20 Great Childhood Games

Have you wondered how to get your kids outdoors playing games ? We asked our Mykidstime parents for their favourite outdoor games when they were young – you know those games that occupied our free time and summer days, before computer games ? Here are their 20 great childhood games.

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#1. Tip The Can/Kick the Can

By far the most popular amongst our parents, and still a great game, for all ages.

What You Need : A group of at least 3 friends, A small can/bucket or something you can use as “can” – can be wall/ some other base also.

How to Play :

  1. One person is picked to be on and counts to thirty, while the others run away and hide.
  2. When they find a player hiding they run back to the can/wall/base, and shout ” Tip the can, I see X…”
  3. If the player that is on catches everyone, then the first person caught is next on.
  4. A player who is hiding can win by touching the can and shouting “Tip the can, I free all”

“I loved playing Kick the Can – I still love watching the kids play it now!” – Jacqueline

#2. Red Rover

  1. red rover_game_photopin (1)The game is played between two lines of players, who link their arms to form a chain.
  2. The game starts when the first team calls out, “Red rover, red rover, we call [name of player on opposite team] over. The person called is to run to the other line and break the other team’s chain (formed by the linking of hands).
  3. If the person called fails to break the chain, this player joins that team. However, if the player successfully breaks the chain, this player may select either of the two “links” broken by the successful run, and take them to join his original team.
  4. The other team then calls out “Red rover…” and play continues.
  5. When only one player is left on a team, they also must try and break through a link. If they do not succeed, the opposing team wins. Otherwise, they are able to get a player back for their team.

“Great memories of playing this on street with my friends” – Dervla

#3. Queenie

What You Need: A group of at least 3 friends, small ball or something similar

How to Play:

  1. Pick a person to be the “queenie,” and that person turns their back to everyone else.
  2. The “queenie” then throws the ball over her shoulder and one of the other players needs to catch it or pick it up.
  3. All of the players except the “queenie” need to put their hands behind their backs so the “queenie” doesn’t know who has the ball.
  4. The “queenie” then turns around and everyone shouts: “Queenie I O who’s got the ball? Are they big or are they tall? Are they fat or are they thin? Or are they like a rolling pin?” 
  5. The “queenie” has to guess who has the ball through a process of elimination.
  6. If the person with the ball is the last one to be picked, that person becomes the new “queenie.”

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#4. Kerbs/Curbs

What You Need: 2 friends, and a big ball like football/basketball

How to Play:

  1. You stand on the path on one side of the road and your friend stands on the other side and you have to try hit the Kerb on the opposite side so it bounces back at you, scoring a point
  2. If it bounces back and you catch, you can continue playing scoring points.
  3. If you miss, play switches to other player.
  4. You got extra points if you can throw it over a car and hit the kerb, or if you throw backwards over your head.
  5. First player to 20 points wins.

“My favourite childhood games was curbs” – Jen

#5. Elastics

What You Need: 3 friends at least, and a long piece of elastic, knotted to a loop – at least 2m long

How to Play:

  1. Two children stand inside the loop so they are stretching it relatively taut around their ankles.
  2. The others chant the rhyme “England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Inside, Outside, On the Scales
  3. The third person starts with left foot inside the elastic loop and right foot just outside [this is England in rhyme]. Jump over to to the other side so right foot is inside the loop and left foot is outside [ this is Ireland]. Repeat same moves for Scotland, Wales. They then jump both feet “Inside”, both feet “Outside” and then land both feet on elastic for “On the Scales”
  4. If pass this level, the height of the elastic is raised to knees, then thighs, then waist.

Can also be played solo, with elastic around 2 chairs.

“We used to play in the school yard and after school for hours, if you had no one to play with you used 2 chairs for legs to practice.” Jacqueline

#6. What’s the Time Mr. Wolf

  1. boy countingOne child stands apart with his back to the other children, who should be a good distance away. He or she is Mr Wolf.
  2. The group calls out “What’s The Time, Mr Wolf?”
  3. He replies with a time – for example, “”It’s 2 o’clock” The group then takes 2 steps forward, towards Mr Wolf, and asks again, “What’s The Time, Mr Wolf?”
  4. This time he might say “It’s 10 o’clock”, in which case the group would take 10 steps forward.
  5. The group is attempting to reach Mr Wolf without him first catching them. When Mr Wolf senses that somebody is close, he can call out, instead of a time like before, “It’s Dinner Time!”, at which point he can finally turn around and see where everybody is, then try to catch somebody before they can make it back to the starting line. Lots of screaming and excitement at this point!

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#7. Aunties & Uncles

  1. One player is leader and stands on one side of road/garden.
  2. They call out a letter, everyone else on the other side takes one step for every aunt or uncle whose name began with that letter.
  3. First to reach the leader wins.

“With four auntie Marys, once “M” was called one of us would always win” – Steve

#8. Bulldog

  1. The play area is usually a large hall or large area of a playing field, though there are no definition of the size of the pitch nor the number of players as long as there is enough space for the players to manoeuvre and enough players to have fun.
  2. Most commonly one or two players – though this number may be higher in large spaces – are selected to play the parts of the “bulldogs”. The bulldogs stand in the middle of the play area.
  3. All remaining players stand at one end of the area (home). The aim of the game is to run from one end of the field of play to the other, without being caught by the bulldogs.
  4. When a player is caught, they become a bulldog themselves.
  5. The winner is the last player or players ‘free’.

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#9. Stuck in the Mud

  1. One player is on. They have to chase the other players. If have a big group, can have 2 players on.
  2. Once caught, that person must stand with legs wide, and arms out – they are “stuck in the mud”.
  3. Another player can release players who are “stuck in the mud” by running under arms (if kids very small) or crawling through their legs.
  4. The player who is on must catch everyone before he wins game – all players must be “stuck in the mud”.

#10. Hopscotch

HopscotchWhat you need :  Chalk if outside, Masking tape if inside

How to Play :

  1. Use chalk to draw a hopscotch pattern on the ground or use masking tape on a floor. Create a diagram with 9 sections and number them. Each player has a marker such as a stone,beanbag or button
  2. 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 9, turn around, and hop back again. Pause in square 2 to pick up the marker, hop in square 1, and out.
  3. 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.
  4. A player must always hop over any square where a maker has been placed.
  5. A player is out/returns to beginning of game, if the marker fails to land in the proper square, the hopper steps on a line, the hopper looses balance when bending over to pick up the marker and puts a second hand or foot down, the hopper goes into a square where a marker is, or if a player puts two feet down in a single box.
  6. The player puts the marker in the square where he or she will resume playing on the next turn, and the next player begins.

#11. Tins/Piggy

Similar to hopscotch. Aim is to kick a shoe-polish tin into the numbered squares, while hopping.

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#12. The Farmer Wants a Wife

  1. Start with a single child – the “farmer” – in the centre of a circle of children
  2. The children sing : The farmer wants a wife, the farmer wants a wife , Ee – I – ally – o, the farmer wants a wife. Who do you want for your wife, who do you want for your wife Ee – I – ally – o, who do you want for your wife?”
  3. The “farmer selects a “wife” from the outer circle, and she joins him in the centre. The children continue to circle in the following verses, the two circles moving in opposite directions and the inner circle growing (and the outer one shrinking) as each verse is sung :
  4. The wife wants a child, the wife wants a child, Ee – I – ally – o, the wife wants a child…..
  5. The child wants a nurse….
  6. The nurse wants a dog…..
  7. The dog wants a pat……..
  8. We all pat the dog……….and the “dog” is “patted” vigorously on the back by everyone, and becomes the “farmer” in the next round of the game.

#13. Snatch/Grab the Bacon

What you need :  Minimum 4 players. Beanbag/jumper/hat for the “bacon”.

How to Play :

  1. Divide the players into 2 teams, and line up opposite each other, a good distance apart. Assign a number to each player – a one on each team, a two on each team etc. These pairs will run oppostite each other
  2. The “bacon” is place in the centre
  3. The referee or one team player not running shouts go and the two number 1’s run to middle and try “snatch the bacon” and return to their team.
  4. Winning team is one who makes most snatches of the “bacon”

#14. Donkey

Silhouette, group of happy children playing on meadow, sunset, summertime

What you need : A ball and group of players.

How to Play :

  1. Players stand in a circle, and throw the ball to each other without dropping
  2. If a person drops the ball, they get a letter from the word ” D-O-N-K-E-Y” so first time “D”, second time they drop “O”. And so on, until one player has reached DONKEY. That person is out and play continues until one person left wins.

#15. Four Corners

  1. This games needs a minimum of 5 players and some clear space.
  2. The person designated on, stands in the middle, with the other 4 players standing in four corners.
  3. The player standing in corners try to swap places, without person in middle getting to a corner first.
  4. If the middle player gets to the corner, the person caught without a corner becomes the middle player.

#16. Red Lights

  1. One player is chosen to be on and they stand at top, about 10m from others, with their backs to them.
  2. The player who is on shouts “1-2-3 Green Lights” while the other players move up behind them.
  3. The player who is on then shouts “No Laughing, no talking, no moving, Red Lights” and turns around quickly. Any player caught moving, talking or laughing must go back to start line.
  4. The first person to tap the play who is on, becomes the next person on.

#17. TV Times

  1. One person (the leader) has to stand on one side of the road and think of a tv programme while another group of children stand on the other side of the road opposite him/her.
  2. The Leader then has to give clues about the programme for e.g. it’s on a Tuesday night on RTE 1 at 6 o’clock and the initials are T. S. N. then the leader shouts ‘GO’
  3. If one of the children from the group across the road think they know the answer the have to run over and back to the leader 3 times and then shout their answer in this case ‘The Six o’clock News’.
  4. If they are right they become the new leader if they are wrong they are eliminated from the game and the leader must give more clues until eventually someone from the group names the show correctly and becomes the new leader.

#18. Who Stole the Cookies

kids in circleThis is a sing-along song/game – it is usually performed as a fun game, with the children sitting or standing in a circle. Each child gets a number starting at 1, 2, 3, 4 etc

The song usually begins with the group leader asking who stole the cookie from the cookie jar, followed by the number of one of the children in the circle. A clapping beat accompanies the song – a hand clap followed by a clap on the knees.

The song’s lyrics are:

  • Accuser: Who stole the cookie from the cookie jar?
  • Number …….  stole the cookie from the cookie jar.
  • Accused: Who, me?
  • Accuser/Group: Yes, you!
  • Accused: Couldn’t be!
  • Accuser/Group: Then who?

4. This is followed by the “accused” saying the number of another child in the circle)  and the subsequent back-and-forth lines are repeated.

“We play it where members of the group are eliminated by failing to keep up with the prescribed beat or eliminated as a result of being chosen as one of the accused” – Annette O

#19. Rounders

What you need : Some good space (garden/beach),a ball, a bat (or a tennis racket), and four items to mark out four bases.

How to Play :

  1. Lay the rounders field out in a square – marking 4 bases with items
  2. Divide into two teams – one team will bat and run between the bases, the other team will bowl the ball and try to catch it out in the field or pitch. Each team takes turns batting and  bowling.
  3. One person from the team stands in the first base with the bat and is the batter. The bowler has to throw the ball in the direction of the batter – not below the knee or above the head of the batter.
  4. The batter hits the ball – they have three goes and can run to the first base at any time, once ball is hit.
  5. When the next batter strikes, they then run to the first base and the person who went before them, runs to the second one or further on if they can.
  6. A runner is “out” if : The ball they hit is caught by the other team, before ball hits ground /before reaching their target base a fielder (player on the opposite team) holding the ball touches the base.
  7. The objective of the game is to get as many of the team home before three people are caught and put out. Then the teams swap roles and try to do the same.

“Loved this game – played it with all the family, and anyone else visiting. Occupied many a summer’s evening!” – Jennifer

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#20. Sevens

What You Need: Tennis ball and Flat wall

How to Play:

  1. Player stands a comfortable distance from the wall. When starting the game, being closer to the wall is better. As the game goes on, player will figure out how to adjust the distance for each task.
  2. They follow these steps until finished with all seven rounds:
  3. Onesies: Throw the ball against the wall and catch it before it bounces.
  4. Twosies: Throw the ball against the wall and let it bounce one before catching it. Do this step twice.
  5. Threesies: Throw the ball against the wall and clap before catching it. Do this step three times.
  6. Foursies: Throw the ball against the wall, spin around, and catch it after the first bounce. Do this step four times.
  7. Fivesies: Throw the ball against the wall, clap twice behind your back, and catch it. Do this step five times.
  8. Sixies: Throw the ball against the wall, bend down and touch the ground and catch it. Do this step six times.
  9. Sevens: Throw the ball against the wall, jump and clap hands once in front of you and catch the ball. Do this step seven times.
  10. If the player drops the ball, he has to return to the beginning of the seven rounds and start over. Once all steps have been completed, he wins!

“Spent hours on end playing sevens with my friends. Great thing was could play on own too!” – Jill

We have lots more outdoors ideas in our 50 Outdoor Ideas for Kids, Outdoor Ideas to keep your Kids Active, 10 Mega Scaveneger Hunt Ideas, Nature Activities for Kids and 5 Great websites for Play Ideas

Do you have a kids outdoor game you could recommend?  Share it with us in the comments below.

photo credit: © 2006-2013 Pink Sherbet Photography via photopin cc
photo credit: JustTooLazy via photopin cc

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Jill is one of the co-founders of Mykidstime and a mum of 2 girls