9 Outdoor Games Today’s Kids Probably Don’t Know How to Play

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Once upon a time, outdoor play was just a natural part of childhood. Of course, back then it wasn’t so much a matter of mom and dad knowing that fresh air, exercise, and social interaction were vital to both the physical and intellectual development of a child as much as it was getting us kids out of their hair for a few hours.

Going outside and jumping rope or playing kick the can with other kids in the neighborhood used to be as automatic as eating breakfast. Today, however, these activities are such an anomaly that childhood developmental experts have given them an official technical name—Unstructured Play—and are warning parents that it is becoming as archaic as cursive handwriting and clapping erasers after school. How many of these games did you play?

1. HOPSCOTCH

Though there's an abundance of colored sidewalk chalk available for sale still today, kids rarely use it to draw a hopscotch grid. Back in the day, we usually had a choice of traditional white or maybe yellow chalk (often palmed from the blackboard ledge when the teacher wasn’t looking) with which to draw the playing field. Part of the fun of the game was the search for the “perfect” throwing stone (at least one flat side was preferred to avoid unnecessary bounce). Hopscotch wasn’t always strictly a kids’ game; Roman soldiers used to play the game in full armor as a military exercise.

2. KICK THE CAN

This game is sort of a hybrid of hide-and-seek and tag, but instead of actually touching the players, “It” must spot them and jump over the can (or bucket or other handy receptacle) while calling them out: “Over the can on Sandy—behind the big evergreen in Kosnik’s front yard!” If properly identified, that person was “out”. However, while It's back was turned, all the hidden players conspired to quietly run over to the can and kick it before being noticed. Much like flashlight tag, kick the can required players to run and hide all over the immediate neighborhood without regard for private property, which may very well have led to the “Hey you kids, get off of my lawn!” trope

3. JUMP ROPE


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The advantage to jump rope was that it could either be a solitary activity or played with an unlimited number of people. All that was necessary was a length of rope (or something rope-like; in a pinch, even an electric extension cord would suffice). There were an abundance of skill games that every kid knew, all of which had their own “chant”. For example, “High, low, jolly, pepper” required the jumper to first skip over the rope at a level several inches above the ground, then skip in a crouched position when the rope was lowered, then spin in place while jumping, and lastly trying to keep up while the rope was twirled in double-time. Tripping up meant losing your turn and it was time for the next player to see how many choruses of the song he or she could get through before stumbling.

4. CHINESE JUMP ROPE

Chinese jump rope did originate in China, and there is jumping involved, but the “rope” is a misnomer. The equipment involved was either an official industrial-strength elastic band sold in drug and toy stores every summer in the 1960s as a “Chinese jump rope” or an extra-long circle of thick rubber bands tied together. The two “ends” held the stretched band in place around their ankles, and the jumper was required to perform a series of prescribed maneuvers inside and outside of the band before progressing to the next level.

5. JACKS


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Jacks is another game that dates back to ancient times, although in 400 BCE the players used the tiny ankle bones of sheep instead of the six-pointed metal pieces that were included with a red rubber ball in every birthday party favor bag in the 1950s and '60s. Some of us who never advanced past “twosies” didn’t find much enjoyment in a game of jacks, but it was allegedly a great exercise in hand-eye coordination.

6. FOUR SQUARE

The rules for four square varied depending upon your locale; some neighborhoods had more stringent rules and scoring systems than the more casual, laissez-faire “if the ball bounces twice in a square or hits a line you’re out” version of the game. In either case, the only necessities for play were a playground ball and some pavement. If you didn’t have chalk to outline the playing field, the tar lines in your driveway or cracks in the sidewalk would suffice.

7. RED LIGHT, GREEN LIGHT

Red light, green light required a minimum of three players, but there was no maximum. And the actual play involved something kids love—running as fast as they could when the “Traffic Light’ turned his or her back and announced “green light!” When the Traffic Light did an about-face and called out “red light!,” however, everyone was required to freeze in place, and anyone caught moving had to return to the starting line.

8. TAG


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There were several dozen variations of  tag, from frozen tag to TV tag to shadow tag. Flashlight tag was always a favorite, mainly because it was played after dark and had that extra element of spookiness and suspense as you ran through the neighborhood hiding in sheds and ducking around hedges. Some game strategies were hard-learned, such as not running behind the garage of a homeowner in the midst of serious remodeling. (You might step on a board with a 3 ¼” nail protruding from it that pierces right through your sneaker and requires a trip to the ER and a tetanus shot. Just sayin’.)

9. RED ROVER

Red Rover was the ideal playground game because more players made for better game play. Two teams of players joined hands and faced each other on opposite sides of the field. The captain of each team took turns summoning a player from the opposite side: “Red Rover, Red Rover, let Jack come over!” Jack would then have to run at top speed and try to break through the joined hands of the opposing team. Of course, prior to his sprint, Jack would have properly vetted the rival team and determined which players might have the weakest grip. If Jack didn’t manage to break through, he had to join the opposing team. However, if he did break through the chain, he not only got to return to his own team, but he was also allowed to take one of those weak link players back with him. The amount of rough-housing required for this game almost guarantees that would be banned from today’s sanctioned playground activities.

7 Top-Rated Portable Air Conditioners You Can Buy Right Now

Black + Decker/Amazon
Black + Decker/Amazon

The warmest months of the year are just around the corner (in the Northern Hemisphere, anyway), and things are about to get hot. To make indoor life feel a little more bearable, we’ve rounded up a list of some of the top-rated portable air conditioners you can buy online right now.

1. SereneLife 3-in-1 Portable Air Conditioner; $290

SereneLife air conditioner on Amazon.
SereneLife/Amazon

This device—currently the best-selling portable air conditioner on Amazon—is multifunctional, cooling the air while also working as a dehumidifier. Reviewers on Amazon praised this model for how easy it is to set up, but cautioned that it's not meant for large spaces. According to the manufacturer, it's designed to cool down rooms up to 225 square feet, and the most positive reviews came from people using it in their bedroom.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Black + Decker 14,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner and Heater; $417

Black + Decker portable air conditioner
Black+Decker/Amazon

Black + Decker estimates that this combination portable air conditioner and heater can accommodate rooms up to 350 square feet, and it even comes with a convenient timer so you never have to worry about forgetting to turn it off before you leave the house. The setup is easy—the attached exhaust hose fits into most standard windows, and everything you need for installation is included. This model sits around four stars on Amazon, and it was also picked by Wirecutter as one of the best values on the market.

Buy it: Amazon

3. Mikikin Portable Air Conditioner Fan; $45

Desk air conditioner on Amazon
Mikikin/Amazon

This miniature portable conditioner, which is Amazon's top-selling new portable air conditioner release, is perfect to put on a desk or end table as you work or watch TV during those sweltering dog days. It's currently at a four-star rating on Amazon, and reviewers recommend filling the water tank with a combination of cool water and ice cubes for the best experience.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Juscool Portable Air Conditioner Fan; $56

Juscool portable air conditioner.
Juscool/Amazon

This tiny air conditioner fan, which touts a 4.6-star rating, is unique because it plugs in with a USB cable, so you can hook it up to a laptop or a wall outlet converter to try out any of its three fan speeds. This won't chill a living room, but it does fit on a nightstand or desk to help cool you down in stuffy rooms or makeshift home offices that weren't designed with summer in mind.

Buy it: Amazon

5. SHINCO 8000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner; $320

Shinco portable air conditioner
SHINCO/Amazon

This four-star-rated portable air conditioner is meant for rooms of up to 200 square feet, so think of it for a home office or bedroom. It has two fan speeds, and the included air filter can be rinsed out quickly underneath a faucet. There's also a remote control that lets you adjust the temperature from across the room. This is another one where you'll need a window nearby, but the installation kit and instructions are all included so you won't have to sweat too much over setting it up.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Honeywell MN Series Portable Air Conditioner and Dehumidifier; $400

Honeywell air conditioner on Walmart.
Honeywell/Walmart

Like the other units on this list, Honeywell's portable air conditioner also acts as a dehumidifier or a standard fan when you just want some air to circulate. You can cool a 350-square-foot room with this four-star model, and there are four wheels at the bottom that make moving it from place to place even easier. This one is available on Amazon, too, but Walmart has the lowest price right now.

Buy it: Walmart

7. LG 14,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner; $699

LG Portable Air Conditioner.
LG/Home Depot

This one won't come cheap, but it packs the acclaim to back it up. It topped Wirecutter's list of best portable air conditioners and currently has a 4.5-star rating on Home Depot's website, with many of the reviews praising how quiet it is while it's running. It's one of the only models you'll find compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant, and it can cool rooms up to 500 square feet. There's also the built-in timer, so you can program it to go on and off whenever you want.

Buy it: Home Depot

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10 Fierce Facts About Bella Abzug

Bella Abzug in the 1970s.
Bella Abzug in the 1970s.
Library of Congress, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

“Larger than life” sums up Bella Abzug, the New York-based Democratic congresswoman who gained notoriety in the 1970s with her big hats and bold feminist voice. Abzug, who died in 1998 at age 77, was recently portrayed by Margo Martindale in the Hulu/FX miniseries Mrs. America (2020), featuring Cate Blanchett as anti-Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) crusader Phyllis Schlafly. Here are some facts about “Battling Bella.”

1. In her youth, Bella Abzug defied the expectations of her Orthodox Jewish upbringing.

Abzug was born in the Bronx on July 24, 1920. The daughter of Russian Jewish immigrants lost her father when she was 13. Flouting Orthodox tradition, she recited prayers for his soul—normally a son’s duty—at their synagogue.

2. Bella Abzug defended a Black man accused of raping a white woman.

Abzug studied labor law at Columbia University, where she edited the Columbia Law Review. While later working for the Civil Rights Congress, she represented Willie McGee, who was charged with raping a housewife in Laurel, Mississippi, in 1945. During three trials with all-white juries, the facts remained unclear. Luminaries like Josephine Baker and Albert Einstein petitioned for clemency. Abzug handled McGee’s final appeal, which fell short, and the truck driver was executed in 1951. Though the appeal failed, a white woman defending a Black man in the Deep South at that time was remarkable in itself.

3. At age 50, Bella Abzug mounted her successful first run for Congress.

Abzug celebrating the 60th anniversary of the 19th Amendment.
Abzug celebrating the 60th anniversary of the 19th Amendment.
Equality Now, Flickr // Public Domain

“This woman’s place is in the House ... the House of Representatives.” That slogan propelled Abzug to victory in a Manhattan congressional district in 1970. She served three terms and co-founded the National Women’s Political Caucus with Gloria Steinem and Shirley Chisholm. Abzug also fought for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which remains unratified today.

4. Bella Abzug lobbied to get the U.S. out of the Vietnam War.

On her first day in Congress in 1971, Abzug proposed a resolution to pull U.S. troops out of Vietnam. Later that year, the longtime peace activist pressured Richard Nixon’s administration to release the entire classified Pentagon Papers about the Vietnam War. Before the war ended in 1975, she visited the region with colleagues and argued against continued U.S. military aid.

5. Bella Abzug appeared on Richard Nixon’s “enemies list.”

When Abzug first met Nixon at a White House reception, she slammed his Vietnam policy, saying, “Your predecessors didn’t do very well, but you’re doing worse.” Chuck Colson, Nixon’s special counsel, put her on an “enemies list” with nearly 600 names. After Watergate, the Republican president was impeached and resigned in 1974.

6. Bella Abzug had a fierce rivalry with fellow Democrat Ed Koch.

Mayor Ed Koch of New York, Congresswoman Bella Abzug (Dem-NY) and President Jimmy Carter during a meeting in 1978.
Koch, Abzug, and President Jimmy Carter during a meeting in 1978.
Schumacher, Karl H.,White House Photographer, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Abzug and Ed Koch co-sponsored the first federal gay rights bill in 1974, but Koch admitted: “Bella and I just disliked one another intensely.” They clashed about Koch’s endorsement of Bess Myerson over Abzug in a 1976 Senate race. In 1977, Koch beat out Abzug to become New York’s mayor.

7. Bella Abzug spearheaded a law enabling married women to get credit cards in their own names.

After Abzug discovered she couldn’t obtain an American Express card unless it bore her husband Martin’s name, she took action. In 1974, a new law banned discrimination against women seeking consumer credit or business loans.

8. In 1977, Bella Abzug chaired the first National Women’s Conference.

Jimmy Carter appointed Abzug to run the landmark conference in Houston, Texas. Vigorously opposed by Phyllis Schlafly, it attracted more than 20,000 delegates from across America, including Maya Angelou, Billie Jean King, and three First Ladies. Sessions focused on the ERA, domestic violence, and education reform, among other issues.

9. After leaving office, Bella Abzug advocated for women’s rights worldwide.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Abzug agitated for reproductive rights and environmental conservation at United Nations conferences from Nairobi to Rio. The co-founder of the Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO) spoke at the 1995 World Conference on Women in Beijing, where Hillary Clinton stated, “Women’s rights are human rights.”

10. From the stage to the screen, Bella Abzug’s legacy is celebrated today.

Beyond Mrs. America, options abound. Harvey Fierstein performed a one-person off-Broadway show called Bella Bella in 2019. Bette Midler played Abzug in the 2020 film The Glorias. Jeff L. Lieberman’s documentary Bella!, including interviews with Barbra Streisand and Nancy Pelosi, will premiere in either 2020 or 2021.