Following my recent post about traditional playground games, by chance I came across this wonderful collection from the British Library. For a play enthusiast like me, it equates to giving my kids free rein with the pick n’ mix.
The collection includes over 100 video and audio clips of children’s play, articles and video about the history of play and how it translates to modern times and teaching resources for KS1 and 2 (elementary age).
The Playtimes website is part of a wider research project entitled Children’s Games and Songs in the New Media Age. The project sought to preserve play traditions and investigate how these types of play continue to be used in the modern age. The project digitised the Opie collection of games and songs created in the late 1960’s through to the early 1980’s, capturing the games and songs of children across the UK. The majority of the recordings were made by Iona Opie as she travelled the country recording in playgrounds and schools, estates and parks. These visits were often unplanned and Iona described how she would simply wind down her car window and ‘follow the sound of children playing’. The project also carried out a two-year study of children’s playground culture today.
Many of the videos are narrated by Michael Rosen and others are animations created by schoolchildren.
I’m fascinated by traditional games and their rhythmic quality so I have ordered Opie’s books of rhymes and games and some of her research findings to learn more. What a treasure trove!
Four 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.
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.
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.