Games from around the world

Published January 24, 2015

THERE was a time when boys would rush to play glass marbles in an open space and showed their mastery in hitting each and all the marbles, while girls would draw rectangular lines for hopscotch and loved to hop and pick the stone.

It was a time when children would have a ball playing games like hide and seek, gilli danda, dhoop chaon and such sweat-inducing activities. But then came the technological revolution and these traditional games took a backseat as kids became glued to their seats as they played games on the computer, TV, cellphones and pads.

Each part of the world has some traditional games that are particular to that region and some games may actually be the variation of popular games known in other parts of the world, maybe by some other name. We have compiled some details about famous traditional games played around the globe and if you have the space and time available, you can try them out with your friends and siblings to add more fun and physical activity to your life.

Chile: Corre, Corre la Guaraca

THE name means ‘Run, run, la Guaraca.’ The game needs five or more players and a handkerchief. Players sit in a circle while a runner jogs around the outer rim with a handkerchief. The seated kids are not allowed to watch. They sing ‘Corre, Corre, la Guaraca, who looks back will be bopped on his head!’

As discreetly as possible, the runner drops the handkerchief on a child’s back and runs. If he makes it around the circle before the player realises that it’s on his or her back, the seated player is out. If the seated player catches on, s/he must tag the runner. If s/he succeeds, the runner is out. If s/he fails to tag him, they play again, but this time player who had the handkerchief dropped on him or her is the runner.

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Greece: Statue

YOU may all be familiar with this game as it is played in our country as well as the world over, with the same and various other names. The game requires four or more players; one player is the ‘It’ and who has to stand with their eyes covered, in the centre of the playing area. The ‘It’ starts to count, at least to 10, but can go higher only when the ‘It’ thinks it should stop, can stop and open his/her eyes. While ‘It’ is counting, the others scatter around, never sure when the ‘It’ will shout ‘Statue’.

On this cue, players freeze, taking on poses that mimic famous statues of Greece or the world around. They can pose like any statue — a javelin thrower, The Thinker, even the Statue of Liberty. Kids are allowed to use items, such as sticks, a ball, or a Frisbee, to add a touch of realism. ‘It’ tags the statues that are moving — they’re out — then tries to make the steady ones laugh or move. The last player remaining composed is the winner and becomes the new ‘It.’

Republic of Korea: Kongki Noli

THIS traditional Korean game is similar to the American ‘Jacks’ and requires two or more players and five (or more) small stones.

Player 1 scatters the stones on the ground. He then picks one up and tosses it in the air and quickly tries to pick up another stone in time to catch the one he just threw.

Now he has two in his hand; he throws one of the stones up in the air, and picks up a third. This goes on until he has all the stones in his hand. In the second round, the player picks up two stones every time he throws one up.

In the third round, he picks up three; four in the fourth, and the fifth time he picks them all up. For the game’s last step, the player tosses all the stones in the air and tries to catch them on the back of his hand. Then he tosses them up again and tries to catch them in his palm. The number he catches is that player’s score. If he fails to catch them all, it’s the next person’s turn.

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Australia: Skippyroo Kangaroo

‘SKIPPYROO Kangaroo’ is a popular game played in many Australian preschools and kindergartens to help teach children their classmates’ names as well as good listening skills. The game is played with as many as 25 or as few as six players.

Kids sit in a circle and an adult asks one child to go into the middle — she is the first Skippyroo, the kangaroo. Skippyroo crouches forward on the floor with her eyes closed while the kids in the circle chant: ‘Skippyroo, kangaroo, dozing in the midday sun, comes a hunter, run, run, run.’

At this stage, an adult points to a child sitting in the circle who then touches Skippyroo’s shoulder and says, “Guess who’s caught you just for fun?” and waits. Skippyroo tries to name the owner of the voice and if she guesses correctly, the two swap places. The game begins again and continues until all the kids have had a chance to be Skippyroo.

Ghana: Kameshi Ne Mpuku

THE game requires four rows of children holding hands and standing parallel to each other. Two players are chosen to be the ‘rat’ and the ‘cat’. The cat’s job is to chase the rat and catch it by tagging it. The rat must run and dodge up and down the rows trying to avoid the cat.

One child becomes the ‘caller’. When the caller yells out “Let the rat stop,” the children in the rows holding hands will turn to join hands with the row in front of them, switching directions vertically to horizontally. With this turn in the rows, the rat must adjust quickly and escape the cat.

China: 1, 2, 3, dragon

THE game requires 10 or more people to form a line with each player holding the shoulders of the person in front of him. The person at the front of the line is the ‘head’ and the person at the back of the line is the ‘tail’.

The ‘tail’ shouts “1, 2, 3, dragon” then the head leads the line around trying to catch the tail. The line must stay together the entire time. If the dragon breaks, the dragon dies and the head moves to the end of the line and becomes the tail. If the head catches the tail, the head gets a point and the game stops. The head goes to the end of the line and the second person in line now becomes the head.

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Italy: Cencio Mollo

THE game is played with a wet handkerchief. The object of the game is not to laugh. It is a variation of the game ‘Throwing the Smiles.’ All the players sit in a circle and one child is chosen to be ‘It’. This child holds the damp handkerchief and walks around the circle until, coming to one child, he declares “The Cencio Mollo has come to you.”

The chosen child replies, “Let it come. I shall not cry, laugh or kiss it.” The ‘It-child’ then puts the handkerchief on the other player’s face. If this child does not smile, then the handkerchief is placed on other players until someone smiles. The child that smiles is penalised by having to perform various actions such as acting like a monkey or reciting the alphabet or singing a song.

Varied origin: Hopscotch

THE ancient form of the game was played by Roman children, however, the first recorded reference to the game in English-speaking world dates back to 17th century under the name ‘scotch-hop’ or ‘scotch-hopper(s)’.

The game is played in Pakistan too, in which players toss a small object into the numbered spaces of a pattern of rectangles outlined on the ground and then hop through the spaces to retrieve the object.

America: Stop the dancers

A PLAYER sits in the centre of a circle with a drum and a drumstick. All the other players stand around the drummer. The drummer begins to beat the drum and the players begin to dance. The minute the drummer stops, the dancers freeze. They may be in awkward positions, but they must not move an inch after the drumming stops.

If the dancers do move, they must leave the group. The drummer beats slowly as each game starts and gets faster and faster. When the players are all out, the one who is left and is the final dancer becomes the drummer and the game begins again.

Varied origin: Simon says

‘SIMON says’ is a game for three or more players (most often children). One of the people is ‘It’ — that is Simon. The others must do what Simon tells them to do.

The magic phrase is “Simon says”. If “Simon says jump!” you jump (if you don’t jump, you’re out). However, if Simon says simply “jump”, without first saying “Simon says”, you don’t jump (if you do jump, you’re out).

In general, it’s the spirit of the command, not the actions that matters; if Simon says ‘Simon says touch your toes,’ you only have to show you’re trying to touch your toes. It’s the ability to distinguish between valid and invalid demands, rather than physical ability, that matters here.

It is Simon’s task to try to get everyone out as quickly as possible, and it is everyone else’s job to stay ‘in’ for as long as possible. The last of Simon’s followers to stay in wins (although the game is not always played all the way through).

Zambia: Banyoka (the snake)

THE play area must have some obstacles, like bushes and large rocks. You can create obstacle course using toys, pillows, boxes, and cartons, all placed randomly at some distance to each other. The players divide into two groups, each group has equal number of at least four players.

Each group becomes a ‘Snake’ by the players sitting one behind the other on the ground, legs spread and hands placed on the shoulders of the player in the front, or arms wrapped around the waist.

The snake then moves forward by the players swaying their bodies back and forth. The snake can sing a song. The object of the snake is to reach a designated ‘finish line’ first. But the real fun of the game is to manoeuvre around the objects or to ‘slither’ around and over them while remaining connected to each other.

The game can also be played with one snake. But it becomes more fun if there are two snakes.

Brazil: Luta de Galo

IT is a Portuguese name and means “Fight of the roosters.” It is played by two children, but more kids can play by taking turns. Each player will need a handkerchief or a piece of cloth tucked into their pocket or waistband with enough of it hanging out so that the other person can grab it.

Both players need to cross their right arm across their chest since they are not allowed to use it.

Then, hopping on one leg, each player must try to capture the handkerchief from their opponent, using his left hand. If the child puts the other leg down, or unfolds their right arm, he is disqualified.

The last person who still has his handkerchief is the winner.

United Kingdom: London Bridge

THERE are several players, usually six or eight, two of whom join hands high to form an arch that represents the bridge while other players march under the bridge, each holding the waist or the shoulder of the player in the front, then either the players forming the bridge or all the players sing ‘London Bridge’ song.

At the last word of the song, the arms of the bridge are lowered to capture player; the captured one is led to the ‘two’ predetermined spots to be prisons (called Tower of London), while the game continues until the last player is caught. All the captured players go in alternate prison and with equal captured players in the prisons, the game of tug-of-war starts. A similar game, with a little variation, is played in Pakistan.


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