Simple summer games that all families can enjoy

By Dr. D. Jackson Maxwell

Summer is here and let the fun begin! The kids are out of school, barbeques abound, water activities commence, and the vacation plans are a-foot. Under the current economic malaise, many families are opting to stay closer to home or at least choosing the cheaper options of stay-cations or driving to a nearby locale rather than jetting off to some exotic foreign land. Here are some suggestions that are both entertaining and educational.

On your drive to your destination, try to engage your children in viewing their surroundings. While DS’s and video games can keep the kids occupied, time can be more productively spent in active sightseeing. The ABC game is where parents and children look for words on signs and buildings that begins with letters of the alphabet. The game starts with the letter “A.” You might find a sign for Arlington or Alabama, “B” for Biloxi or bike, and so on until someone wins the game by finding a word beginning with “Z” (e.g. zoo).

Another good viewing game involves Auto Bingo cards. This game has the whole family searching for roadside sights such as horses, cows, highway signs, emergency personnel, trains, and similar items. These cards allow you to slide a plastic shield over a window whenever you find a bingo picture. You can purchase these at many gift shops, tourist attractions, and on (keyword search: Auto Bingo). The first person to find all of the items in a row declares “Bingo” for the win.

There are other games that encourage children to look at more instead of a video screen (e.g. counting the same model car or looking for license plates from different states). Challenge their intellectual abilities through memory games like “On my way to California…” As a bonus, these types of activities help keep families communicating.

There are also many sites and activities in and around Memphis that are both fun and mentally stimulating. Children and adults alike can have days of fun touring Memphis’ musical heritage. Families can learn about the beginning of Rock-n-Roll at Sun Studios, discover soul music at STAX, or Gospel, Blues, Country, and other styles at the Smithsonian’s Rock-N-Soul Museum. You can check out the houses of music legends like Elvis Presley at Graceland, W. C. Handy on Beale Street, and Jerry Lee Lewis’ house. You could also explore how instruments are made at the Gibson Guitar factory.

If music is not your family’s thing, how about a trip to a park? At Shelby Farms Park you can view bison, play Frisbee golf, ride a bike or a horse along the trails, have a picnic or hook a fish at Catch’em Lake. Overton Park has hiking and jogging trails and golf as well as the award winning Memphis Zoological Park.

The Lichterman Nature Center features nature walks and The Backyard Wildlife Center with live animals and hands-on discovery activities. The Memphis Botanic Garden provides peaceful surroundings, which commune with nature and the superb My Big Back Yard Children’s Garden with a pond, rain machine, Treetop Adventure, and Playhouse Lane. The Children’s Museum of Memphis, while not an outdoor park, does contain many physical, intellectual, and interactive activities for kids of all ages. Finally, the River Walk along the Mississippi River provides exercise, and the Mud Island River Park & Museum provides tours of a scale model of the Mississippi River from its headwaters to the Gulf of Mexico.

Hopefully your family will get a chance to spend some quality time together this summer visiting sites of interest whether they are in the city or out-of-town. Memphis has much to offer that is both fun and educational. However, if you able to venture further perhaps you can keep the children entertained by looking at their surroundings and using a few of the games suggested above. The most important thing is being able to spend time with your children by talking to them and teaching them about the world around them.

Dr. D. Jackson Maxwell is an educator and freelance writer. If you have any questions or comments, please contact him at:


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