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Your backyard; An Adventure park

Updated: Aug 19, 2023

When I was growing up in the 70s and 80s inside was like another world. From sun up to sun down we lived outside the house. If we strayed and were caught inside, especially idly, it was a quick clip around the ears and an admonishment to get outside. So back we would go, in 40 degree heat, with no sunscreen or hat, to brave the elements, and find something to do. There was no 'organised' activities back then, other than a weekend soccer or netball match, no flip outs or climbing gyms, no lazer zones or inflatable worlds. Any fun that was to be had, was to come from ourselves and from the dying organ we call our imagination.

And so with a motley crew of boys and girls, of various ages and interest levels we made our games. Our backyard was our playground and from it we devised some of the greatest memories of my childhood.

Now my backyard was nothing special. The grassed area was barely the size of most modern day kitchens. But it seemed enormous as a child and the possibilities were endless.

Today the average block has shrunk from 602sqm in 2005 to 474sqm metres. As such most Children view the outside as we once did the inside of the house. And imaginative play is almost a relic. But while the times may have changed, children haven't. My experience as a father of three, and a PE teacher, Youth minister and Camp organiser for over 35 years is that children love adventure. They love to be challenged and they love something new and exciting. Competition, creativity and imagination are three ingredients that will always pike the interest of a child, whether they lived in the 70s or the 2020s. If your yard is non-existent or too too small to swing a cat in, try the local park for the following activities.

Here's some ideas to teach your children so they might see their backyard as not the valley of the shadow of death but the great adventure park that it actually is.

The Grass is Lava

This game involves having your children try and make it across or around your yard without touching the grass or ground itself. you will have to modify it according to your yard. For me as a child we had a wooden fence that ran around our yard. But it was blocked by a garage we had to scale and a massive ivy hedge that needed to. be negotiated. A green house in the corner meant we had to take some alternative routes such as stepping stones and garden rockeries. With a little creativity you could add some obstacles like a playground or trampoline.

The Wave game

This game was our favourite and lasted for years. It required someone to be in and the others all to hide. Find a wall to be the jail when someone is caught. This wall needs to be quite central and visible from many angles. Once everyone has hidden the person who is IT, tries to spot them. If he sees them, he calls their name and they are now on the wall. To be released from the wall someone has to wave at them. The person who is IT wins if he can place everyone on the wall. The others win after a set time if he hasn't done that. The person who was caught the least becomes the next IT.


I only learn't this one latter in life but it's the best. Choose someone to be IT. Walk as a group around the yard and at any point the person who is IT cries out "Camouflage.".

They immediately close his eyes and start counting to 10 loudly. Everyone else runs and hides. Once IT reaches ten he opens his eyes and looks for people. If he sees anyone he calls their name and they are out. After a little while he calls out "Touch" and closes his eyes and begins counting to 10 out loud. Everyone must run from their hiding place, touch IT and hide again (in any place they choose). When he reaches 10 IT opens his eyes again and if he sees anyone calls them and they are out. After a little while he raised one hand and cries out "Numbers". At this time he holds up a certain amount of fingers on one hand, visible for everyone to see. This time he keeps his eyes open and if he sees anyone calls them out. If after all this their are still people hiding then everyone reveals themselves. Those left in reveal what number of fingers they saw and whoever gets it correct and is the closest to IT wins and is IT for the next game. Repeat the process with the new IT leading the others around the yard.

Crazy obstacle course

This game is like the first only the objective is to complete a course in the back yard. It might consist of climbing under tables, up trees, over fences across gardens. Everyone is made clear on the obstacles and each person has a go. To add an element of competition you can have timed races.

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