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January 19, 2011

How to play

Attention young children: Hi kids! I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news for you. According to The New York Times, the culture of play is vanishing from our society. Numerous studies suggest that you youngsters spend far too much time staring at screens. Lessons and homework dominate your weekdays, and parent-organized sports leagues and activities suck up your weekends.

Only 20 percent of you live within walking distance of a park or playground. Sociologists believe this lack of self-directed play can have negative implications for your future ability to solve problems, work as a team or suspend your future co-workers’ office supplies inside a blob of Jell-O.

Fortunately, there’s a growing movement to restore play into your lives: The National Science Foundation, the Alliance for Childhood and other organizations want to teach you “the business of play.” To support this effort, we here at LEO Labs have compiled a list of cutting-edge play techniques that are sure to foster the social and intellectual skills you’ll need to succeed in the first grade and beyond. Try these fun activities:

Gadget Castle. If you are 4 or older, you’re probably on your ninth phone by now. And when Mommy and Daddy upgraded you to the iPhone 4 with HD video, you probably tossed your old Blackberry, digital camera, camcorder, iPod and netbook into a drawer. Don’t let your parents send those old gadgets off for recycling, where their toxic metals will disrupt the endocrine systems of Chinese children. Instead, build a gadget castle! (Tip: Your baby sister’s probiotic oatmeal mixed with some Rawberry GoGurt makes an excellent mortar.)

I Skype. Here’s how you play this fun driving game: Text your friends and invite them to get together on Skype Mobile. Once everybody is conferenced in, one player silently chooses something within view, such as a GPS display, and says, “I Skype with my little eye, something that starts with G.” The other players take turns guessing what it could be. The one who guesses correctly gets to operate the seat warmer.

Learning Disability. Everybody has a learning disability or psychiatric disorder these days! Try this fun game: Go off your meds and gather in a circle with one child in the middle. Take turns peppering that player with math, reading comprehension, hand-eye coordination and attention span challenges. The first to correctly identify the disability or disorder gets to act out.

Twenty Tweets. Try this challenging game: Think of an #idea but do not reveal it to the @otherplayers on Twitter. They must tag you in their tweets with a question, which you retweet with either a yes or no answer. Using deductive reasoning, the questioners must identify your idea within 20 tweets or you’ve stumped them and they have to follow @grandpa for three months.

Rock, Touch Screen, Undo. This is a fun hand game where you try to outguess your opponent. Each object has a hand sign: Rock is a clenched fist, Touch Screen is a flat hand, and Undo is a hand with two fingers extended. After a count of three, each player holds out a hand sign representing one of the objects. Here’s how you score: Rock smashes Touch Screen, Touch Screen autocorrects Undo, and Undo undoes Rock.

Capture the iFlag. In this action-packed game, you divide into teams and try to outwit the enemy. It’s sort of like “Grand Theft Auto” except instead of killing prostitutes and fighting in gang wars while stealing cars as you rise up in the mob, you try to capture the other team’s iFlag, which you can download in PDF format to a couple of iPads propped up in the yard.

Simon Says. This game is not for the attention deficient! Choose someone to be Simon. Now, everybody must do what Simon says, but only when he says “Simon Says” first. If he says, for example, “Simon says stalk your mom on Facebook,” everyone should do that. But if he says, “Add ‘Phineas and Ferb’ to your dad’s Netflix queue” without saying “Simon says” first, anyone who does it must play “Mario Kart” for a week without using cheats. The last player standing gets to score some “Yo Gabba Gabba” ink (henna only until you’re 8).

We hope these play ideas stimulate your brain’s forced-norm-compliance circuitry and lead to hours of wholesome fun. For more game ideas, download these helpful apps: Ginger Rover, Diversity Dawg, Hide ’n’ Text, Hangperson, Pin the Tail on the Na’vi, and Duck Duck Tofurky.