My favorite part of the day at camp was always rest hour. I know, I’m super lame because I didn’t say waterskiing or color war or free choice. But for those of you who went to camp, remember that rest hour was the time when all the girls in the cabin would have nothing to do other than write letters home, tackle some summer reading and… play games. But not just any games. THE BEST GAMES IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD, also played at slumber parties and sleepovers across the country, not to mention corners of the playground and a plethora of cafeteria benches. My favorites, in no particular order:
Apparently also known as “Speed” or “Slam”, I only ever heard this wildly fast-paced card game referred to as “Spit.” A perennial favorite of little girls (and likely boys although I never met one) everywhere, the game involves two players trying to get rid of their cards as fast as possible. Being speedy and paying attention to the other person’s cards are important, as is coordination since… you can only use one hand! Of course some cheaters say you can use two, but the real Spit I know and love is strictly a one-handed game. I won’t get into all the rules but suffice to say many a deck of cards has been ruined by the pace and frenetic energy of Spit. And not to brag, but I was the reigning champ four cabins in a row.
A magical game that was supposed to predict the future, M.A.S.H. was most often scrawled on pieces of notebook paper during class or study hall. There are many variations to the game and part of the fun was coming up with new ways to play, but the general rules were that there were four categories at least – usually type of home (Mansion, Apartment, Shack, or House), name of partner, number of kids, and type of car – and together, the M.A.S.H.-er and the M.A.S.H.-ee would fill in these categories with four choices for each. Then, the M.A.S.H.-er would start drawing little tick marks on the page until the M.A.S.H.-ee said STOP. However many tick marks were on the page, the M.A.S.H.-er would go through the categories and cross out whatever word they landed on. When one word was left in each category, that was the M.A.S.H.-ee’s future. It sounds confusing but it was extremely easy and fun, especially when we added in creative categories like pet names or future jobs and chose a good mix of potentially terrible and wonderful options. Tragically, you can now play online.
Miss Mary Mack
And also Bubble Gum on a Stick, Eeny Meeny Sassaleeny, Roller Coaster, and so many more. Yes, I’m talking about the hand clapping games we memorized and played for hours, seemingly purposeless but completely addictive and fun. I still remember the Sesame Street segment where a bunch of kids performed the Roller Coaster hand clap and I thought they were basically the coolest people I’d ever seen. These games were deceptively simple: memorize the song and the hand movements that go along with it, and in pairs or larger groups, perform an elaborate hand clapping-and-slapping routine in time with the song. Some of the faster-paced songs required more skill than others, but I remember these games as being strictly non-competitive and extremely fun.
Referred to by some as Cootie Catchers, Chatterboxes, Salt Cellars, and Whirlybirds, these were origami creations we filled in with numbers, colors, and surprise fortunes. There were many variations to the way fortune tellers were made, but the kind I was accustomed to involved someone asking a question of the person in charge of the fortune teller. That person would then ask them for a color. Let’s say pink. P-I-N-K. They’d manipulate the paper to open and close four times, and then the person would pick a number, and they’d open and close it that many times, and then the person would pick one of the flaps and read the fortune underneath. When you think about it, this was such an intimate game, to tell each other what we most want to know about our future and have to hear the answers right away.
Criss Cross Applesauce
I’ve seen these rhymes on the Internet where they’re referred to as “massage play” which sounds completely perverted and inappropriate for little children, so let’s just pretend that’s not what it is. Basically, Criss Cross Applesauce was one of many rhymes that included a little routine you could perform on your friend’s back while you chanted. So you’d say Criss Cross Applesauce and you’d make an X on their back with your fingers. Spiders Crawling Up Your Back and you’d make your fingers feel like spiders crawling up their back, and so on. This was my favorite “game” because I have always been obsessed with being massaged and having my back and arms tickled, and to this day I wonder why massage parlors don’t offer a 90-minute Criss Cross Applesauce special.
There was something so perfectly age-appropriate about these games, from the silly repetition and girl-bonding aspects of the hand clapping to the aspirational, what-will-my-life-be elements of fortune tellers and M.A.S.H. And to this day, I think Spit was the greatest therapy I could have had as a kid; after all, there’s no chance to think about anything that’s bugging you when you’re trying to win a game that moves that fast. Time to put down this lanyard/gimp/scoubidou I’ve been working on all summer, break out the old Lisa Frank playing cards, and see if I’ve still got it.