Tag Archives: Games

Preserving Traditional Playground Games

wp_20160324_009Four years ago, all of our worldly goods were packed onto a container to make the journey to our new home in the US.  We wouldn’t see them again for 10 weeks.

The children packed a small case each with colouring pencils, paper, a few books and a cuddly toy. They were without any other toys for the whole of the summer.

This was an amazing opportunity to be creative with things around the house.  We decorated pistachio nut shells, made pictures with coffee filters, built a mud kitchen and hosted our own Children’s Olympics. In some ways I wished it could be like this all of the time and once the toys arrived I was selective about what I unpacked.

The most popular activity however, was learning playground games from my childhood. I explained how  I didn’t have equipment or toys in my school playground, when I was a child. We played our own games, which we would also play in the street at home.  I am very conscious that if we don’t pass games down to our children they may be lost forever and I’m glad that our lack of toys gave me an opportunity to resurrect them.



There has been concern for some time that children no longer play outside. The good old Seattle or British weather doesn’t help. Couple this with the constant lure of TV and electronic media and it can be hard to get kids outdoors. Teaching them  a new game was a great way to get my children outdoors and they often ask me to teach them more. I really must make a point of doing that now that they are a little older.

One of my  play sessions for pre-schoolers involved teaching them simple games, like What’s the time Mr Wolf?, Please Mr Crocodile and the Bean Game.  I was surprised at how many were new to local families. After seeing how much my children enjoyed traditional games I was intrigued to see if any other parents remembered games from their childhood, most didn’t.

We played some of the more popular games; hopscotch on the driveway, skipping rhymes, What’s the time Mr Wolf but also some less well known games.




This was my kids’ favourite.

  • One child is it and stands at one end of the garden (as kids we used to play it in the road and run to the other side of the street).
  • They call out a category to the other players on the other side of the garden such as animals or colours.
  • Each player quietly chooses something from that category and a nominated player calls them out – let’s say dog, pig and cow.
  • The player who is  it chooses one, e.g. ’dog’ and the player who is‘ dog ‘races them  across to the other side and back.
  • The first player back to their place shouts ‘polo’ and is it the next time.


Red Letter

  • One child is it and the other children stand at the opposite side of the playground.
  • The person who is it chooses a red letter and tells the players what it is.
  • She then calls out a letter – the players take one step for each time that letter occurs in their name.
  • The first player to get to the caller is  it the next time.
  • If the caller calls the red letter, she chases all the players back to the start, if one is caught then they are it.



  • The person who is it stands with their back to the other players.
  • The other players stand on the opposite side of the garden and edge closer to the person who is it.
  • The person who is it turns around at intervals.
  • The players freeze when she turns around. If they are caught moving they go back to the start.
  • If anyone reaches the other side, they touch the person who is it, on the back and shout ice-cream, she then chases the players and if anyone is caught they are it.


Please Mr Crocodile

  • One player is the crocodile. The other players stand on the opposite side and recite

Please Mr Crocodile May we cross the water, to see the queen’s daughter, who fell in the water, 100 years ago. Which colour must we wear?

  • The crocodile chooses a colour and any children wearing that colour have to run to the other side without being caught by the crocodile.
  • If they are caught, they become the crocodile.

I’m sure that there are many other playground games that I have forgotten over time. Many of them will be unique to British childhood so perhaps I should write them in a book to preserve a piece of British heritage for my children.


pooh sticks
Pooh Sticks

If we can’t remember the rules to our childhood games then they are in danger of being lost forever. I’d love you to share any games you can remember and if there are any lunch supervisors out there perhaps you could make it a mission to bring traditional games back to the playground.

I have a list of games I’m going to teach to my kids this spring particularly mob, and elastics (we got the elastic from Ikea recently) now that they are old enough to play.






What Exactly is a Field Day?

Field dayToday was Field Day at my daughter’s school. In the usual fashion, we had a letter that said we could come along or volunteer if we wanted but no explanation as to exactly what a Field Day is.

I asked a friend in the playground.

So what exactly is a Field Day? Is it the same as a Sports Day?

No not really, they set up lots of activities around the school grounds and the children can join in with what they want to. Some are sports but others are fun games and things.

Slightly better informed I decided to give it a go.

So What is a Field Day?

A number of physical activities are set up around the school grounds with an adult manning each one.

The children have a checklist that they hang around their neck. They move around the various activities and when they complete them (successfully of not) they have the activity crossed off their checklist. Once they have completed 10 they can get a popsicle (ice lolly). If you complete all the activities your name is added to ‘the ball of fame’.

What Sort of Activities?

Their favourite activity was playing catch with water bombs.

The girls had fun and it was nice to have something that the little ones could be involved in so they weren’t left standing around watching. Somehow though, I felt it lacked the atmosphere of a traditional sports day with races and cheering crowds. Where were the prizes for the child who completed the obstacle course in the shortest time, or a little prize if you knocked all the cans down? It somehow felt a little flat without any competitive edge.  It was a cross between a Summer Fete, a P.E lesson and a traditional sports day – I’m not really sure I understand the point of it but the girls enjoyed it. It’s probably just a little structured to be my idea of fun.

Outdoor Play: Finding The Alphabet in Nature

Having recently discovered some of the amazing hikes in the Seattle area we are really keen to encourage the children to appreciate the wonders around them. My kids love outdoor play, especially in the woods but a 4 mile steep hike can be hard work for an 8, 4 and 2-year old. To keep them going on our last hike I asked them to see how many letters of the alphabet they could spot in the surrounding area. The letters had to be found in nature and they weren’t allowed to create a letter by moving an object.

Here are some of the letters we found

Disney Universe – a Review

It is quite a while since we used our Xbox 360 without the Kinect unit so I wasn’t sure how my 7 year old would react to a conventional game. However after playing Disney Universe for a few days she announced “I love this game”.

Disney Universe is a game for 1-4 players aimed at children aged 7-12. Players dress up as Disney characters and unlock further costumes as they progress.

I wasn’t sure whether a Disney game may be a little twee for the target audience. However the 6 Disney Worlds that the game moves through are suitably dark and adventurous. We have yet to progress from the Pirates of the Caribbean level, but there is plenty of action and problem solving to engage children.  It certainly isn’t girly and pretty.

Each level of Disney Universe has a mission to complete, puzzles to solve and enemies to defeat. As you move around the world, arrows and hints appear to instruct your mission. Some of these my 7 year old found quite challenging but we enjoyed being able to play the game together and work co-operatively to solve the puzzles.

The game works equally well with one or multiple players, it can be played collaboratively working together to solve the mission or competitively to see who can reach the highest score and collect the most gold coins.

I am looking forward to seeing some of the other worlds like Alice in Wonderland and Monsters Inc.

There is further downloadable content with Disney Universe that we haven’t had a chance to look at yet. I think that there is plenty to keep my daughter entertained for some time to come.

Disney Universe is also available for Wii and PS3 Consoles.

For the purpose of this review I received a promotional copy of the game . No fee was paid for writing this review.

Fisher-Price Red Rover Game – A Review

My middle daughter is 3 next week and she has just become interested in games.  We have found some that occupy her and her friend but I am always on the lookout for more.

Today Red Rover arrived at our door.  This is a new Pre-school game by Fisher-Price that teaches colours, shapes, numbers and letters in a fun way.

My first pleasant surprise was to find that gone are the hours of removing fiddly packaging.  The security tabs have been redesigned so that they are quick and easy to remove.

Red Rover the dog is sturdy and compact and wears a backpack to store all the bones that form part of the game.  This will make it easy to store and to put away without losing all the pieces.

The game begins by placing all the bones face down around the floor. Each bone has a colour and a shape, number or letter on it. You then press Red Rover’s nose to choose easy level (colour only), or hard which includes all the attributes.  Press Red Rover’s nose and he calls out a colour to find.  The children run around the room turning over the bones until they find the correct one.  Once they have found it they put it into Red Rover’s mouth and he tells them if they are correct.  If it is the wrong colour he says ‘Yeuchh’ which we thought was very cute. If they find the right one they get to keep that bone and the game continues.  If the correct bone is not found within a specific time the children are directed to return to Red Rover and he chooses another. The object of the game is to collect the most bones.

My kids loved it.  I had to encourage my 7 year old to let her younger sister find a few  bones when she got a little competitive, but they had fun together. I think I might give them a bag each next time as it was easy to forget the bones you had collected when engrossed in the fun of the game.  I love that it is an active game and it kept my lively pre-schooler engrossed. I envisage a few tears as the children compete to be the first to find a bone, but they’re all valuable lessons.

There were a couple of down sides.  As with many electronic toys the accent is American and American phrases such as two times rather than twice are used.  I would have preferred Red Rover to have had a British accent but it didn’t distract from the fun of the game.  The other point is that the letters on the bones were upper case.  I always teach lower case letters first and often wonder why toy manufacturers tend to use capitals.  Is it to familiarise children with the initial letter of their names?

My daughter is having a small 3rd birthday party next week and I will add this game to the list of party games.  A great fun way to encourage children to learn shapes, colours, numbers and letters.

Lego Games – Just for Boys?


The good people at Netmums have been kind enough to let me and my 7 year old daughter review  a Lego game.  I say ‘kind’ because the original request went out to boys.  Strange, I thought, I’ve always thought of Lego as a unisex toy. Having heard good things about Lego games, I thought it was worth asking if they would like a girl’s perspective and hey presto our wish was granted.  My daughter has been eagerly awaiting the postman for weeks, especially as I promised she could invite 2 of her friends to test it with her.

The game that finally arrived was Ramses Return.  It is described as a memory game suitable for children aged 7+.  So far so good, Egypt is a fairly unisex topic and memory games are generally popular in our household.


Before playing the game you need to build the board and the die which adds another dimension to the toy.  We had fun building it together and the instructions were clear and easy to follow.  It comes with a funny little tool (the red thing in the picture) to lift the tiles from the die  if you want to change it around . This is (as are many of the other pieces) very small.  In our house this means that tidy away time would need to be supervised to ensure that no pieces went missing or were eaten by toddlers, babies or dogs.

The rules are easy to follow.  The object of the game is to move around the board collecting crystals and treasure, some of which are hidden under domes.  If the die lands on a colour, you have to check the domes to see if you can find a matching crystal, the domes then can be placed back on the board in any position, so you need to remember where each colour is. If the mummy passes through your space you lose a piece of treasure and go back to the start. The winner is the first to collect 3 different pieces of treasure. The treasure and crystals fit neatly onto the heads of the playing people, my daughter loved balancing the funny hats on their heads.

We have played the game twice so far, once just the 2 of us and again with 3 children plus my 2 year old and myself playing together.  When it was just the 2 of us it took about 10 minutes to play.  I liked this because often board games are quite long and it is difficult to find long enough stretches of time when the babies are not around for us to play. With 4 players it took considerably longer, one of the boys became bored before it finished and then they all gave up.  The boy who gave up playing was younger than the recommended age so this may have been a factor, also because the board is so small with 4 players it is quite difficult to sit around it.  We passed it from player to player instead.

The thing that I loved most about the game is that it promotes creativity by encouraging you to change the rules.  We changed a number of rules such as when a player landed on your space you had to give them a crystal and if you choose an empty dome you had to go back 2 spaces.  It was lovely to see the children negotiating the rule changes.

So was the game a hit with girls?  I think that is a resounding yes.