Heather Swain, author of Make These Toys, has a new book out just in time for the summer, Play These Games, which provides a map to making games for your little ones on those days when you need a break from the summer sun or a rainy day activity or just want to encourage some down time fun away from the incessant screens of TV or video games. Swain’s approach is to take various household and craft items and use them to construct the game components. These range from those needing forethought and pre-play adult construction to those games where making the parts is half the fun.
Swain makes it easy too, breaking down materials in a master list in the introduction and then breaking the games into sections based on the main materials, such as: balloons, beanbags, books, buttons, cardboard boxes, felt, plastic bottles, etc. Each material section then has a number of games within it, i. e., under Plastic Bottles are games such as Rolling Pin Bowling, Ring Around the Bottle, Bombardment, Bottle Alley and Guard the Bottle. Each games entry is then helpfully divided into subsections detailing how many players each games is ideal for, materials needed, prep work required and a “how to play” section which details the rules of the games. Most of the games in the book are ideal for those days or times when staying inside makes more sense be it too hot or too wet to go out, but Swain closes the book with an interesting exploration into the ultimate outside game of tag and 15 variations of it, which is actually useful, especially after playing freeze tag again for the 75th time.
In all Swain shows that there are many ways to play, using lots of what we already have around us to create new games. As well, with almost everyone of these games you can use Swain’s ideas as a starting point to create your own games or allow the kids to improvise off of the game. Play These Games by Heather Swain is a wonderful handbook of play, and has a game to match any group size or mood and while some require more elaborate setup than others, there is something for here for the less than crafty or when you need a quick diversion from that sudden downpour as well. In other words, Play These Games provides a map to escape the summer doldrums and get kids moving and thinking and having active fun.
A copy of the book was provided for review.