Good weather is finally here, bringing outdoor fun, bike rides, picnics, afternoons in the park -- and rain. For those days when your picnic plans turn to puddled hopes, here are a handful of indoor games that run on paper, paste, and imagination:
* Face Lotto: Divide a piece of cardboard (or paper) into eight sections, and draw a circle in each. Draw a slightly different face in each circle. Cut another piece of cardboard into the same number of sections, and draw faces on these that match the faces on your board. Pile these pieces in a stack, and take turns matching each piece to the right face.
You can vary this game, using letters, numbers, colors from paint samples, and so on. This is a good way to introduce young children to these concepts.
* Dominoes: You can make your own set of 28 dominoes using cardboard, Manila folders, plastic foam from supermarket meat trays, or even wood, if you are so talented. Instead of marking the dominoes with seven different dot combinations (blank to six dots), consider making a set of texture pieces, using velvet, sandpaper, satin, grossgrain ribbon, wool, and burlap -- or any other appropriate scraps. Other variations might be: Shapes, faces, colors, letters, fruits, flowers, flags, or star arrangements.
* Art Postcards: If you are fortunate enough to live near an art gallery that sells inexpensive post card-sized reproductions, there are a number of games you can make for your children.
Purchase two or three cards of several distinctly different artists, shuffle them, have the children sort them out according to the artist. An easier version of this is to give the child one card and have him select a similar picture of sculpture from a group of only three or four cards. To make the game more challenging, have the children sort a large number of cards according to periods (impressionists, Italian Renaissance, surrealists, and so on).
When the children are thoroughly familiar with the cards and are starting to trick you, cut each card in half, shuffle them, and ask the kids to rematch them.
* Guggenheim: The easiest way to understand this game is to visualize it:
Animal City Flower Food M O U N T A I N
The players should decide among themselves both the four categories and the eight-to-ten letter word that runs down the side of the board. Then they should each make up their own board.
Each player has about five minutes to fill in the blanks, thinking up words that begin with the letter in each line and fit the categories (E.g. Monkey, Minneapolis, Marigold, Meatloaf; Otter, Ottawa, Orchid, Oatmeal; and so on). If you like competition, you can say that the one with the most answers wins.
For those days when finding the scissors and paste proves an impossible task, here are some games that require only a sufficient vocabulary and a bit of imagination:
* House That Jack Built: Like the nursery rhyme, the game starts with someone making a simple sentence ("I have a radio"), and the next person adding a phrase ("I have a dog who listens to the radio," "I have a fish who winks at the dog who listens to the radio," "I have an aunt who ate the fish who. . . ."), until the sentence becomes too cumbersome or giggly to manage.
* Action Verbs: Using index cards or small pieces of paper, ask the children to think up action words -- hop, wiggle, melt, burn, curl, snarl, guffaw, and so on. After you've written down a number of these (one word to a card), place your cards in a paper bag. Then everyone gets to pick a card, read it (if possible), and act it out.
* Famous Nonquotes: Guess who never said this: "You can't really think I'm going to trade a perfectly good cow for those old dried-up beans!" Or how about: "Bake tarts? On a hot day like this?"
Think up your own nonquotes, and try them out on each other ("That's very nice of you, but I couldn't possibly live a alone in the woods with seven men.") This also makes a fun adult game ("I don't know, I just haven't been dreaming lately," "Wild horses couldn't drag me back here!").