Imagine that it’s below freezing for the eighteenth day in a row, and you nearly throw your remote control at the TV when the weather reporter cheerfully announces that the arctic air mass over your state is going to stay put indefinitely. The kids have energy to burn and have just asked if they can bring their baseballs and bat inside if they promise to be very careful. Quick – you need some fun – and nondestructive – indoor games!
Here are two games that don’t even require a screen or an electrical outlet!
Have you heard of jacks? This game originated hundreds of years ago and some of us may remember this game, but do you remember the rules well enough to teach your children? Jacks is a good game to put in the line-up, because although it can be played in the middle of the kitchen floor, it can provide entertainment and even burn some energy for two players at a time.
Another game that may not be as familiar to some of us is Chinese Jump Rope. More advanced than traditional jump rope (and probably older even than jacks), this is a game that can really get three people breaking a sweat. The nice thing about Chinese Jump Rope is that nothing will swing up and hit the overhead light or ceiling fan, and it really doesn't take up a lot of room.
No matter how many days your family has to endure an arctic blast, you can all stay cozy inside and moving with these oldie-but-goodie games!
Now, let’s start moving…
How to Play Jacks
To play, you can use a jacks set, which typically comes with at least 10 metal jacks (which have six tips at right angles to one another) and a small bouncy ball. In a pinch, you could even use 10 small stones, dice, etc. – anything you can easily pick up with one hand.
The jacks are scattered on a hard-surface floor. Player One will bounce the ball and pick up the appropriate number of jacks (with the same hand) before the ball bounces a second time. The number of jacks to be collected increases by one each round (first the players try to pick up “onesies,” then “twosies,” etc.). So on round one, Player One will try to pick up one jack, ten times in a row until he’s collected all ten jacks. Then he will toss all 10 jacks back onto the floor, and this time try to get two jacks per bounce. If he doesn’t get the appropriate number of jacks, or fails to catch the ball, it will become Player Two’s turn.
When it becomes Player One’s turn again, he’ll pick up where he left off. If he was going for foursies when he made an error, for example, he’ll scatter all 10 jacks and again try to get four jacks per bounce. On numbers such as four that don’t divide evenly into 10, the players will need to use one bounce to pick up the remainder (in this case, two jacks).
You can declare a winner if you’d like – whoever collects the most jacks in all 10 rounds or whoever gets done first. There are many variations to this ancient game, and many ways to make it more interesting once you’ve mastered the basic rules.
How to Play Chinese Jump Rope
To play Chinese Jump Rope, you’ll need three players and 10-20 feet of thin rope or bungee tied in a circle. Two of the players will put the rope around their ankles, holding it taut with feet spread shoulder-width apart. There should be enough room inside the enclosure for the third person. The three players must decide on the jump pattern, and usually a song to accompany it.
The basic moves are both feet inside the rope (called “in”), both feet outside the rope (“out”), both feet outside the rope on the same side, or, alternatively one foot outside the rope and the other on the rope (different people call both of these “side”), both feet outside the rope but on different sides (“straddle”) and one foot on top of each side of the rope (“on”).
So for example, in the pattern “in, out, in, left side, right side, on,” Jumper One would jump both feet inside the rope, then jump with both feet outside of the rope, jump with both feet back in, jump so the left foot lands outside the rope and the right lands on the rope, do this on the opposite side, and finally jump so both feet land on the rope.
If the jumper completes the whole pattern correctly she can move up to the next level, in which the rope is moved up the rope-holders’ legs a bit and the sequence is repeated. The jumper will continue until an incorrect jump is made or she touches the rope accidentally.
Then she will become a rope holder and one of the rope holders will become the jumper. When it again becomes Jumper One’s turn, she’ll start over from the very beginning.
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