While visiting a friend who has small children I took a long, and unexpected, walk down memory lane…
We were all in the garden, and as shouts of “you’re it” and “safe” reached us, our conversation turned to the games we played as children. Often the games were the same, or very similar, but with different names as we grew up in different countries: my friend in England and I in South Africa.
Amazingly enough, we had trouble remembering some of the games--these same games that we spent many hours playing as children. Eventually, the children came over to see what we found so amusing and were, in equal parts, horrified and incredulous that Mom and Aunty Gen not only played their games but were ever children at all!
We asked the kids to remind us of a game’s name or rules, and it amazed us how little the games have changed over the years and how many of them are still in play—and all over the world!
Below is a rough age guide to some of the more popular games and their “rules,” although many of the games can be adapted to suit a particular age.
Games for Children Three and Older
One person is Simon and gives the other players orders like “Simon says clap your hands” or “Simon says hop on one foot” while the others follow the instructions. If Simon gives an instruction without saying “Simon says,” players are not to follow the instruction or they are out of the game. The player left once the others are out becomes Simon for the next game.
Do This, Do That
This game is very similar to Simon says. If the leader says “do this,” players must follow the instruction, and if the leader says “do that” they mustn’t or will be out of the game. The last person left wins.
Red Light/Green Light
The player who is “IT” stands on the finish line while the others are on the start line. Then IT turns his back on the others and says green light and counts to five. He then shouts red light and the others must stop and not move. If he sees anyone moving that player must return to the starting line. The game continues until a player reaches the finish line.
In a variation of this game called Letters, a child shouts a letter instead of “red light/green light.” If a child’s name contains that letter, she takes the corresponding amount of steps (for example Lee would take two steps forward if “e” was called). Play continues until someone reaches the finish line.
In a second variation, IT stands on the finish line with his back turned to the other players and counts to 20 (or whatever number is agreed upon) while the others advance. If someone touches IT before he is finished counting, IT turns around and gives chase back towards the start line. Once he catches someone, that person becomes IT.
What’s the Time Mr. Wolf?
One person (Mr. Wolf) stands on the opposite side of the room with his back to the others. The other players ask, “What’s the time Mr. Wolf?” If Mr. Wolf says two o’clock, the children take two steps forward (three steps for three o’clock, etc). When Mr. Wolf feels they are getting closer and they ask what the time is he can then answer “lunch time” and turn around and chase after them. The first person caught becomes Mr. Wolf.
A child says “I spy with my little eye something blue” and the others must guess the object that is the color the child names. This game is great for younger children who can recognize colors.
Broken Telephone/ Telephone/ Chinese Whispers
All the players sit in a circle and one person whispers a message to the person to her left. The players pass on the message through whispers until it reaches the person to the right of the original whisperer. The final player says the message aloud. This can be hysterically funny when the two messages are compared.