From the classic clap and chant games to competitive games of stuck in the mud, the playground is full of traditional games that require imagination, teamwork and communication. You may be surprised that many of the traditional playground games that shaped your childhood are still being played at break and lunchtimes all over the country, including our prep school in Devon!
The Importance of Playground Games for Children
Playground games have been endlessly adapted and elaborated on by children of all ages, but the core idea remains the same in schools up and down the country. Playtime is not just a pastime that you can look back on with fondness, but it actually plays a crucial part of a child’s social development and interaction skills.
These games will often lead to falling out with friends, negotiating disputes and keeping the games as fun and fair as possible. These are similar to the challenges children are likely to face in later life, be it in the workplace or further study, and help to show what it means to be active, engaged and energetic amidst peers.
With almost any game, there are rules that need to be established and cemented before play. Then, as a group, you need to ensure these rules are followed and reinforced to keep the core structure of the game.
Most games will involve some kind of physical activity, meaning participants will have to risk assess their movements and learn that sometimes a lack of judgement can have painful consequences.
Players will also need a wider perspective on the playground itself to make sure no bystanders can be harmed by their actions, or that there are no other, more harmful games that could cause a problem.
That’s an impressive mix of physical, social and interpersonal skills that will stay with them as they grow.
So, whether your child is already playing the games you once enjoyed on the playground, or you’d like to remind them of some of your old favourites, we’ve listed some of the best playtime classics that are sure to get you feeling nostalgic!
1. Duck, Duck, Goose!
Boy or girl, this game was standard in playgrounds all over the world and continues to prove popular with children in the twenty-first century. For those who need reminding, children sit in a circle whilst one walks around, tapping participants on the head and saying ‘duck’. When he or she sees fit, she will choose someone as the ‘goose’ who will then have to get up and race them around the circle back to their spot. If the tapper wins, they will take the space in the circle, and the goose becomes the tapper. If the goose beats the tapper home, then they must once again walk around the circle before selecting another unsuspecting victim.
2. Stuck in the Mud
An energetic game that involves teamwork and running, stuck in the mud requires one or more of the players to be ‘it’. They then chase the other players around in the same way that tag works, except once caught, the players must spread out their legs and arms in a star shape. They are effectively frozen to this spot until one of the other players who are still in can free you, by either crawling through your legs or tapping your hand. The game is only won when all players are ‘stuck’ and, if the tagger is struggling, then you can decide to add more to even up the teams.
3. What’s the Time Mr Wolf?
An age-old classic, this game requires one player to be Mr Wolf. The other players stand in a line at the other end of the playground to Mr Wolf, which is known as ‘home’. Whoever has been selected as Mr Wolf, must stand with their back to the line and reply to cries of ‘What’s the time Mr Wolf’ from the players with whatever time they choose. If they say 2 o’clock, then the players must advance two steps, and so on, until the wolf thinks they are close enough to catch. The wolf will then reply with ‘IT’S DINNER TIME’ in a scary voice and chase the players until one is caught. You are only safe once you return to the home area as decided at the start of the game and, whoever gets caught, must be Mr Wolf for the next game.
4. Grandmother’s Footsteps
Grandmother’s Footsteps is also known by other names including Black Cat, but again involves one player to take on the role of Grandmother – a game like Rock, Paper, Scissors is good to decide who gets to go first if there is any dispute. Grandmother stands with her back to the group, who form a line about 12 metres away. The players then creep forward with the goal of reaching Grandmother, but he or she can turn around at any point, and if they see you moving, you have to start again.
5. The Floor is Lava
A favourite for children of all ages, it does require a slightly more advanced playground or indoor play area where children can climb. The idea is you find your way around whatever space you are playing in without touching the floor with your feet because, as the name might suggest, the floor is lava! This helps children to problem-solve and encourages imaginative ways to find their way around, but you must also consider any risks and avoid climbing objects that are too high or dangerous. It’s worth assessing the space you are playing in, and deciding the limits before you start.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this trip down memory lane and perhaps provided some inspiration to encourage your child to play these games during their break times. We can confirm several of these classics remain firm favourites, along with King ball and other creative games the children come up with, here at our flexi boarding school!
To find out more about the St Peter’s Prep experience, see our article on the benefits of attending school by the sea.