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Do kids play traditional playground games anymore?

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Hopscotch-traditional playground games

You’d be forgiven for assuming nowadays that traditional playground games are a thing of the past, replaced like so many things, from checkout ladies to dinner-time conversation, with digital devices.

Just in time to pack any children back off to school after the summer holidays we thought we’d take a look at traditional playground games and whether they are still relevant to today’s kids.

Traditional games from years gone by

Like many nursery rhymes the origins of most playground games are impossible to trace, and there are almost certainly many names given to the same game as well as slight regional variations as they get passed down through generations of children (Can you remember where any of the games you played in the playground came from?)

Rather bravely the trivia website mental floss takes a stab at pinpointing the origin of some playground games, although I think many of them are American, but some of the more universal ones include:

Some sources state that hopscotch began in Roman-ruled England. The courses were 100 feet long and were used by Roman soldiers to build agility while wearing full armor. The “scotch” in hopscotch attached itself later. It’s an English variation of “scratch,” in that players were hopping over scratches made on the ground.

Blind Man’s Bluff
Blind Man’s Bluff became especially popular in Tudor England, even among adults. The game was even said to be a favorite in the court of Henry VIII.

Double Dutch
Double Dutch, where jump ropes are whirled opposite each other, is thought to have evolved from the way ancient rope makers made their product.

Workers tied the ropes to their waists and a large wheel, wrapping strands as they walked backwards. Supply runners would have to jump these ropes when slack to make their deliveries.

Playground games in America are a little easier to trace (or at least guess) the origins of due to there having been comparatively less time for them to have developed.

On BBC America’s website we found a comparison of games played in US playgrounds and those played here in the UK which lists some of the most popular games in each country.

On the whole the American games seem far more wholesome (and possibly less fun) with British bulldog being described as “Perhaps the most notorious of all U.K. playground games” and, to be fair, from personal experience it probably deserves that reputation!

Are any of these games played today?

It might be fair to assume that, what with the advent of computer games and every child having a smart phone that the attraction of traditional playground for today’s school children is long gone.

Surprisingly a report taking 2 years to complete, involving the researchers watching children play, one of the major findings regarding modern media and digital devices that rather than replacing traditional playground play, they were informing it!

Children were found to be adapting traditional games to incorporate elements from TV, Computer games and the internet.

The 2016 project which investigated Children’s playground games and what their meaning and value is to society in general was inspired by the Opie Collection of Children’s Games and Songs held at the British Library (Iona Opie was a researcher of Europeanfolklore andauthor of Children's Games in Street and Playground).

If you find yourself wanting to learn the rules for any of the games mentioned in this blog post Wikipedia has an extensive list of traditional children’s games of all kinds.

Is there anything we should’ve mentioned?

Do you have any thoughts, comments or views on traditional playground games?

Is there anything you think we should have mentioned?

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By Alastair Baker at 12 Aug 2019, 00:00 AM