Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Games People Play

My son loves games. He loves active games like Hide and Seek, Catch, and Simon Says. He loves board games like Candyland and Chutes and Ladders. He loves brain games like I Spy and What Shapes Do You See. But the games he loves best of all are the ones he makes up himself.

The first game he ever made up was something he calls “Bing, Bang, Boom.” This is a game played by two people using two large balls. The players each hold a ball and sit about 6 feet apart, then chant, “Bing…bang…BOOM!” and on the word “BOOM” they roll the balls toward each other and try to crash them together. When they crash, both players laugh uproariously, chase the balls, and do it all over again.

Another recent favorite is “Soccer Falling.” Another two-player game, this one requires only one ball. The players stand facing each other a few feet apart, and one player kicks the ball to the other. Instead of kicking it back, the receiving player immediately falls over. Cue uproarious laughter. My daughter helped create a 3-player variation of this game where the third player randomly wanders in between the other two and either kicks the ball back to the first player (usually by accident) or gets hit by the ball and falls over. This variation is somewhat less popular because it occasionally ends in tears instead of uproarious laughter.

He’s also created a whole series of dancing games that can be played by any number of players, from one person right on up to however many can fit in the room. These games generally have names like, “Penguin Dance,” “Robot Dance,” and “Silly Chicken Dance,” even though there’s no resemblance to a penguin, a robot, or a silly chicken that I can see. I’m not even really clear on what the difference between these games is, as they all seem to involve madly stomping, flailing, wriggling, shimmying, twirling, and spinning around on the floor like a manic break-dancer. But that fact doesn’t bother him in the least.
Explaining one of his games to cousins John and Catherine.
I love that these games are further proof that he can find ways to entertain himself. I love that he understands the concept that games have rules, even if he often changes them. I love that he’s occasionally willing to let his little sister join in his games. I love that he uses his body creatively. I love that he totally cracks himself up when he plays them. And I love how completely uninhibited and unselfconscious he is whenever he plays any of them.
But most of all, I love how uninhibited and unselfconscious I am when I play those games with him. Anyone want to join me for a few rounds of “Silly Chicken Dance”?

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