In This Electronic Age Simple Is Still Good

In this electronic age simple is still good. As you progress into the Easter season you may have some young ones to entertain. Even if they are tethered to electronic monsters, try something new. Entertain them with just pencil and paper and see how it goes.

I think what the grandchildren like best about this simple entertainment is getting my undivided attention.

When I was growing up grandma often entertained us. The us, I speak about, are my four cousins and me. My grandmother was born before the turn of the 20h century so the games she taught us have some longevity. One game that she taught us was “Cootie.” For this game all you need are a die and some paper and pencils. You take turns shaking the die to build a figure. The complete figure has 17 parts all garnered one at a time.

To begin you have to roll a one. The one represents the body. If you roll something you can use you get another turn. To go on the body a five represents a leg, you need six of them. A three represents a tail. If you are lucky enough to roll a two you place a head on your body. Six represents the feelers. They are placed on the head. You need six of them. Four represents the eyes. You need two of them. As grandma demonstrated we drew upright figures, but any arrangement would do as long as you put all 17 parts together.

To eliminate the winner/loser thing we usually play three games, adding the number of parts that we rolled for each cootie.

Last week while we played I explained the history of the game. It is hard to believe that a game that was played more than 100 years ago is still a viable option in the electronic world. My grandchildren and I also play computer games. When we play those we sit on the couch with our heads closely huddled together so that we play together. My grandson and I found the game of Battleship. As we began to play it was a little trial and error since we did not know all the functions of the electronic weaponry. Other than that the ships are the same, and it takes the same number of hits to sink them.

Another very simple pencil and paper game is “Pigs in a Pen” or boxes. One person creates a grid of dots with parallel lines of dots running across the paper as well as up and down. Each person in turn draws one line anywhere on the grid. As the game progresses and the grid fills with lines and boxes are completed. If you complete a box, you draw another line. Sometimes a person gets a whole row of boxes it depends how the lines were drawn. This game plays best with two players. The player who completes the most boxes wins. I have seen a small version of this game on the children’s placemats at Bob Evans.

This game of boxes is very convenient when you have a young one with you and have to wait at the doctor’s office or for a parent who is shopping.

Another game I played with the children involved taking a line segment and making it into something. I drew a segment, and the child made it into something. I used to use this activity in school, too. When I used it in school the children had to write a story to go with their picture. I called it “Creative Design.” It was a wonderful activity to take with me when I substituted. I was ready to go in just a few minutes. I just had to run the design off on the copier and hand it out. It gave me time to look at the teacher’s plans and make my own. The children were working, yet having a very good time. I kept a whole file of line segments. I marked on the back of each activity what class I used it with. It got to the point that the children looked forward to this activity. If I did not hand it out shortly after I arrived they asked about it. If you are doing this, do not give any ideas or that is all you will get. Let the child use their imagination. It is fun to see what they draw.

Of course there is also “Tic Tac Toe.” Children, however, get very good at this one and many games go to the cat, or no one wins.

We have also played “Hangman.” For this game you put lines on the paper to represent the letters in a word or familiar phrase. You may give a clue about your word or you may not. The other person guesses one letter at a time. If the letter said does not appear in the word you begin to make stick figure. If your stick figure is completed before the word or phrase is guessed, the person loses the game. Usually I plan on about 14 pieces to the figure it can be more or less.

When I used this game in school I let the children draw it on the chalkboard. That was always a treat. It was an indoor recess game. Any of these games worked in school. I taught many classes to play them. Another thing I tried was hop scotch. We made a grid with masking tape, took a small object and were able to play at a moment’s notice.

You really do not need a lot of equipment. The gift of time is what the children will remember the most.

Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, Pa.