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PREST: Have fun close to home with these COVID-free walking games

Hello, friends. How’s your pandemic going? If you’re anything like me, you’ve got one question on your mind: Do I have a new drinking problem? Ha, just kidding. There’s no question there.
Going for a walk in your own neighbourhood is a great way to stay healthy and sane while avoiding all those other neighbourhoods crawling with COVID-19. photo Joanne Prest

Hello, friends. How’s your pandemic going?

If you’re anything like me, you’ve got one question on your mind: Do I have a new drinking problem? Ha, just kidding. There’s no question there.

The question is: How do we stay both safe and sane in These Troubled Times? #thesetroubledtimes

One of the most important things I’ve tried to do is to get outside for a while each and every day. But that causes some complications in a pandemic, particularly if you’re locked up at home with young children, a.k.a the original murder hornets.

On the one hand, experts like Saint Bonnie – if B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry hasn’t been sainted yet, why the heck even have saints anymore? – tell us that it is vitally important to get outside and stay physically active to keep our bodies, minds and souls in shape. On the other hand, we are constantly being told to stay home and avoid all non-essential travel.

So it’s good to get outside, but bad to go anywhere near any other human who isn’t already covered in your disgusting COVID-ridden ooze. So what is one to do?

To accomplish the dual goals of getting outside and not swapping death droplets with strangers, my family has come to the compromise of going for daily walks around our neighbourhood. No parking lots, no gas stations, no lockdown-protesting morons – just out the door and down the street for some good old-fashioned walking.

The problem is that like all things old fashioned (except the drink!), just walking around can be boring. To jazz up our walks and get our kids motivated, we’ve started incorporating little games and competitions. Because if there’s one thing we’ve learned about parenting, it’s that children are always keen to show you that they are superior to their siblings and should be loved more.

So here are a few of the games we’ve used to make that neighbourhood walk safe and fun for everyone:

Find the nicest house

Oooo, that's a nice house. Bonus points because we heard them playing loud music inside. photo Andy Prest, North Shore News

There are some massive monster homes in our neighbourhood that easily clock in at more than $3 million, and there are some rundown trash castles that wouldn’t sell for more than a measly $1.4 million. But amongst the mansions and shacks, a few houses of all shapes and sizes stand out for their innovative designs, folksy charm or delightful landscaping. My son and I recently played a game where we picked out a few favourites along the way, took a glam photo of each and then picked a winner from the gallery when we arrived back home. It’s a fun game for the kids, and a great way for adults to feel sad about houses we’ll never own, instead of feeling sad about viruses that want to kill grandpa.

Pinecone fight

This one is a little dicey if, like me, your kids play baseball and have surprisingly strong rocket arms. My kids started up a little pinecone battle on our Mother’s Day walk, as one does, and I was proud of their can-do spirit in creating a game for themselves. But then one whistled past my ear and I realized it might not be the best game for people who value sight in both eyes. Let’s put this one in the maybe column.

Count the cars

How many Hondas? (Lots). Toyotas? (Even more). Chevys? (LOL). Bentleys? (Are we talking West Vancouver here, or…?) This may sound like a dull game, but it’s the one that has held my children’s attention the longest. Every day they choose a new route and come back with a new tally. They can now recognize a lot of the makes just by shape without looking at the logo. That’s a new quarantine skill! In the after-COVID time, there will no doubt be many jobs for expert car noticers. That’s just great parenting.

You never know what you'll find if you keep your eyes open on a COVID-free neighbourhood walk. photo Andy Prest, North Shore News

Street slalom

Someone is walking towards us? Cross the street. Uh oh, an elderly couple is on that sidewalk? Cross the street again. And here comes a dog running at us with an owner trailing behind yelling “he’s super friendly!” OK pal. Bye! Back and forth, back and forth. Style points for getting cross-the-street waves from cute grannies. Keep score – winner gets a nickel, loser gets COVID!

Trust walk

One participant closes their eyes while the other guides them safely through the streets. If done with children, it’s best to do a quick check before leaving to know where the siblings are on each other’s murderous revenge scale. You don’t want a stolen crayon spat to be solved under the wheels of a dump truck.

Stealthy ninja

In this game you sneak around the neighbourhood as quietly as possible, ducking and dodging to ensure that no other human aside from your fellow ninjas sees you. Also, becoming ninjas strangely stops my boys from doing another thing they like to do on walks: all-out street fights with each other.

Furious whispering: “We can’t fight now – we’re ninjas.”

Special note to my friends in the U.S.A.: you might want to avoid this game as you can and likely will be shot by neighbours invoking the 84th Amendment, the Stand Your Ground Against Sneaky Ninjas rule. In fact, if you’re in the U.S.A. right now you might not want to walk around looking sneaky. Or set one foot on someone else’s grass. Maybe don’t even leave your house at all. Whatever you do, DO NOT come here. OK?

 Anyway, these are a few games to get you started. There are loads more that you can try: Colour walks, where you pick one colour and take photos of everything of that shade. Or bird spotting.

Or you can make your own scavenger hunts – find a painted rock. Find a unicorn! Find a discarded face mask!! 

And speaking of discarded face masks, parents with younger kids can tell you all about the exciting game, Can I Touch That, or it’s even more riveting toddler version, Can I Lick That?

Whatever the game, do try in your own safe way to get outside a bit. It’s better than staying inside and playing that increasingly disturbing indoor game, When Will My Neglected Sourdough Starter Finally Eat Me?

When we all play the game right, we all win. Think globally, walk locally.

Andy Prest is sports editor for the North Shore News. His humour/lifestyle column runs biweekly.