Combining several good things into one is often a risky maneuver (looking at you Nissan Murano Cabriolet Convertible), but “Camouflage” works because it’s a fusion of a few classic activities for kids: hide-and-seek, kick the can, and tag. It’s also an equalizer. Camouflage is easy to learn, and eliminates gaps in speed, agility, and age. It’s hard to cheat at and can be played almost anywhere. All you need is a space with a few mediocre hiding places and a bit of room to roam. I’ve played it deep in the forest and in a small garden; I’m sure the right family room or basement could work, too. It can be played with as few as three kids and as many as 15. I’ve played it with people from ages 4 to 70.
Camouflage is also a great game to roll out shortly after the first “how much farther” on a hike or when you’re entertaining a sleepover. Once a couple kids know how to play, it becomes a popular way to give parents space while camping or at backyard parties.
Prep Time: None
Hours of Entertainment: Endless
Energy Expended by Child: Moderate
What you’ll need: A small area with lots of places to hide or duck behind. Trees, rocks, logs, bushes, sofas, and tables all work. Five to ten participants is ideal, but just about any number can work.
How to Play
Let’s say Sally is “It”. Draw a circle in the dirt. This is where Sally will stand. She closes her eyes, says “camouflage for 20” and begins counting for 20 seconds. All other players run off and hide. When she reaches zero, Sally opens her eyes and, without leaving the circle, tries to spot the hiders, calling them out by name or the color of their clothing. Anyone caught is out. When Sally can’t find anyone else, she closes her eyes, calls “food for 15!” sticks her hands out to her sides and counts down from 15. All the hiders must run from their hiding place, tag Sally, and quickly hide again. When Sally hits zero, she opens her eyes and again tries to spot the hiders. The game continues like this with Sally calling “Water for 10!” and “Rest for five!” until only one hider remains. The last person standing gets to be “It” next round.
Because of the repeated in-and-out of hiding, the strategy is not to find the best hiding spot, but a good one that’s close to the person who’s “It”. That’s why it works well everywhere, from living rooms to small lots.
Every kid (and adult) I’ve taught Camouflage to loves it. I think the combination of silent anticipation followed by moments of hurried action sparks some flight or fight instinct. My favorite part is when I’m “It,” call “water for 15”, and close my eyes. The stampede of feet and giggles of joy combined with my wince of anticipation of the high fives to come is unique and hilarious. It’s one of those games that just works.