Simple, Fun Children’s Gymnastic Games
In a system of gymnastics, games may be used for hygienic, developmental and educational purposes. For general hygienic ends their value is great, if for no other reason, than that it usually requires a large air space, often outdoors, to play them. On the other hand, the hygienic value of games is a doubtful one, because the movements occurring in games can only be predetermined in general. That means that they cannot be graded as to quantity or quality with exactness.
Exactness, however, in these two things, is an absolute necessity where gymnastics are given for hygienic ends. Such exactness being possible with formal gymnastic exercises, these therefore must always be given a preference where exactness in quantity and quality of exercise is desirable or necessary.
The same may be said to be true of the developmental effect of exercises occurring in games. If it be difficult to trace the effect, formal gymnastic movements have upon the development of this tissue or that organ, it is certainly impossible to exactly predict the effect which the unpredetermined movements in games might have. Formal gymnastics will always be far superior in this respect to games.
To turn to the educational purposes of games. They are mental and moral ones. Among the mental ones co-ordination should be separately considered. As far as some of the mental processes (to be mentioned hereafter) are serviceable to establish coordination, games may be said to help coordination. Games can, however not be arranged methodically for coordination purposes, for the simple reason that the movements occurring in them cannot be predetermined. The development of coordination power must, therefore, also be the domain of formal gymnastics.
What use games are in the moral training of children and youth has been enlarged upon by many authors in many places. Even that teaching has to be incidental, as the occasion for pointing a moral offers in the course of a game. The great value of games in this direction lies in the fact that most of the moral teaching reward for proper punishment for improper actions is self administered or then applied by pupil-companions and playmates, not by the teacher.
In any attempt to classify games for teaching purposes one should arrange them as to their difficulty. The movements not being predetermined, classification according to mechanical, physiological or moral principles will be impossible. Classification according to the apparatus the game is played with, as for instance, ball games, or according to the exercise most conspicuous within the games (as running games), is arbitrary, and for teaching purposes useless, for it classes together games of the most different grades of difficulty.
The mechanical difficulty might be approximately foreseen and games classified accordingly. Yet if we look closely, we find that most bodily movements occurring in games are in themselves extremely simple and easy of execution. What is it then that makes games differently difficult of execution? For that they do differ in difficulty, is at once clear. Little children do not attempt competitive games. Youth will not play complicated games, as baseball or football well. They are too difficult for them. If, then, the difficulty be not mechanical, it must be mental.
Before undertaking the task of classifying games according to mental difficulty for teaching purposes, we should ask, is it necessary to teach games? May not games be left to the play instinct of children?
Some examples of childrens gymnastic games:
i. HIPPITY HOP: The pupils form in line, one behind the other. At the word, to start, all follow the leader around the room, hopping on the left and right foot alternately.
2. SERPENTINE MAZE: The girls grasp hands firmly, then follow the leader or head of the line easily, without pulling or jerking. The leader, who should be the strongest and most skilful of the girls, leads her line about the playground, through many turns and windings, in the opposite direction to her column, forms a loop by passing through under the upraised arms of two of the players, then remains standing while her column forms a spiral around her.
This spiral is unwound by the last of the column starting and the others following her, or by the leader starting out from the center and leading her column back and forth through under the upraised arms of the followers.
3. SISTER PHOEBE: One impersonating the dame sits in a chair, the others, joining hands, form a ring and move around her slowly, chanting : “Old Sister Phoebe, how happy was she When she sat under the juniper tree.”
At the end of every chant a pause is made to allow one from those behind the sitter to withdraw and hide herself. This is repeated until the last has withdrawn. Sister Phoebe, whose sleeping had been soothed by the singing, awakens by the silence, rises, and looking anxiously around, calls loudly for her charge. At the call, all come running back with the joyous cry, “Heigh-ho! says Rollo.”
II. GENERAL IMITATION.
4. PLAYING CARS: Each player is given some part of a train to represent (the engine, whistle, passengers, conductor, etc.). Being arranged in order, the engine leading, they march or run around, each imitating the part he represents, stopping at stations, etc.
5. PLAYING HORSE: Several players represent horses and move around in imitation of them, while others, as drivers, have ropes attached to the horses or catch hold of some part of their clothing and drive them, imitating the various motions of a driver.