Category Archives: Games

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How to play conkers

Conkers

If you take a walk through the Museum’s woodlands you’ll see an abundance of shiny, brown conkers, scattered among the fallen, crunchy autumn leaves near the dell. If I pass these horse chestnut trees with my 5, and 7 year old, they get very excited and begin to fill their pockets with conkers. They enjoy it even more if they get to peel the prickly casing open to uncover the encased conker, and there is further excitement if, there is multiple conkers to be found inside. My husband, an avid conkers player in his youth, has taught this historical game to my children, and they love it.

Conker on woodland floor

The fruit from the horse chestnut tree earned the name conker from the traditional game of conkers, which was played in the autumn months by many generations of children, often in the school playground. The game is played by two players, each with a conker threaded onto a piece of string, who take turns striking each other’s conker until one breaks.

According to my good friend, Wikipedia, the first mention of the game is in Robert Southey’s memoirs published in 1821. He describes a similar game but, played with snail shells or hazelnuts. It was only after the 1850s that using horse chestnuts was regularly referred to in certain regions. The game grew in popularity in the 20th century, and spread beyond England. Sadly, the game is not played so often now, due to health and safety concerns in schools.

How to play conkers

Find a nice, firm, undamaged conker and make a hole in the middle using a nail, small screwdriver, or drill. Thread a piece of string about 25cm long through the hole, and tie a knot at the end so that it doesn’t pull through.

How to play conkers

Each player has a conker on a string, and takes turns hitting the opponent’s conker. If it’s not your turn to hit the conker, you must let your conker hang down the full length of the string, keeping completely still, with the string wrapped around your hand. The other player, or striker, wraps his string around his hand in the same way, draws his conker back and releases it to hit his opponent’s conker.

Rules

If a player misses their opponent’s conker they are allowed up to two further goes.

If the strings tangle, the first player to call “strings” gets an extra shot.

If a player hits their opponent’s conker in such a way that it completes a whole circle after being hit – known as ‘round the world’ – the player gets another go.

If a player drops his conker, or it is knocked out of his hand, the other player can shout ‘stamps’ and jump on it; but should its owner first cry ‘no stamps’ then the conker, hopefully, remains intact.

The game continues in turns until, one of the two conkers is completely destroyed.

I found the above rules on www.projectbritain.com however; the game of conkers has different rules in different parts of the country.

Trialing the game

Visitor Services Team Leader, George Hunt and Events and Hospitality Team Leader, Yolanda Cooper decided to have a try at playing conkers.

playing conkers

They learnt that it’s a lot harder to hit a conker on a string than you might think.

playing conkers at COAMhistoric games playing conkersConkers winner

After much giggling, George managed to smash Yolanda’s conker and was crowned champion.

Written by Helen Light
Marketing Officer

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How to get them off the I-pad and into the fresh air this holiday

“Mum, I’m bored.”

It’s the school holidays and keeping the children entertained without resorting to hours of screen-time a day or forking out a small fortune, can be a challenge. Siân Hammerton-Fraser, Visitor Experience Manager of Chiltern Open Air Museum, has some ideas for outdoor activities to get them off the I-pad and into the fresh air.

Build a shelter:  Set off for the woods at Chiltern Open Air Museum and let the children forage for natural materials to build a lean-to shelter. If you’re at home, you may want to provide them with some man-made materials such as ropes, blankets and planks too. Divide them into teams and award prizes for the best, sturdiest, biggest, wonkiest shelters.

Go on a bear hunt: Your little ones will love going on a bear hunt with some of their friends to look for bears hiding in the woods and sweets to share at their very own teddy bear’s picnic.

Hide a few cuddly toys and sweets in the woods (or garden) – and off you go.

Chiltern_Open_Air_Museum_Kids_woods-600x400

Obstacle course:  Collect old tyres, ladders, chairs and whatever else you can find to build the ultimate obstacle course for them to climb on, jump through and sail under – again in teams to fuel that competitive spirit

Around the campfire: let them help to build a fire (if you’re at home) and collect sticks to toast marshmallows. If you’re brave, you can let them have a go at lighting the fire – one at a time – this activity obviously needs to be closely supervised. Take turns to tell some stories while you’re at it.

Who’s the best shot? Make a few slingshots in advance (or buy some cheap ones if you don’t have the patience), line up a row of tin cans or plastic bottles and let the teams take turns to see who can shoot down most cans. (Again this activity needs to be carefully supervised by an adult)

Traditional games:

Play some traditional games for some guaranteed giggling sessions and lots of outdoor running around – for example

  • Treasure hunt
  • Musical statues
  • What’s the time Mr Wolf
  • Hide and seek
  • Tag

Bug hunting

You need a clear container with some waxed paper and a rubber band.

Sprinkle brown sugar over an overripe banana and leave it outside for a while before spreading it over the bark of a tree.

Grab a magnifying glass and check to see what bugs you may have attracted. Use a torch at nighttime, if you’re brave.

To watch one of the bugs up close, put it in your container with a bit of water in a bottle cap and some green leaves. Cover the jar with waxed paper and poke some small holes into it.

Return the bug to the place you found him after a few hours.

 

Pond Dipping

 

Pond dipping

Take some clear containers and fishing nets to the nearest pond – sweep your net in a figure of eight movement, before turning it inside out into a container. See what you got and use your magnifying glass for closer inspection.

Put everything back where you found it.

Make mud pies – in the rain.

Kids love to play cooking – and baking mud pies is an old-time favourite. Use old buckets and recycled containers and let them explore a muddy area in the garden to their hearts’ content. Have some old towels ready to dry them off.

For some supervised outdoor fun, find out more about the Chiltern Open Air Museum’s Terrific Tuesdays.

The museum also offers a variety of children’s party packages, which includes themed outdoor and indoor activities and access to the adventure playground.

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How to make history unboring for children

How to make history unboring for children

How to make history unboring for children

Stuck for ideas to make history fun and fascinating for your kids? Whether they’re into Vikings, Victorians or cavemen, there are plenty of ways you can delve into the past to keep them entertained this summer. Siân Hammerton-Fraser, Visitor Experience Manager here at Chiltern Open Air Museum, has some great suggestions for making history come to life!

1. Be part of the action: Taking the kids to see a re-enactment is an exciting way to bring history to life. Chiltern Open Air Museum stages a series of ‘living history’ events throughout the summer, where they can watch a Roman siege engine being fired, meet the riflemen of Wellington’s Army, try on a knight’s helmet and learn a few Medieval dance moves.

2. Log on for inspiration: Visit www.bbc.co.uk/history  forkids for historical games, quizzes and activities, from building a pharaoh’s tomb to creating your own Bayeaux Tapestry to playing ‘Viking Quest’ where you build a ship, cross the seas to loot a monastery and return home to claim your prize. Perfect for a rainy summer’s day.

3. Go on a fossil hunt: Budding palaeontologists will love the challenge of searching for and then identifying fossils. They are often found on beaches, in quarries, on farmland and even in people’s gardens – anywhere that sedimentary rocks are exposed. Start by joining an organised fossil hunt. Try a local geology society or venture further afield with somebody who knows the site well and can guide you safely.

4. Trace your roots: Looking into family history together gives children an insight into the lives of their ancestors and helps bring their own piece of history to life. Create a family tree, ask older relatives what they remember about their families and dig up old letters, photographs, heirlooms, medals and anything else stashed away in the attic.

5. Dress up: You don’t need a well-stocked fancy dress box to be an ancient Egyptian, Roman, or Victorian chimney sweep for a few hours. Let their imaginations and creative skills run riot. For example, an old white sheet will do for a toga, just glue on some gold trim or ribbon, plait together some wool or use thin rope for a belt and complete the look with sandals and a centurion’s sword made from cardboard covered in tin foil.

6. Cook up a storm: Help them learn about what people ate in different eras by trying out a few recipes. Host a Victorian tea party with a Victoria Sandwich cake as the centerpiece, or if you’re feeling adventurous, how about making a Medieval meat pie?

7. Guess who lived there: Visit historic local buildings or just point out interesting architecture in your area. Can they guess the eras of buildings and who lived there? What were their lives like? Were they rich or poor? Can they re-create the different architectural styles at home with Lego?

 

Pre-fab living room

8. World War One centenary: This year marks 100 years since the outbreak of World War One. Take them to see a local war memorial and talk about how the war started and what life was like for soldiers in the trenches. Instead of using history books as references, download an interactive World War One app aimed at kids.

Terrific Tuesdays
For some supervised outdoor fun, find out more about our Terrific Tuesdays holiday sessions.
The museum also offers a variety of children’s party packages, which includes themed outdoor and indoor activities and access to the adventure playground.

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter @ChilternOAM to keep up to date with our latest news and offers.

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