Games are a great way for people to interact and pass the time in a fun way. Since games encourage people to do things together they help build social skills and group games even teach responsibility as each person has to participate fully to keep it fun for everyone. Games are actually great for learning in fun ways. Here are 5 timeless kids games from around the world that your kids can play in your own backyard.
Timeless Kids Games From Around the World
Don’t forget to tell your kids where each kids games from around the world originated. It is a great way to get them interested in geography and culture. When I was little we played games like Red Rover, Simon Says, and Red Light Green Light. Today I have Neve from WeTheParents.org so share with us kids games from around the world that she learned about during her days as a preschool teacher.
In today’s global village, kids share one common language: technology. From Albania to Zambia, kids often know how to navigate an iPhone or have a Facebook account. They experience the same glee when texting that smiley poo emoji to each other. There is, however, a deeper universal language that has been shared by children for many thousands of years: play and games. Way before the first YouTube video went viral, it was kids’ games that were being spread around. Some, like skipping, arose independently in almost every continent. Whilst other games originated in a single country and were passed on by word of mouth from port to port, city to city, country to country. As they traveled, the games themselves morphed and evolved, adding cultural twists and changing names. The underlying principles of fun, however, remained the same, immediately accessible to any child on Earth.
I love to find and review new toys, games and puzzles. (It’s a bit of a passion.) But gadgets and gizmos come and go. Some play ideas, on the other hand, are so astoundingly fun, they bring children the same joy today as they did thousands of years ago. Here are five of these classics games from around the world (both ancient and new).
The Dragon’s Tail (China)
Dragons are important mythical creatures in Chinese culture. They symbolize auspicious power, strength and good luck. This energetic game quite literally connects all the players. It almost always ends with a pile of giggling kids on the floor.
Players: 5 or more (8+ ideally)
Ages: 4-years and up
How to play: All children form a line by placing their hands on the shoulders of the child in front (ie, a conga train). This is the dragon. The child at the front is the dragon’s head and the one at the rear is the dragon’s tail. The head must now try to catch the tail. It gets challenging and fun because the body must stay connected. If the body breaks, then the chase stops and the dragon reforms. When the head catches the tail, the head is out and the tail becomes the new head. The game ends when there are only two children left.
Cheetahs and Cheetals (India)
Hundreds of years ago, Indian princesses used to train cheetahs to hunt cheetals (spotted dear). At least, that’s how the story goes. In this game, the cheetals have a chance to get their own back.
Players: 6 or more
Ages: 4-years and up
How to play: Three parallel lines are drawn on the ground with a gap of 20-30 feet between them. (You can use chalk, ropes or even leaves.) One child is the ‘caller’, the others form into two teams (cheetah vs cheetals). Both teams line-up back-to-back along the central line. The caller shouts out “cheeeeeeee…” and then “tals” or “tahs”. If “cheetahs” are called, then the cheetahs run to their home (the line they are facing). The cheetals spin around and pursue them. Any cheetahs caught, are out. The teams return to the central line and go again. The Cheetahs and Cheetals game ends when a whole team has been caught.
Scooter Bowls (United Kingdom)
In England, a favorite game of the over 65s is bowls. During this 800-year-old game, the players dress up in white, drink tea and roll a bowl (heavy black ball) about 100ft towards a jack (small white ball). The skill is to get your bowl as close to the jack as possible.
Scooter Bowls is a new craze among British children. It is played not with bowls and jacks but 2 or 3-wheel kids scooters. The aim is to stop as close to a target as possible. Scooter Bowls is a game that all the kids play at my daughter’s school.
Players: 2 or more
Ages: 3-years and up
How to play: Two parallel lines are drawn on the ground using chalk: the starting line and the target line. The distance between them is varied from round to round. Players decide on the number of “pushes” (typically between 1 and 5). This is how many times players can touch the floor with their feet. Players line up with their scooters behind the start line, then they take their turn one at a time. When a player pushes off, this counts as their first “push”. The objective is to get as close to the target line as possible without crossing it. Players can’t use their brake and if they go past the target line, they are out. The winner is the person who gets closest to the target line without using extra pushes.
Stop the Dancing Warriors (US – Native Americans)
This classic game has many different variations around the world, for example, Musical Statues. I prefer this ancient version. It’s much more fun and doesn’t require parents or electricity. It is also a great way to learn rhythm
Players: 4 or more (6+ ideally)
Ages: 4-years and up
How to play: One child is the drummer. They bang a beat on the drum. It’s best if they start slow and keep the rhythm as steady as possible. All the other players dance to the beat. When the drummer stops, all dancers must freeze even if they are in an awkward position. Any dancer that moves, is out. The drummer gets progressively faster as the game goes on. This normally ends up with the dancing getting very silly and everyone roaring with laughter. The game ends when only one dancer left.
Shemot means “names”. This game is great for group bonding. It works nicely if people don’t know each other or when friends haven’t seen each other for a long time.
Players: 4 or more
Ages: 4-years and up
How to play: Players begin in a circle. The ball is thrown up high and somebody’s name is called out. This person must run and catch the ball. Now it is their turn to quickly throw the ball high into the air and call somebody else’s name.
Whilst modern technology may feel like it’s taking over. The joy of active play and group games is deeply embedded in our human psyche. Given the opportunity (and perhaps a little nudge), today’s generation can have just as much fun with these play ideas as the kids who invented them, some several thousand of years ago. Which of these kids games from around the world do you think your child will enjoy the most?
Neve writes at WeTheParents.org alongside hubby, Keane. There she seeks to empower moms and draw out the humor in parenting. He gets nerdy researching and reviewing the gear that moms and dads (apparently) need. You can also catch them on Facebook and Twitter.
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