods. We had constructed it with our own hands. It was a true testament of what kids are capable of achieving with a little effort and a lot of sticks.

Our fort was probably more exclusive than this one...


Strobe Light Games
After a long day of playing outside and after the sun had set my best friend and I would head indoors for the night. On many occasions we would play video games, watch a movie, watch Nickelodeon, or just go our separate ways. Other times we would still have stored up energy and on those occasions we would get out the strobe light. It had one of those knobs that allowed you to control how fast or slow the light blinks. The best memory I have of playing with the strobe light was one night when we were in her brother's bedroom and we came up with a game. He would sit on the top bunk and throw stuffed animals down to us. We would try to catch as many as we could while the strobe light was blinking *tick tick tick tick tick*. Believe it or not it was really difficult to catch falling stuffed animals with that strobe light on! I bet I couldn't even catch one today.

Before we knew what 'Techno' music was.


Thanks for reading my random compilation of childhood games I used to play. I hope that this article will help bring back fond memories of hot summer days to each of you - Memories of times when we were allowed and often encouraged to let our imaginations take hold of us.