Chalk It Up

I’ve found a way to make board games an outdoor sport. It’s simple, really: just make your driveway the board!

Sidewalk games are nothing new. As soon as early civilizations realized they could make marks with charcoal, they were probably tic-tac-toeing on each other’s front door slabs. Hopscotch is another old stand-by. Or hop-by. Recently, while leafing through books about chalking with kids, I realized I hadn’t really stretched my thinking of outdoor chalking far enough. Why couldn’t it include board games?

Here’s what I did. First, I made a die out of a box covered with heavy paper taped onto it. Then I went outside. Chalk in hand, I drew a big, square spiral with a lane eventually tightening into a center box. That was the goal. Then I drew the cross-lines to make the squares. Every few squares I wrote something interesting that would happen if you landed there. They included:

• up 3 (or whatever number)
• back 3 (again, vary the number)
• step over
(with an arrow pointing to how they must change lanes)
• lose a turn
• 1 step behind
(go one square behind the last player)
• 1 step ahead
• 2X
(double your next roll)
• miscellaneous silly instructions
(hop or waddle or dance your next roll)

The most controversial square, as it turned out, was the one in which one had to spin three times around with your eyes closed then take one step. I thought it seemed quirky. But I drew it too close to the end box, because twice the game ended with someone spinning, guessing right and stepping into the winning square. That annoyed a couple of players. (Clearly not the ones that won.)

When you make up a game, rules are bound to change. That’s what’s fun about it. If a square doesn’t work, cross out what you wrote there. Let your kids be the panel of experts. They’ll tell you what works and what doesn’t. Loudly.

If all this sounds too complicated, then just try making a beanbag-toss bulls-eye. Or go with a tic-tac-toe tournament. The great thing about chalk is that you can transform a bland driveway or sidewalk into a play space; then after the next thunderstorm, it’s a clean slate for another idea.

Try out a game. If it doesn’t quite work, you can still chalk it up to a good family time.

Bruce Van Patter

all material ©2005 Bruce Van Patter