That’s where these ideas come in. Originally meant to help keep young ones busy over summer vacation, many of them would still play well today. (Do keep in mind that these suggestions come with the perspectives of the sixties — meaning it suggests that girls like to have dollhouses, while boys are the only ones who like to make forts.)
Whether in 1960s or today, here are lots of old-fashioned ways to have fun — that kids can do to keep busy and keep their minds engaged right at home.
Kids bored? What to do when there’s NOTHING to do (1962)
by Jean George / Photography by Doris Pinney
Vacation thrills soon wear off for school-age youngsters. Before long, days begin to drag. Every mother knows the symptoms — plaintive cries of “But there’s nothing to do!”
The time to nip this kids-underfoot-disease is before August dog days bring it to a daily crisis. Here is the prescription. You’ll find it’s medicine your kids will love to take.
Old-fashioned ways to have fun: Wastepaper basketball
Paper is wadded into balls, a line is marked off, and the children throw the balls into the basket. Three hits rate a point. If a youngster misses, he must stand on his head before he can get another turn. Penalty for missing a second time is a headstand plus jumping rope ten times.
Third failure brings those penalties plus running around the house. Soon, penalties are more fun than victories.
Summer garden in a saucer
Winter’s flying saucer is filled with dirt; greenery is transplanted from the garden. Moss from woods can be added, streets laid with pebbles, houses built from blocks. Toy animals add interest. Older brother can build battery-operated water wheel to lend movement to the scene.
Variety is as limitless as a creative child’s imagination. Layout can be changed during the whole summer.
Kids bored? Try having fun with things that fly
When your child is tired and cranky, there is nothing like a balloon — whether it’s on a string or just free to bounce around where it pleases. Kites are fun on windy days. Send the kiters to an open field or park, with string, sticks, kites, paste, rags for tails, and newspapers to mend holes.
Playing their lines, youngsters can “fish the sky” for hours on end.
MORE: Look back at Candy Land, the vintage board game
First aid for underfoot kids
Children love being sick when they aren’t. Here they play out tragic but heroic battlefield injuries. They also like to play doctor and nurse, with the usual “discussions” over whose turn it is to play what.
Suitcases can be packed with toy thermometers. Torn sheets make bandages, and sticks serve as splints. Be sure to supply lots of raisins for pills.
Pasting up a dream house
Cutouts are fun for girls, but boys also join this project if told to paste up a space station.
Sketch a paper house — or a satellite — on a large piece of paper and pin it to the wall. Mark in the rooms beforehand — the limitation adds spice to the game. Your children then fill in people and objects cut from old magazines. Don’t be surprised if you find tigers in the basement, though.
MORE: Vintage talking dolls from the ’60s: Just pull the string and they say different things!
Old-fashioned ways to have fun: Shadows on the wall
Men night comes and feet are tired, light thrown from a projector — or a reading lamp or even a candle — brings shadow figures to life.
After hand-formed rabbits, chickens, ducks grow dull, lacy cutouts revive interest. These cutouts become marvelous designs by snipping here and there until, say, an elephant is full of stars. Opaque, dark-colored paper brings the best effects.
Sculpture that floats
Soap costs little, and kids love to find more pleasant use for it than washing. Soft bars are an excellent medium for easy carving. Ships, made from floating soap and equip with colorful paper sails, can be sent on exciting missions across bathtubs and wading pools.
Boys also like to carve cars, houses, rockets, and exciting satellites with toothpick antennas.
Puppets by moppets
Old socks, a bag of buttons, curtain rings, colored wire, needle, and thread — these things make intriguing puppets that take hours to perfect.
Button eyes sewn where the child’s fist bends, red felt for tongues, hair of burlap turn socks into fabulous creatures.
Over chairs and under tables the actors go with their “talking” beasts, using the whole house for their drama.
ALSO SEE: Vintage playhouses & forts: Old-fashioned fun for kids
Parachuting without risk
An old sheet torn into squares makes wonderful parachutes. Tell kids to tie cord to the four corners and fix a weight to the cords. When dropped from any elevation, chutes will blossom and float gently to the ground.
Best fun is wrapping pebble in the chute and tossing it high into air or out over a field. To occupy youngsters longer, have them decorate their parachutes with crayon designs.
Uncle Wiggily game
For very young children, you must plot the layout of this game. [See it here.] Second-graders and up will be able to chart their own.
A dozen bases are picked — indoors or out — and numbered from one to twelve. Every third or fourth is marked “Go back three,” “Start over,” “Skip five,” and so on. Kids roll a single die in turn. The game is the most fun when plotted over a simple obstacle course.
MORE: Popular vintage board games from the ’60s
Old-fashioned ways to have fun: Make new wonders from old junk
Odds and ends have great possibilities. Tell your child to pick five items from a “junk drawer” and glue them together to create an animal. After creature is finished with poster paint, Dad can try to figure out what went into it.
Another day, tell the youngster to pick five more things and dip them into poster paint and print their shapes on paper sheets. Family then guesses their origins.
Old-fashioned ways to have fun: Heroics in a cardboard fort
Boys between six and nine love to build forts. Alone, this will defend them against all sorts of imaginary enemies. Two boys in two forts make for an all-out war.
Forts can be as simple as a pile of cardboard cartons: four stakes in the ground with an old sheet over them — as elaborate as a tree house.
MORE: A dream-come-true vintage playhouse for the backyard: Creativity from the ’60s
Old-fashioned ways to have fun: Play backyard ship-to-shore
On a hot summer day, the spray of a water hose is sheer beauty to the six- to eight-year old — and important to leaping spirit. When he tires of squirting himself and friends, suggest that he let it flow like a river.
The water can be dammed and bridged, and cities built along its course. Boats can be sailed, fleets directed in battle, and whole new continents discovered.
MORE: Hot weather fun: How kids can learn through water play
Summer school with ups and downs
This game can be played indoors or out. It requires a set of steps, and at least two but, if possible, three or more children. Mother appoints the first teacher. His pupils sit on the bottom step, and he asks them questions.
Correct answers advance pupils one step; misses send them down one. The first one to the top step becomes the next teacher.
MORE: 50 colorful vintage banana seat bikes for kids from the ’60s & ’70s
A club for under-the-chair men
The most important thing about a club is the clubhouse. It can be several chairs, or a card table, with blankets draped over. Youngsters can elect presidents and vice-presidents, and write simple rules for members.
They will also keep busy designing membership cards. Selection of a name will take quite a bit of doing — and you might even suggest a dish-washing club!
Reading to your child (1961)
Fort Worth Star-Telegram (Fort Worth, Texas) April 16, 1961
When is the best time to read? Almost any time the child wants a story and the parent can oblige. In many families, the story hour comes in the evening when dinner is over and pajamas are on.
Reading on rainy afternoons is fun, and so is reading before naps. Beware of hard and fast schedules. If the child doesn’t want a story, don’t make him listen to one. If you don’t want to read him a story, don’t feel you have to.
MORE: Here’s how you can turn your kids into big readers
What’s the best place for storytelling? The best place is where there are the least noise, fewest distractions and most comfort. It could be the living room couch, the playroom floor, on top of the bed, the back seat of a car on a long trip, beside a campfire, or under a tree.
How long should you read? If the child is under 6, usually 15 to 30 minutes are enough. With older children, 45 minutes are a maximum. A chapter a night or a single short story will often suffice. When a child becomes restless or tired, it’s time to stop.
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