Lost Outdoor Games From Times Past

by Rachel Ray

It seems like a lot of classic childhood games that were played outside with little or no equipment, gadgets and the like are getting lost. Kids are not hearing about these games much of the time, much less how to play them.

These games can be a great form of exercise, cost nothing or next to nothing and most importantly building sweet lifelong memories of childhood. Some of my most precious memories were playing some of these games with friends, family and any child in the vicinity.

Here’s a list of some of my favorites: Red Light Green Light – Someone is chosen as the “stop light” or “it”. The point of the game is the rest of the kids try to touch this person and whoever does so first, wins. The kids all form a single line about 15 feet away from the stop light person, and the stop light turns his/her back to the rest of the kids. The stop light calls out “green light” and all the kids move to try to reach the stop light person. When the stop light calls out, at any point, “Red Light” and turns around, if he/she catches anyone moving, they are out. This continues until someone touches the stoplight. They win the game and earn the right to be the stop light in the next game.

Kick The Can – This is a mix of both hide and seek and tag. One person chosen is “it” and closes their eyes and counts to a number agreed upon my all. Everyone else hides during this time. Then, the person who counted and is in charge of guarding the can tries to find everyone. The tricky aspect is that when a person is found, they both race, to attempt to kick the can over before the “it” person tags them. There always seems to be those trickster kids hide in a dumb close by place, with the sole intent of running as fast as they can, for the can when they’re caught, many times catching the “it” person off guard.

Marbles – A fairly smooth playing area is needed to play, many times on dirt. A small hole is created in the center of the playing area. A line is drawn with a finger making the parameter of the playing field. Each player puts a marble into the playing field, and they are randomly scattered around. Each player uses a large marble called a shooter to knock the other marbles into the hole similar to a pool player. Players take turns shooting, and if a player knocks the marble into the hole with his/her shot, they get to keep the marble they knocked in and shoot again. There are many variations to the game rules in marbles as well. Marble trading also used to be very popular.

Duck Duck Goose – In this game, kids sit in a circle facing each other. Someone is “it” and walks around the circle gently tapping each person on the head as they walk by saying either “duck” or “goose”. When some is declared a goose, that person gets up and chases “it” around the circle. If the person who was “it” can run the circle and sit in “gooses” place, then “goose” becomes the next “it”. If goose tags it before they can take their seat, it must then sit in the middle of the circle, for the next round as goose becomes the new “it” person. The person in the middle can’t leave until someone else is tagged and they are replaced.

Stick Ball – The game is played with a baseball bat and ball usually a tennis ball so we didn’t break any windows. There are no teams, just one person up to bat and everyone else in the outfield. The person with the bat tosses the ball up and hits it. He/she then places the bat on the ground in front of him/her. The person who gets the ball rolls it at the bat from the place where the ball was picked up. When and if the ball hits the bat it pops up into the air. If the batter does not catch the ball, the person who rolled it is then up to bat. If someone in the field catches a hit before it touches the ground, they are automatically up to bat.

Hopscotch – Hopscotch is a wonderful hopping game that can be played on a sidewalk or pavement or on a floor indoors. There are hundreds of variations of the diagram that can be drawn. Use your favorite version to have children play. Use chalk to draw a hopscotch pattern on the ground or use masking tape on a floor. Create a diagram with 8 sections and number them. Each player has a marker such as a stone, beanbag, bottlecap, shell, button, etc.

The first player stands behind the starting line to toss her or his marker in square 1. Hop over square 1 to square 2 and then continue hopping to square 8, turn around, and hop back again. Pause in square 2 to pick up the marker, hop in square 1, and out. Then continue by tossing the stone in square 2. All hopping is done on one foot unless the hopscotch design is such that two squares are side-by-side. Then two feet can be placed down with one in each square. A player must always hop over any square where a maker has been placed.

A player is considered out if the marker doesn’t land in the proper square, the hopper steps on a line, the hopper looses his or her balance when bending over to pick up the marker and puts a second hand or foot down, the hopper lands in a square where a marker is, or if a player puts two feet down in a single box. The player puts the marker in the square where he or previously was and it’s the next person’s turn. Sometimes a rest area is added on the end of the hopscotch pattern where the player can rest for a second or two before hopping back through.

Farmer in the Dell – This game needs about 15 or people or more to stand in a circle. A person is chosen as the Farmer and stands in the middle. Everyone sings, “The farmer in the dell, the farmer in the dell; Heigh ho, the Derry-oh the farmer in the dell” and walks around in the circle with the Farmer standing still. The next verse is “The farmer takes a wife . . .,” which is sung as the Farmer person chooses another person from the circle to come to the inside. The next verse is “The wife takes a child . . .,” when the wife person inside the circle chooses a third person to be the child. This continues with “The child takes a dog . . .,” “The dog takes a cat . . .,” “The cat takes a rat . . .,” and “The rat takes the cheese . . ..” The final verse is? The cheese stands alone . . .,” then all people on the inside of the circle go back to the outer edge of the circle and sing as the last person chosen “stands alone” in the circle, the game is over.

Think back to some of your old favorite games. Write them down. Teach and play them with your children and grandchildren. It creates a special bond, makes special memories and gives them a glimpse of what growing up might have been like for you.

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