Here are two ideas for games suitable for homeschool children, history programs, birthday parties, or any time kids need to be active. We used to play these when we did history programs for children. The kids seemed to enjoy them while learning about draft animals.
The Gee, Haw, and Whoa Game (“Are you as smart as a mule?”)
This homespun version of red-light green-light is a GREAT way to get kids moving. Even in this high-tech age, young children seem to enjoy it.
You can start by asking the children if they think they’re as smart as a mule (or donkey, horse, or ox.)
Have the children line up with plenty of room in between them.
Then explain that draft animals, animals that pull implements or wagons, often work off the commands Gee, Haw, Whoa, Back, and Walk On. You’re going to train the youngsters to be good mules, and then you’ll test them to see how much they’ve learned.
(Of course, you’ll be facing the children, so you’ll have to do the following actions in reverse.)
When you say Walk On (or Giddy-up), they’ll take small steps forward.
Gee: Walk or step sideways to the right.
Haw: Walk or step sideways to the left.
Back or Back-up: Take small steps backwards.
After you practice a few times, you can begin to play. You can intersperse these commands with things like “trot,” “lope,” or “jump.” Children who make a mistake stand back or go to the side. The child who reaches you first OR who is the only one who does not make a mistake is the winner, or you can just tell them that they are all “good mules” and continue your lesson.
Another “Horsey” Game: Horse and Driver
Here’s another old game that some farm children still play today.
One child pretends to be a horse, with a jump rope around the waist for “reins.” In the late 19th century, “toy reins” were sold commercially, and some even had bells on them, but almost any kind of rope will do. If you have two “horses,” you’ll simply need a longer rope.
Then the “driver” gives commands for the horse to walk, trot (skip), lope, gallop (run), turn, whoa, and backup.
Usually the “horse” runs away, or tries to run away, at some point.
You can organize many different kinds of races and games with this, such as having the horse and driver run around barrels or other obstacles or compete with other players.
For those purists out there: “Red,” the animal in the photo above is a jack donkey, not a mule. He looked cute, though.