Marlene Byrne remembers playing games of Kick the Can and Ghost in the Graveyard when she was a little girl in Wisconsin. But now the mother of two thinks backyard play has been lost in the shuffle of kids’ overscheduled lives, and she’s on a mission to bring it back.
Bryne, of Chicago, has recently written three books for children, each one focusing on a different backyard game. The characters in the book live in Chicago’s Edgebrook neighborhood, where Bryne and her family live, and take on treasure hunts with friends or Follow the Leader on a rainy, muddy day.
"Backyard play was such a part of my childhood. But I felt like my children and others were losing some of those games, like Kick the Can and treasure hunts," Byrne says. "Each book will feature a specific game. Instead of organized baseball, this is the backyard pick-up game. In this book, the kids don’t have enough players so they have to modify the field a little bit."
At the end of each book, Byrne gives families tips on how to play the game and some variations of the game. "We hope that (these books) become an opportunity for kids to read and then go out and play these games," says Byrne, who has three more books in the works focusing on other backyard games.
"It’s not just about the books, it’s about this philosophy of parents getting their kids out to play," Byrne says. "It’s OK not to schedule every single moment of their life. Getting a group of kids together to make forts or telling them to bring flashlights to play in the yard is a good thing. For many parents, it’s a sigh of relief. It’s something that’s just fun."
The books are available at www.projectplaybooks.com for $12.99 each.