How It Started
Patch Products, a manufacturer and marketer of family entertainment products, introduced National Backyard Games Week in 1998 to bring families and friends together through fun outdoor activities. "Games are a great way for parents and children to interact and enjoy each other," says Barbara Uebelacker, public relations manager at Patch Products. "Backyard games add to the excitement and allow people to enjoy fresh air and get some exercise, too. Memorial Day marks the start of the summer season and is a great time to focus on outdoor activities."
What Constitutes a Game?
When adults think of games, they usually have a vision of a structured activity with definite rules and teams. Toddlers, however, often have other ideas.
Kristina Sauerwein, a mom from St. Louis, says that her toddler, Zoe, has not mastered the outdoor favorite hide-and-seek. "She loves to play it with the other kids, but she doesn't quite follow the rules yet," she says. "For instance, she'll hide in some obvious place and go running toward the person who is 'it.'"
Paula Norton, a mom from Carol Stream, Illinois, has taught physical education for over 15 years and advises parents not to worry. "Honestly, kids who are 2 or 3 are a little young for organized games," she says. "Instead, aim for skill building. Any eye-hand activities and gross-motor stuff is beneficial: catching large balls at first and working into smaller ones, throwing, kicking, striking, aiming at a target. Also, tumbling and gate skills are great: skipping, hopping, galloping, jumping, running backwards. Simple animal walks, such as pretending to be a crab or a bear, are good for building arm strength."
Andrea Paventi of Los Angeles, California, has found that her kids love special outdoor "mommy time" where she does things like kicking the soccer ball or throwing a football around. "'Mommy time' means I set the rules, and they have to practice, as opposed to free play (which we do later)," she says. "We do mommy time because neither my husband nor I am into sports, and I want to make sure they have the basics of kicking, hitting, and catching before grade school. Sports stars? No. But basics, yes!"