I was recently reminded how simple it is to connect with our children. This summer, as we made our way to Ketchikan, Alaska, we had a few hours to kill in the Seattle airport. Traveling with kids is always an adventure. However, the invention of the iPad has no doubt made it easier. Even a four-and-a-half-hour flight with three kids isn’t really that bad. A movie or a couple of shows and a few apps mixed in with countless trips to the lavatory and enough snacks to feed an elephant keeps everyone pretty happy. Sometimes we break out stickers and coloring books, but to totally confess—it’s rare. It’s easier to hand them all an iPad and let them indulge in a way that is out of the ordinary. It keeps them quiet, entertained, and allows my husband and I to have a conversation, read, or totally tune out and play Candy Crush on our phones. The digital devices get put away as soon as we land and we take time in the airport to stretch our legs and wash up or if you’re my two-year old—lick every seat at the gate.
This year, we had a longer than usual layover and we arrived at our gate with a good hour before boarding. We found seats next to another family and our kids quickly made friends. A young girl was reading a book on Cat’s Cradle and trying to figure out how to play. “How cool!” I said aloud. “I remember playing that game with my mom.” She let me give it a try. I wrapped the string around my hands, looped my middle fingers through without even thinking twice, and was ready for a partner to make a move. My kids didn’t know how to play and the young girl hadn’t figured it out yet, so I was trying to give instructions with my hands all tied up. The girl’s grandma jumped right in. The two of us were totally amused as we took turns going back and forth making the stringed figures and reminding each other where to pinch and pull. The girls curiously watched and were begging for a turn.
I then wrapped the string around my daughter’s hands and showed her how to loop her fingers through. We sat and giggled and chatted and got frustrated on occasion, but mostly we cheered each other on. It was fun! And there was something about sitting close to each other, making eye contact, and using our hands to manipulate the string that felt really good. A comment from my oldest daughter stuck with me. She asked, “Mom, why haven’t you showed us this game before?”
Honestly, I don’t know.
Once settled into our seats on the plane, my daughter’s comment lingered in my head. Why hadn’t it occurred to me to share such a simple game? Why didn’t I use the time we had on the plane to show my kids games I used to play before digital devices became common accessories? I wondered if they knew how to play thumb war or how to make a witch’s broom with string.
I made it a goal for the summer to introduce my kids to some of the simple games I used to play. I have to admit it was easier being at home with my mom nearby to help remind me of some of my favorites. We played an exhausting and hilarious game of Kick the Can followed by rounds and rounds of Hide-and-Seek. I showed them how challenging it can be to drop a coin into a container when standing on a chair. My mom broke out the pick-up sticks and my kids begged to play Hide-the-Potato (which consists of simply hiding a regular russet potato somewhere in the house and trying to find it). We had a ball!
I’m still not sure why it took me so long to show my kids how to play Cat’s Cradle. One thing I do know though is that sometimes our kids just need us to stop taking everything so seriously and get down and play with them in the simplest of ways. Games are such a great way for us to connect with our kids because it’s how they build relationships with each other. These kinds of interactions allow our children to catch a glimpse of what we were like when we were kids. My hope is that it will encourage them to come to us when they have a problem or a question because maybe we’ve gone through the same thing because we were young once too.
As our kids go back to school and we settle into our daily routines juggling soccer games, birthday parties, homework and music lessons, I’ll try to remember to take advantage of the downtime we might have together. When we have a few minutes in a waiting room, when we’re sitting in the carpool line, or simply on a lazy Sunday, I hope we’ll continue to introduce our kids to some of the simple games of the past.
If you’d like to do the same, here are the rules for Kick the Can, to get you started! And like most great games, there are many different ways you can play, but here are the Myhre House Rules.
Kick the Can
- Gather your family and friends. All ages are welcome. It’s best to have at least four people to play.
- Find an empty coffee or soda can.
- Decide who will be it. To make it easy on us, we choose the person whose birthday is next.
- Place the empty can in the middle of your playing space. This is a great game for the backyard or try it at the park next time you’re there and I’m sure you’ll have some new friends join in.
- The person who’s it, closes their eyes and counts to an agreed upon number (20 usually works for us) while the other players run and hide.
- Once the person who’s it stops counting, the game has officially started and the can is open.
- It is looking for the rest of the players while the rest of the players attempt to kick the can without being tagged.
- If a player successfully kicks the can without anyone getting caught, then the person who’s it retrieves the can and counts again.
- If the person who’s it tags someone before the can is kicked, then the tagged person is it and a new game begins.
Like us, I hope you’ll have fun and enjoy the simple things in life again!