Sock Marble Soccer

My daughter Shael, my wife and I were visiting her brother and his family (4 kids). She had discovered that their clean sock collection had far outpaced their sock-pairing efforts. Shael, shall we say, "invited" us, en famille, to a half-hour or so of collective sock-pairing.

She didn't have a game for us to play, but she sure had a reason. And she also knew us well enough (like family) to assure her that we would not only get the job done playfully, but if there was a game in it, we'd find it, and we'd get the game played, too.

So we approached the task in precisely that manner - out of love and fun, of wanting to help and wanting to play. It was a sock mass of considerable size. Finding an actually matched pair was clearly going to be a daunting task. Daunting enough that the finding of such never failed to merit massive praise from fellow match hunters. 

One of us, I can't remember which, began sorting the socks into colors (an admirably practical thing for us to have done). Eventually, we all joined in the task. It was a lot easier to do, and hence a lot more general fun. Ultimately, we each claimed dominion over a certain color, or two, or shared a pile, like the black, brown and blue (one pile) or white (yet another). It took us at least fifteen minutes before the first sock ball was launched. I think it was then that we invented sock marble soccer.

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Children Will Play

Frances Henson VanLandinham's Children Will Play: Games and Toys from Simpler Times is a collection of "childhood memories," gathered from family, friends and neighbors, most of whom grew up during the depression, when times where perhaps simpler, but definitely far more difficult than most of us currently enjoy. Hence this lovingly illustrated collection describes handmade toys and homemade games - folk games and toys that are truly inspirational accounts of play and love, creativity and spontaneity, of imagination and free-range joy.

I quote from the introduction: "Children will play under almost any circumstances. I've observed children at play while cold and hungry. Even while living in an abusive environment, children play. Children don't have the verbal skills to communicate their pain and suffering, so they express pain as well as joy through play. Children play through times of social upheaval. During wars and natural disasters, children play."

The book describes how to play Appalachian jump rope, how to make corncob darts, milk can trains, bark sleds, plantain dolls, stick cows, hollyhock dolls, handkerchief dolls. It is full of stories of almost heroic celebrations of Christmas, when there was barely enough money for food.

It is a history of the human spirit. Something to treasure. Something from which to draw inspiration and hope. And it could very well open new pathways to fun, for all of us.

It can only be ordered ($12 plus $2.00 US shipping) from the author. Send your check or money order to Frances Henson ValLandingham, 812 Poga Road, Butler, TN 37640. Call 423-768-2261 for more information. Email

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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More kids/games/violence research

I received the following email from Tom Hanson, editor of
I see where you recently discussed kids and video games on your site (see: Are Video Games Ever Good for Kids?). At we did an in depth review of the topic of violent video games that included an interview with one of the authors of the book. We broke the topic out into three posts:

Shoot-em Up Video Games - The Cause of Greater Anti-social Behaviors in Teens?

Author Reveals "The Surprising Truth About Violent Video Games"

Experts State: Do Not Banish - Instead, Manage Violent Video Game Play

The research of Kutner and Olson has caused one critic of such games, this writer, to rethink his thoughts on the topic. If you think the posts would be of interest to your readers I would be grateful if you would share them.
Grateful? No, no, I'm the one who's grateful for this great resource. Someone's been doing a lot of clear thinking, in the name of education and play - the series, and in fact the blog itself, is a gift to all of us: designers, players, families and especially kids.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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The Sound and Fury at the Educational Centre for Games in Israel

I learned about The Sound and the Fury more than 30 years ago, when I first joined the New Games Foundation. Since then, I've been teaching it almost every chance I get. I have my reasons, in deed I do. It's a great way to get people involved, engaged, open, willing to play, exploring their own capacities for public silliness, and a perfect introduction to the idea of Coliberation.

I had the chance to teach the game again with some rather remarkable people in a rather remarkable place. The remarkable thing about these people was that they came from all over Israel because they value play and games and toys as tools for restoring health. The remarkable place was called "The Educational Centre for Games in Israel." And the remarkable woman who invited me to speak was its director, Helena Kling.

I first encountered Helena through her work with the International Toy Research Foundation. I found the following description of Helena and her center in an old issue of the ITRA newsletter
"Helena is by profession a psychologist specializing on Children’s Play in Hospita, and has for many years been working on projects about play. At present running the Educational Centre for Games in Israel, a non-profit association which she describes as follows:'We have a small building full of stuff, a veritable 'heritage centre' of play; there is 'hands on play' available; a work room where people can make games and toys; an exhibition room with miniature rooms and two model railways; a library that has become a centre of information on play; a large collection of Israeli board games and collection of collections and dolls and so much more that if I go on writing about it I am afraid of disbelief!'"
Such wonderful energy. Such a deep commitment to play. Such an honor. Such a fun person to play with.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Children at Play: An American History

Howard Chudacoff's Children at Play: An American History explores the changing nature of childhood in American since the 1600s.

The whole notion of childhood as an historical and cultural phenomenon is, in itself, revelatory. Reading Children at Play is to see American children as something like a separate country, with its own government, its own history, its own customs, its own borders.

In a large part, the history of American childhood proves to be a story of borders being constantly redrawn, redefined, reinterpreted. Chudacoff's well-documented and compassionate study shows how children, poor and wealthy, slave and privileged, native and immigrant, surrounded on all sides by adult America, endowed with childlike resilience and endless capacity for passion, have managed to resist hundreds of years of concerted adult efforts to subvert childhood into something other, something safe, predictable and under control.

Children at Play is in many ways a romance. As the book nears its conclusion, and we read about the evermore massive attempts to co-opt children's play, we find our very adult selves hoping against hope that children will once again reclaim their inalienable rights, breaking the shackles of rampant commercialism and overprotective parents so they can once again take up their "quest for independence."

Here, from the end of the chapter "1950 to the Present," Chudacoff gifts us with a ray of hope: "...while media critics and child advocates have fretted about the hypnotic, sedentary quality that television has inflicted on children, there is always the possibility that kids can convert an object as mundane as a TV box into ther own plaything." He goes on to quote a story told by Isabel Alverez. "See, those old television sets used to have the cardboard [backs] with holes in them. The television was on and we could see all of the lights in the back...So we took the cardboard off and put our dolls in there and played that it was the city of Manhattan." Chudacoff concludes: "Kids still find ways to be kids."

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Playing with children

For today's Funcast, we find ourselves engaged in a semi-polemic contemplation of vicissitudes of intergenerational play, intergenerational community, intergenerational family, and all things inter, um, generational. It's not a very playful polemic, as polemics go. But it might very well help to move you or someone who needs such movement, to consider more carefully the importance of playing with. It begins:
The separation between parents and children, adolescents and family is so wide that we hardly recognize ourselves in each other. Our generations have become institutionally isolated, divided out into schools, businesses, factories, day care centers, hospitals, rest homes. Our days have become so filled with working and consuming, so consumed by "communication" that with have little time for ourselves, less time for each other, and no time for our community. The result is a steady deterioration of marriage and family, community and planet.
You can, should you find yourself so moved, read the whole of it here.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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The Camp Wiki

The Camp Wiki is a resource for anyone who cares about groups - from camp counselors to business trainers. Right now, it is far from encyclopedic. There aren't nearly enough games described. But the games that are described are of proven play value, and many are as innovative as they are fun. For example, this very small sample of Big Games has only two games on it - Giant Billiards and Giant Scrabble (Boggle). Both they are both invitations to a great deal of fun, there's just enough about them to inspire the creation of more such games (did I ever tell you about Giant Foosball?), and, being a Wiki, and free, it's also enough to invite contributions from anyone who cares about groups and growth and fun. It's a fragile resource, dependent on its members for expertise and self-censorship. One that we should nourish and protect.

Funspotting by Dr. Roger Greenaway

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Apparently, Ringo is like volleyball, played with a ring. The inventor, Wlodzimier Stryzewski, was, at the time, captain of "the Polish épée fencing team for the Academic World Championships 1959 in Turin." He explains: "in my childhood I and a small friend played catch with a tyre which had come off a pram, which we would throw over the tops of horse-drawn carriages driven a long the main road of Sochaczew, my home town. Oh yes! The field can symbolize my body. The tyre – is my sword. There shall be no time limit between the catching and the throwing, so I never know when my opponent will begin his attack and in which direction, as in any fighting game."

I read on: "First, you have to throw the ring from the spot where you caught it, second – when throwing at least one foot must touch the ground. You may only leap when catching, never when throwing. Otherwise the defending party would have no chance at all and the entire game would be senseless. But why? – He demanded. Because it’s my game and my rules – I said."

Stryzewski has made it his game ever since, and has brought to it a vision and passion that borders on pure zeal.

"Ringo is a very simple game," he writes, "even though challenging, a fighting sport combining maximum effort of the soul and body with all the natural human movement: run, turnover, jump, catch, throw, bend. To be a Ringo champion you need forecast ability of the chess player, tactic and reflection of a fencer, with power of a boxer, flexibility of a ballet dancer, jumping ability of a volleyball player, speed of a sprinter, and precision of an archer, intellectual link with partners like a bridge player, space imagination as a pilot and endurance of a marathon runner. With a focus to make Ringo an Olympic sport America Ringo Association will be bringing closer the dream of the families around the world to participate in the Olympic games participating in the family category where parents with their children will play other families of the world in the spirit of friendship and peace."

Families. Cool.

from Junkyard Sports: The Blog

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Funny Together

It seemed to me curiously appropriate, yearly-speaking, end-wise, for a moment of appreciation. For you, first of all. And second, for that very sweet thing that sometimes happens when we get together - when we get funny together.

Which, beyond reminds me beyond serendipitously of an article I just published on the Deep Fun site. I called it "Funny Together." So enamored have I apparently become of this particular article that today I find it literally incumbent upon myself to read it to you for our little FunCast, and to invite you to read along, if you so desire, by clicking, obviously, here.

I begin, should you still so wonder, with the following:
Sometimes, we are funny together. All of us. At more or less the same time. Singing a silly song, maybe, playing a funny game. Walking a funny walk, talking in funny voices, in foreign accents, in slow motion.

For me, being funny together with my wife, my kids, my grandkids, is almost always the funniest, the deepest, the most deeply funny.

We’re not being silly. No way. We’re being funny together. Magically funny. Even when we are doing silly things, it’s not at all about being silly, it’s all about the funniness that we’re creating together. The magic of it. All about the laughter we are sharing.

I think those times when we are funny together, those amateurish, funny together times, we are funnier than comedians and clowns. Funny beyond clever. So funny, we are taken by surprise by how funny.

From Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Featherball - a Handy Game Around the World

This 24-page, illustrated and PDF'd booklet describes how to make and play Featherball. Yes, yes, it's a shuttlecock, all right, familiar to all those who've ever played or wondered about badminton. Yet badminton itself is only one of a vast, international panoplay of shuttlecockish pastimes.
there's "Funderbirds," for example, a non-competitive game, similar to the perhaps far more familiar game of Peteca (which you, of course, might know better as Indiaca), only played without a net or court, like the bimillenially-played, Southeast Asian game of Chapteh but not like Jianzi, except no one is eliminated.

It is but one of many instructively playful resources awaiting those who download from it from Teamwork and Teamplay available to the connected many through the expertise, good will and generosity of Jim Cain, Ph.D.

funscouting by Roger Greenaway, author of the provocative and appropriately playful piece Reviewing for Fun.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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An Intergenerational Games Night

I haven't been able to stop thinking about the magnitude of family fun described in Jan Nickerson's response to my open query about intergenerational games. Yesterday's Drawing Quotes game was part of it. Today, I decided that I had to blog the rest of it.

Jan writes (Bernie laboriously adds links where appropriate):

Our ages range from 10 to 17 for kids, 40's and 50's for adults, and 75-85 for grandparents. We especially like to play family games on New Year's Eve - fun for all!

There's never time to play ALL the games we're prepared to play - we just self-organize around whichever ones people want to play. By having the round robin, people can choose. Those who want to play Magic, for example, can for one 30 minute round, and still be available to play other games during the night with people who don't play Magic. If you've ever been to an Open Space Conference, that's basically how we organize it. Half hour time slots are rows of the matrix, Rooms with game selections are columns of the matrix. Kids get to choose who they'll play what against in each time slot, making sure that they play at least 1 game with each person there (works for 8 people). After the kids have chosen, which includes committing adults in different time slots and games, then the adults fill in the empty slots. Don't worry if a game takes less than 30 minutes - time to play another quick version, or refill a drink. This variety and mixing gets our kids asking for game nights with the family and friends.

Computer games we love to play include:

Zoombini, and all of the Dr. Brain's (e.g. see how many puzzles you can do in 20 - 30 minutes)
Jigsaw (Bernie notes: this online Jigsaw puzzle site allows you - if you join, for free - to upload your own photos and make puzzles out of them. All puzzles on this site can be made more or less difficult, changing the size and number of pieces. Very cool.)

Board games we love include:
Apples to Apples (great for all ages 11 and up) (there are sets allowing you to extend the age range downward to 7)
Loaded Questions (GREAT fun, especially for friends and family you don't necessarily see often - perfect for holidays)
Cranium (fun to see who becomes the resident actor, singer, artist, or factoid expert!)
Elferraus (German game by Ravensburger, building up and down sequence with 4 suits)
Hot Seat (like loaded questions, esp good for teenagers)
Jenga Truth or Dare (like Jenga tower of wooden sticks, but each one has a truth or dare challenge - good for teenagers)

Old Standby Favorites:
Card games/activities:
Crazy Uno (see instructions in the Deep Fun weblog - or just google search for them)
Sequence (my husband and I have played this at least once a day, for 2 years now!) - see below for rules variations
House of Cards (see how many cards you can add to the house of cards in 5 minutes, without making it fall)
Fluxx (rules change every hand!)
Bali (like double solitaire, but with letters building up words)
Magic (for those who know how to play)

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