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30 simple, active learning games parents can play with kids that don't involve screens

People are loving these fun, wholesome ideas to get kids' bodies and brains moving.

Whole-body movement is good for children's development.

As every parent knows, kids have energy for days, and figuring out how to channel and focus that energy to preserve your home and your sanity can be a formidable challenge.

Sending kids outside when they're bouncing off the walls usually works, but that's not always an option. Often when kids are stuck inside, we resort to screens (which can overstimulate their sensory system) or calm indoor games (which don't stimulate their energetic bodies). Both have their place but aren't great for getting the wiggles out.

That's why parents are loving a viral video that demonstrates 30 simple, fun parent-child activities and games, combining full-body movement with fun challenges that stimulate both the body and the brain.


The video, shared on Facebook by Simple Life, has 55 million views and thousands of comments from parents praising the way it shows parents and kids doing fun, healthy, educational activities together without a screen in sight. And the best part is that most of them require simple props parents likely have around the house or that are easy and inexpensive to find.

For instance, in one game, a parent stands on a stool and tosses a tissue for a child to catch. Super simple, but tissues fall in unpredictable ways, so it requires a child to use their hand-eye coordination and quick reflexes.

Another example is a parent facing away from a child and tossing soft balls or stuffed animals behind them, with the child catching the items in a basket. Again, super simple, but builds gross motor coordination.

Watch:

Such whole body games can help children through important developmental stages, encouraging things like bilateral and midline-crossing movements, which are activities that requires kids to reach across their body. It may seem like a simple movement, but according to occupational therapist Colleen Beck, if a child has difficulties with crossing the midline, they will demonstrate challenges in almost every functional task.

Games like those shown in the video also help kinesthetic learners, who learn best through movement and tactile activities. Kinesthetic learners retain information primarily by doing, rather than seeing or hearing. But all kids benefit from a variety of teaching approaches, so these active, hands-on games that double as skills practice are good for everyone.

So many of the activities in this video are brilliantly simple, but things most of us simply wouldn't have thought of. Dropping tiles down a wall for kids to catch? Having them pick up balls with their feet? Who would think?

Even the balloon bum-wiping lesson in the beginning is a good way to simulate a vital skill. Notice how the woman demonstrates how to fold the toilet paper? A good first step for teaching a child personal hygiene.

Finally, these ideas offer ways to bond with your kids in fun, active ways that also sneakily teach skills and encourage strong physical development. Kids get to practice accuracy, speed and agility, parents get to watch their kids improve, and everyone has a good time doing it. And a bonus in the digital age: No screens involved. It doesn't get any more win-win than that.

Wordle is a simple word game with a sweet origin story.

Look on any app store and you'll see thousands upon thousands of options for games. We've seen waves of popular game obsessions roll through society, from Tetris to Angry Birds to Candy Crush, but there's a new option taking the brain game world by storm.

You won't find it in the app store. You won't see advertisements for it, either. It doesn't even have its own dedicated domain.

It's called Wordle and the premise is simple. Every day, there's a secret 5-letter word to guess and you have six tries to guess it. With each attempt, the game tells you if each letter you typed is a correct letter in the right place (green), a letter that's in the word but in the wrong place (yellow) or a letter that's not in the word at all (gray). You can only play the game once per day. Super simple and satisfyingly challenging.

But its origin story is where Wordle truly shines.


It was created by artist and engineer Josh Wardle ("Wordle" is a play on his last name) and he made it not for cash or clout or commerce, but for love.

Wardle's partner, Palak Shah, enjoys word games, so he decided to make one for her. According to The New York Times, Wordle was a side project for Wardle during the pandemic, and the intent of releasing it publicly is not—nor will it be, according to Wardle—to make money. He just wants people to enjoy it.

"I think people kind of appreciate that there's this thing online that's just fun," Wardle told the Times. "It's not trying to do anything shady with your data or your eyeballs. It's just a game that's fun."

The fact that you can only play it once per day is a refreshing change from games and media that do everything they can to keep your attention and engage for as long as possible.

"I am a bit suspicious of mobile apps that demand your attention and send you push notifications to get more of your attention," Wardle told BBC Radio 4. "I like the idea of doing the opposite of that—what about a game that deliberately doesn't want much of your attention? Wordle is very simple and you can play it in three minutes, and that is all you get."

No ads? No data collection? No algorithms trying to read your mind or push you toward something? Nope, nope and nope.

"I don't understand why something can't just be fun," he told the BBC. "I don't have to charge people money for this and ideally would like to keep it that way."

When you play the game, which you can find here, you get an option at the end to share your results. This is what the share looks like—with no spoilers about the word or any of the letters:

Wordle 200 3/6

The grey boxes are letters I typed that aren't in the word, yellow boxes were letters that are in the word but not in the right place, and green letters are correct letters in the correct place. (This was my second day playing, and I was quite thrilled with getting the word in three tries. It took me all six tries yesterday to get the word "SIEGE.")

As someone who loves word games, I find Wordle delightful to play. It's quick and simple, but not easy. The difficulty depends on the word and what you initially guess, of course, but as it's different every day it will never get old. Wardle told the Times that he started with 12,000 words, but narrowed it down to about 2,500 to keep most obscure words that most people wouldn't be able to guess out. The key to a good game is to be challenging enough without feeling impossible, and Wordle fits that bill.

In a time when it feels like everything is complicated and/or profit-driven, having this pure little word game that wants nothing from us but a few minutes of fun is refreshing.

Thank you, Josh Wardle, for offering your sweet gift to us all, especially when we need wholesome simplicity more than ever.

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When we visit a new place, we all have our own way of learning about the people we meet.

Maybe we read up on the culture and history of the country we are visiting or try to learn how to speak a little of their language — even if it involves acting out words we don’t know.

Actor Grace Byers, best known for her role in the television show "Empire," has her own way of getting to know people in a new country.


Image via While the Water Boils/YouTube.

"I come to a country, and I’m like, 'What games do you play? Let me learn. And win,'" she said with a laugh.

That’s because to her, games are about more than just having fun. They’re about finding a great way to connect with other people.

"It’s this time when you get to be vulnerable, where you get to be open, where you really get to connect to other people and truly be yourself," she told Hannah Hart on the YouTube show "While the Water Boils" while the two played card games and cooked a delicious pasta dish.

Image via While the Water Boils/YouTube.

In fact, Byers loves games so much that she made a game out of who could pick the basil leaves off the stalk the fastest with Hannah while they were cooking pasta. Check out it out in their interview:

Byers' love for games comes directly from her childhood.

"I grew up in the Caribbean," she said, and while her childhood might sound idyllic with its beaches and fresh fruit, it was also easy to run out of things to do for fun.

"There’s not much to do on the island, really," she said. "You know, you have the movies, you have bowling and stuff like that, but the main thing that we really love to do is play games."

Image via While the Water Boils/YouTube.

Games, especially card games like Spit, became her favorite thing to do with family, friends, and even strangers. Later, she brought that passion for games with her when she moved to America from the Cayman Islands to study acting. And today, she even plays games such as Spades on-set with fellow actors.

Card games also became a way for Byers to find a great work-life balance in her career.

Image via While the Water Boils/YouTube.

"It’s so important to have a balance," she told Hart. "We will work, we will get the job done, but then we don’t really put that same effort into having fun and relaxing."

It’s important to make time for play and the things that you enjoy, no matter what they are — because that is how you keep your passions alive. And for Byers, card games do the trick better than anything else because they allow her to be herself, let down her barriers, and just have fun.

Margaret Marshall and Rachael Kauffung have found a delightful way of dealing with all the negative news from the past 12 to 18 months.

The two friends, who first met as co-workers at Amazon, have a major yen for games of all kinds and began holding weekly game nights as a way to de-stress.

In looking for new games to play, however, they noticed a lack of options that left everyone feeling good at the end of the night. Popular indie card game Cards Against Humanity brands itself "the party game for horrible people" while other games like Risk or Monopoly pit players against each other. Even games like Pandemic that require player collaboration to win can be kind of a downer at a time when Zika and Ebola have been part of the global conversation.


So the friends created a brand new game, one designed to make people feel good.

They called it Sway: A Game of Debate and Silver Linings.

Unlike other games, where players weigh worst-case scenarios or fight over hypothetical boardwalks while trying not to go broke or land in jail, players win Sway through the power of positive thinking.

Photo via Sway, used with permission.

In each round of the game, players go head-to-head in 30-second debates on various topics (both silly and serious) and win if they can “sway” the judge for the round. The twist? Players can only use positive arguments.

Oh, and occasionally players are challenged to present their arguments in Scottish accents or while doing a challenging yoga pose to get extra points. And when you win, you do a happy dance.

Just kidding. Dancing is totally optional. Photo via Sway creators, used with permission.

In the spirit of positivity and silver linings, Kauffung and Marshall have also decided to donate part of the game's profits to a charitable cause.

Image via B+ Foundation.

Kauffung's father, who recently lost his own battle with cancer, had always been passionate about fighting pediatric cancer. So for every game purchased, Silver Linings Games (the company that makes Sway) will donate $1 to B+ Foundation, an organization that supports families of kids with cancer.

Marshall and Kauffung hope playing Sway helps people remember that there's more to life than winning or being right — and that there's a silver lining to everything.

"[Sway is] not about winning or being right," Marshall and Kauffung explain in an email. "It's about silliness and silver linings and having a good time with people you care about (even if you disagree with them)."

As someone who recently played Sway for the first time, I can honestly say it's super easy to learn, definitely challenging, and filled with unexpected hilarity. It's a great way to dissolve tensions that may have built up between families and friends without letting competitive gameplay bring out the worst in you.

Not to mention, there was a study conducted at the University of North Carolina that found consistent positive thinking can make you happier, healthier, and more productive.

Photo via Sway creators, used with permission.

Whatever your way of reflecting on the positive things in life may be, it's important to remember how many reasons you have to laugh, cheer, and embrace the people around you. After all, it's hard to be mad when you're watching your friend try to explain the benefits of arachnophobia in a thick Boston accent — because that is not easy, but it is hilarious.

Want to learn more? Here's a fun video from the creators about Sway: