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How kids used to play

Traditional Children's Games

Some games are, no matter how simple, always fun to play, and... no outlet needed! Some games can be played indoors, some outdoors, some anywhere. Again other games are especially suitable for long car or train rides and magically help the time pass much faster.



Classic Games for Children

Select any children's game from the below list to find out how it is played.

Blindman's Bluff

A game in which a blindfolded player tries to catch and identify one of the other players.


Traditional children's games

British Bulldog

The play area is usually a large hall or large area of a playing field. There are no limits to the size of the pitch nor the number of players. One or two players are selected as the Bulldogs, and they stand in the middle of the play area. All remaining players stand at one end of the area. The purpose is to get from one end of the pitch to the other (home) whilst avoiding the bulldogs in the middle. The game is initiated by the bulldogs calling "British Bulldogs 1, 2, 3". As the non-bulldog players run from one end of the pitch to the other, the bulldogs must catch as many of them as possible. Once caught the runner then becomes a bulldog and attempts to catch the runners. Once at the home end of the pitch a player is safe. The game then starts another round, home shifts to the opposite end of the pitch and on the call of "British Bulldogs 1, 2, 3" the round begins. The first two caught or last two caught in each game become the Bulldogs for the next one.
The method by which a runner is caught varies according to local custom, but can involve physically tackling the runner to the ground, or lifting the runner off the ground; in more supervised games the runners are simply tagged, as obviously unsupervised games can become extremely violent.

Traditional children's games

Bullrush game

Bullrush is an energetic game whereby a group of individuals endeavour to rush from one line to another across an open space without being tackled to the ground by participants who have previously been so tackled. The rush from one line to the other continues with the direction being reversed on each rush. The winner of the game is the single individual who manages to be the last person not so tackled. Even so the winner is required to repeat the rush in the hope that he/she too will be brought to the ground. Each time a person loses the rush, they have to join all the other losers in the middle of the open space and join in the tackling activity.
Generally the most recent loser is able to call out the name of one of the people not yet tackled to make the rush on their own. If that person succeeds in reaching the opposite line then a bullrush occurs whereby all the remaining non-losers rush together. The game is initiated with a single person selected in some manner to be the first person to stay in the middle (of the open space). This person of course usually selects the weakest person on the line to make the first rush in the hope that they will lose and thereby join the middle.

Traditional children's games

Cat's cradle

Cat's cradle is a well known string game or series of string figures. The name of the entire game, the specific figures and their order, and the names of the figures vary. Versions of this game have been found in indigenous cultures all over the world, from the Arctic to the Equatorial zones. In some regions of the US, this game is also known as Jack in the Pulpit.
The game begins with one player wrapping a loop of string around that player's own hands (around the fingers or wrists), then taking one side of the string and circling ones hands again. Then this player takes the string which runs on the inside of the left arm onto the first finger of their right hand, then, reaching through the triangle created, the loop on the inside of the right hand is taken onto the first finger of the left hand.
This creates two sets of crossed string between both hands. The second player grasps each cross horizontally with their thumb and first finger, pulls this outwards, down under the line which runs below the crosses from the first players wrists, and back up. The first player lets go of the figure and the second player stretches it open by bringing apart their thumbs and fingers. This figure is the "diamonds". A series of other alterations produce more figures, some of which lead back to the diamonds while some are dead ends and cannot be transformed.

Traditional children's games

Cocky Olly

Cocky Olly is a children's game similar in style to forty forty. Like forty forty, and unlike other tag games, players in cocky olly are caught when their name is said, rather than by physical contact.
The game begins by selecting a player to be 'it' and choosing a landmark (such as car/tree/lamppost) or area to be the base. The player on 'it' stays at base counting, whilst the non-'it' players run off and hide. The 'it' player then seeks out the hidden players, and, upon finding them, shouts 'cocky olly I see [name]' (or 'cocky olly [name]' for short).
The player whose name is said is now caught and returns to base. When the 'it' has caught all non-'it' players, the game is over. However, non-'it' players may rescue caught player from base. This is done by contact and caught players must remain in (or in contact with) the base, before they are saved. Caught players may guide their would-be rescuers to base by shouting out the position of the 'it' player. When the 'it' player is far from the base in one direction, it is safe for rescuers to approach from the other.

Traditional children's games

Copy and Robbers, Tag

Tag (also known as it, had, he, tig, chasing, and other names) is an informal sport or game (see also playground games) that usually involves one or more players attempting to "tag" other players by touching them with their hands.
At the beginning of the game, one player is designated "it". After "it" is chosen, the other players scatter. "It" must chase them down and tag them. A tagged player becomes "it", and the former "it" joins the others in trying to avoid being tagged. This process repeats.
In a typical game of tag, no score is kept, nor is a winner selected. Those who can avoid being tagged or who can stay "it" for the least amount of time are generally regarded as the best players. There is no time limit; the end of the game is chosen arbitrarily, perhaps when the players tire of the game, when recess ends or when players get called home for dinner.
There are many interesting variations of the game "Tag".

Traditional children's games

Dodgeball

There are many variations of Dodgeball, but each involve players trying to avoid being hit by a ball, that players on the other team are throwing at them. Players are usually split into teams, though sometimes people play individually. A number (although sometimes only one) of medium-sized rubber balls (the same sort used in four square) are placed in a central location. The objective of each player is to hit an opponent, so as to eliminate him or her from the game. The game ends when one player (or team) remains. Foam balls are also sometimes used.
In some variants, catching the ball enacts a reversal; if the target catches (rather than dodges) the ball, the thrower is eliminated. In other variations, a catch (in addition to eliminating the thrower) also allows another player from the catching team to re-enter. In variants which do not allow catching, handling the ball counts as a hit, while punching or handling the ball with a closed fist does not. In all versions, a player who steps from his square to the enemy team's square is also eliminated.
One rule variant specifies that players who are hit, instead of stepping off the court, sit down where they are hit. If any of these players should later catch a ball thrown by the opposing team, the opposing thrower is out (and must sit down) and the player who caught the ball is back in.

Traditional children's games

Duck Duck Goose

A group of children sit in a circle, facing inward, while another child, the "picker" walks around tapping or pointing to each player in turn, calling each a "duck" until finally picking one child to be a "goose." The "goose" then rises and chases and tries to tag the picker. The picker tries to return to the spot where the "goose" had been sitting and sit in that spot. If the picker succeeds, the "goose" is now the new picker and the process begins again. If the "goose" succeeds in tagging the picker, the goose may return to sit in the previous spot and the picker resumes the process. In some versions, the one who is tagged is "out" and must sit in the center of the circle (sometimes referred to as the "stew pot"); when the resulting circle becomes too small, a new game may be started.

Alternately, when the "goose" is picked, the "picker" runs in one direction of his or her choice around the circle, while the "goose" runs in the other direction. The first person who gets to the vacant space first rejoins the circle, while the other person becomes the "picker."

Traditional children's games

Follow The Leader

First a leader or "head of the line" is chosen, then the children all line up behind the leader. The leader then moves around and all the children have to mimic the leader's actions. Any players who mess up or do not do what the leader does are out of the game, and the last person standing other than the leader is now the new leader.

Traditional children's games

Four Square

A child's game in which each of four players stands in one of four boxes drawn on the ground in a two-by-two grid and must bounce a ball into another player's box without holding the ball or stepping out of bounds.


Traditional children's games

Hide and Seek

A children's game in which one player tries to find and catch others who are hiding.


Traditional children's games

Hopscotch

A children's game in which players toss a small object into the numbered spaces of a pattern of rectangles outlined on the ground and then hop or jump through the spaces to retrieve the object.


Traditional children's games

I Spy

I spy is a guessing game usually played in families with young children, partly to assist in both observation and in alphabet familiarity. I spy is often played as a car game.

One person starts by choosing an object (perhaps a cow) and says "I spy with my little eye, something beginning with C". The other players look around and suggest things it might be: "Crow" (no), "Car" (no), "Cloud" (no), "Cow" - yes. The person who guesses correctly gets one point and also gets to choose the next object.
Often the game is played without the accumulation of points, and winning a round simply results in the initiation of further play.

Traditional children's games

Jump Rope

Jump rope, also known as skipping rope or skip rope, is a game played primarily by children wherein one or more participants jump over a spinning rope so that it passes under their feet and over their heads. This may consist of one child twirling and jumping the rope, or with a minimum of three children taking turns, two of which twirl the rope while one jumps. Sometimes the latter is played with two twirling ropes, this is called Double dutch and is significantly more difficult.
Children often chant rhymes while jumping rope. These can range from pure nonsense to comments on current events.
Participants may simply jump until they tire or make a mistake, they may improvise tricks, or they may have to carry out a predetermined set of tricks.

Traditional children's games

Keep Away

Keep Away is essentially played like reverse dodge ball because instead of trying to hit people in the center with the ball, you are trying to keep the ball away from them. This game was sometimes used as an alternative to dodge ball.

The basic game is played by drawing a circle on the ground about ten feet in diameter. One person stands in the center (and is called it, the monkey, or the pickle) and the rest stand outside the circle. Then one person outside the circle must throw the ball through the circle to another person outside the circle with the goal being to prevent the person who is it from getting to the ball. This continues until the person who is it catches the ball or otherwise gains possession due to a failed catch, deflection, etc. Then who ever threw the ball last is now it and replaces the person in the center.

Traditional children's games

Leapfrog

A game in which one player kneels or bends over while the next in line leaps over him or her.


Traditional children's games

Musical Chairs

The game starts with any number of players and a number of chairs one fewer than the number of players; the chairs are arranged in a circle facing outward, with the people standing in a circle just outside of that. A non-playing individual plays recorded music or a musical instrument. While the music is playing, the players in the circle walk in unison around the chairs. When the music controller suddenly shuts off the music, everyone must race to sit down in one of the chairs. The player who is left without a chair is eliminated from the game, and one chair is also removed to ensure that there will always be one fewer chair than there are players. The music resumes and the cycle repeats until there is only one player left in the game, who is the winner.

Traditional children's games

Red Hands

Red Hands, also known as hot hands or slaps, is a children's game which can be played by two players.

One player (the slapper) hovers his or her hands closely above those of the other player for a predetermined time (the countdown). This time can be counted down by both players, by one player, or be determined in other ways. Periods of about ten to fifteen seconds are common.
The goal of the game is to slap the hands of the other player, and the slapper may only do so once within the time period. The other player must use his or her reflexes to pull back his or her hands at the correct time. If the second player pulls his or her hands away too soon, the countdown stops, and the second player must place his or her hands back in the starting position, offering a perfect opportunity for the slapper to slap the other player's hands.
Typically on a successful slap the roles stay the same, but if the second player manages to dodge the slap, or the slapper does not perform a slap within the countdown, roles reverse.

Traditional children's games

Red Light, Green Light

Red light, green light is a game played mostly by children. The "it" person stands at one end of the playing field, with the rest of the players at the other end. "It" turns their back to the others and calls out "Green light!" The players then run as fast as they can towards "it". At any time, "it" can face the players, calling out "Red light," and the others must freeze in place. If anyone fails to stop, they are out or must return to the starting line. Other variations include calling out "Yellow light" as a diversion, or where they must walk instead of run to "it". Calling Yellow Light has no consequence. The first player to reach the person who is "it" wins and becomes "it" for the next round.

Traditional children's games

Red Rover

Each team holds hands in a line, thus forming two parallel lines (or chains) facing each other.

The game starts when the first team (usually the East or South team) calls out, "Red rover, red rover, send [name of player on opposite team] right over." The person called must run to the other line and break the chain (formed by the linking of hands). If the runner fails to break the chain, he joins the team that had called "Red rover." However, if the player successfully breaks the chain, he may take his pick of either of the two "links" broken by his successful jaunt. This broken link, along with the runner, joins the runner's team. The other team then calls out "Red rover" for a player on the first team, and so on. The game ends when one long super-chain is formed.

Traditional children's games

Sardines

Sardines is a variant of Hide and Seek.

Here only one player hides while all the rest count. All the counting players then split up and each searches for the one player hiding. When a searcher find the hiding player, they join in hiding in the same hiding place. The game is over when the last player finds all the others. They are the loser of the game and generally the next one to hide (although sometimes this role is given to the first to have found the original hiding place). Often, "sardines" is played in the dark.

Traditional children's games

Simon Says

Simon says is a game for three or more players (most often children). One of the people is "it" -- i.e., Simon. The others must do what Simon tells them to do. The catch is, the magic phrase is "Simon says". If Simon says "Simon says jump.", you jump (if you don't jump, you're out). However, if Simon says simply "jump", without first saying "Simon says", you don't jump (if you do jump, you're out). In general, it's the spirit of the command, not the actions that matters; if Simon says "Simon says touch your toes.", you only have to show you're trying to touch your toes. It's the ability to distinguish between valid and invalid demands, rather than physical ability, that matters here.
It is Simon's task to try to get everyone out as quickly as possible, and it is every one else's job to stay "in" for as long as possible. The last of Simon's followers to stay in wins (although the game is not always played all the way through).

Traditional children's games

Skipping Stones


Also called "Ducks and Drakes".
The game of skipping flat stones along the surface of water.


Traditional children's games

Tag


Also called "You're It".
The game of chasing and touching a player.


Traditional children's games

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Kids Games Guide

The following games list offers additional help for selecting the right game based on the age of the child & the recommeded age for playing.

GameAge
A Frog's Life9+
MasterMind9+
Red Riding Hood9+
Battleship7+
Connect 47+
Math Worm7+
Hangman7+
Word Search7+
River Rescue7+
Alligator Pond6+
Ludo6+
aMaze5+
Beanies Memory3+

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