This year we are starting a new tradition of hosting Christmas in July. Kuranda gets pretty cold by North Queensland standards and so the lure of having a roast lunch with hot mulled wine and all the trimmings is very tempting. I have been mulling over menu items in my head – as well as entertainment for my family. Normally at Christmas time we are splashing in the pool or recharging in the air-conditioning, but Christmas in July will be different.

My nephews are ten and eleven, so at a great age to hang out and have fun with. It got me thinking… what to do on cool days and wintery nights? I’m not going to resort to the easy option of movies all the time – that would be far to Gen Y of me. I have been trudging back through my childhood memories for some ideas and I have come up with a list of my all time favourite games as a kid.

10. Monopoly

Everybody played it, everybody remembers it, and I am happy to say that the tradition has not been lost. My nephews do still often play. Our ancient version with faded cards may be revived on the weekend.

9. Trampoline

Who, as a child of the eighties, doesn’t have a trampoline injury story? Not many I’m betting. The trampoline is still popular today but they are padded all over, and with all the enclosures resemble more of a cage-fighting ring than the plain black mats from back in the day. We played on ours sideways, put it in the pool, covered it in detergent and anything else we could think of, but my worst injury was obtained when the trampoline was upside down. I summersaulted over the upside down leg beam, as was all the rage, but as I lunged into my death defying tumble I was smacked in the head by a ceramic ball-shaped, wind instrument that I was wearing as a necklace. I was left with an enormous egg and a lesson learnt in the effects of gravity.

8. Tape recording your voice

This may sound really simple but I remember the delight when Mum let us use the old cassette player and we recorded and played back our voices for the first time. I remember listening and wondering if I really sounded like that – it was so high pitched! Turns out that is the way my voice sounds on tape, and I still to this day hate hearing it. I guess kids today are exposed to voice recordings all the time, with mobile phones and messages, so suggesting this would sound lame. But… I do have a Dictaphone. I could set my nephews the task of being journalists and finding a breaking story in the neighbourhood to report on. I think they will like the drama of this and I’d love to hear the stories they come up with. It reminds me of the time my sister and I took our entire vacuum cleaner for a walk around the neighbourhood pretending that the arm and nozzle was a ‘dork finder’.

7. Cubby House pikelets

The memory is burned in my brain. It is raining in Innisfail (situation normal) and my sister, myself and two childhood friends are holed up in their tree house. We are determined not to come down. Our friends Mother battles the rain and places an ice-cream container into our pulley-system bucket (a staple of every good tree house). Imagine our delight when we opened the lid of the container to the delicious surprise of a steaming warm pikelet bounty! It may be too late to construct a whole tree house but we do have a very high back deck. I could help the boys rig up a flying fox – probably not council standard – but I think we can invent something worthy of a pikelet surprise box!

6. Making a movie

I think this goes along the same lines as the voice recording. The kids today are probably saturated with making movies and filming themselves. I remember feeling like a movie star when childhood friends were actually allowed to use their parent’s video camera to make a movie! We had scripts and roles and terribly bad special effects – like a sheet being pulled up to end the scene, but it was so much fun. Maybe if I wrote a script the boys might like to act it out. At least, if nothing else, we will have it captured for future memories.

5. Ghost stories

There is something about being included in the adult group that holds such allure for a child. One night, with a bon fire on the beach, the adults huddled into a circle and started to tell ghost stories. As kids I’m sure we thought the adults had forgotten we were there. We stayed quiet – in awe and not wanting to remind them of our presence. Of course they hadn’t forgotten us, and in truth the ghost stories were quite tame, but for us kids they were pretty freaky! One of the boys nudged ever so quietly, closer to the fire – trying to make his way closer to the middle of the circle. I forget most of the stories but I remember the night. We have a pot bellied stove – yet to be used. I think this will be perfect for roasting marsh-mellows and telling stories in the night.

4. Spotlight

From the outset I am vetoing this for the boys on this weekend. I still have scars from our childhood turns at this game, but that’s not the reason. We have snakes up here in the rainforest. Big ones. As much as I’m sure there would be squeals of delight at running around in the dark searching each other out by torchlight, I can imagine squeals of terror if they come across one of these. This game will be reserved for the suburbs.

3. Red hill and mud sculptures

Mud patties, mud sculptures, mud pottery whatever name you have for it – there is one collective name – fun! There was a creek not far from our house – at the base of red hill. I don’t think it was really named Red Hill but that was what we called it because the dirt was so red it seemed to glow. You can imagine the state we would come home in after playing in the creek, but Mum welcomed us, and our masterpieces, home with open arms and a ready hose. I think my nephews might be a bit too old for mud patties now. I think I’ll get them in the kitchen helping me make real ones to put on the barbie instead.

2. Cane-field burnings

Growing up opposite cane-fields provided endless hours of entertainment in the harvesting season. I have witnessed the beauty of the fields burning since but what remains as a memory, is my sister and I clapping the ash between our tiny hands and rubbing the soot all over our face. I remember one night burning on our friend’s property. We were charged with keeping the boundaries clear of small escaping fires. Armed with wet hession sacks to blot the flames, friendships were ignited and excitement ruled the night.

1. Ghost 

By far, the most fun game I can remember as a kid was one we made up – Ghost. It was a simple idea, the person who is ‘in’ puts a sheet or pillowcase over their head. All the lights are turned out and the ghost has the unenviable task of searching out other players. If the ghost is able to catch and hold someone they are ‘turned’ and become the ghost in the next round. We played this every time we were able to. You needed a group, and to commandeer at least two rooms or a big space. When family friends got together we would beg till we were allowed to play. There was spilt pot plants, broken vases but surprisingly no injuries that I can remember. It was a pretty hair-raising game and our parents were pretty game for letting us play it all the time, but the fun times far outweighed the small accidents. In July I think we should resurrect the ghost.

It looks like I have come up with quite a few ideas to fill the weekend and this will probably spread over a few stays. My only hope – that my nephew’s visits will be filled with the fun memories of play, that I am lucky enough to have.

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