Thursday, April 5, 2012

Your All Purpose Game Bag

Games should help teach kids to work together as a team, to be sportsmanlike and to create and obey rules. Making up a game or adapting an existing one to meet the needs of the players is a tremendously educational enterprise. I know. I'm a therapeutic recreation specialist with decades of experience using games and activities to address social, behavioral and psychological problems in kids and young adults.

I learned a long time ago that if you want to get kids into active sports, you need to dress up the game a bit.  Somehow, the trappings of organized sports are attractive to kids, even if they're only playing a pickup game. It's why basketball games so often become "shirts and skins". It's a crude way to simulate uniforms.

One of the easiest ways to dress up your ball field is to mark the boundary lines. It makes volleball, baseball, flag football and soccer much easier to referee and the kids really like the feel of it. 

Commercial line markers run from $100 to $5,000 apiece, but you can cobble together a perfectly adequate chalk line marker out of some plywood, screen wire, a pipe, bolts and some heavy-duty staples.  The instructions for making and assembling a homemade line marker are here. 

You can toss a sack of marble dust or lime in your camping trailer with your homemade marker and gin up a ball field anywhere there's an open field. Be careful with the lime. It's a shade corrosive and will burn your eyes if you get it in them. It's good for the grass, though. 

All you need now is your trusty game bag. You should definitely make your own. I highly recommend getting your hands on a big canvas duffle bag and filling it with your standard "game kit"

Include things like:
  1. Softballs
  2. Softball bats
  3. A few baseball gloves
  4. Volleyball
  5. Volleyball net
  6. Football
  7. A dozen identical single color XL t-shirts (2 dozen is more fun because then you can outfit both sides)
  8. Stack of frisbees (for impromptu Frisbee golf)
  9. Clipboard and yellow legal pad with attached pen or pencil
  10. Kickball
  11. 4 rubber or vinyl squares for bases
  12. 6 yellow bandanas
  13. Basketball
  14. Soccer ball
  15. 4 orange flags on sharpened broom handles or light aluminum or steel poles
  16. Rubber mallet
  17. 50 foot tape measure
  18. 100 feet of twine
  19. 4 wooden stakes
  20. 4 Acme Thunderer whistles
  21. 3 uninflated beachballs
  22. 2 - 8" to 12" rubber rings
  23. 6 batons (wooden broom handle sized sticks, 6 to 8 inches long
  24. Hand ball pump and inflation needles
  25. Tug of war rope (3/4" diameter by 10 feet long minimum
If you can think of anything else you carry around in your game bag that ought to go in here, please give us your suggestions below in the comments section below.  In later blogs, I'll be talking about what to do with the various items in the game bag. I'll be adding some blogs about simplified instant games you can create from the stuff in the game bag. Not all of them are strictly sports. Some of the games will be cooperative games or really oddball games that level the playing field for the players. If you create a new game that no one knows how to play yet, then everyone's skill level at playing that game is pretty much the same. It also gives the kids a shot at learning to make rules so that the game is more fun. If you want kids to learn to obey rules, give them a shot at creating some rules for themselves.
I'll keep the game bag list on this page and add to it if others come up with some stuff I've forgotten.  Let me give you one example of what to do with the junk in the game bag. Of course some things are obvious, but some not so. 

Take the yellow bandanas. 

Yellow bandanas make great penalty flags. You can use them as flags for marking "holes" in Frisbee golf. They come in handy for sweaty foreheads and clean ones are useful in first-aid for stopping bleeding, putting an arm in a sling or holding a gauze pad or ice pack over an eye. Later on I'll do a whole blog on the usefulness of the trusty bandana.

Like the bandana, everything in your bag has multiple uses. Volleyball can be played with a variety of objects and in ways you might not have thought of. Baseball has tons of variations as does football and the fields they are played on.

For now, make yourself a game bag and give it a workout at your next church or youth group picnic. You'll be a hero to the kids and their parents will rise up and call you blessed because the kids will be so tired, they'll sleep all the way home in the car.


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