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Old Fashioned Games for Kids

Updated on October 10, 2011

Oh I know in these days of whizz bangĀ  high tech wizardry, old-fashioned no-tech games probably seem incredibly lame to savvy 21st Century children. After all they've got mobiles, facebook, widescreen TV's, pc's, X boxes, play station's, mp3 players, portable karaoke's and god knows what else..probably Barbie's that walk, talk and eat fries. But what if the Zombie Apocalypse comes, the electricity plants get taken over and you suddenly can't switch on all the things that have switches? These might come in handy then.

All of these games, I remember from my own childhood and some are very old. As a child I had an elderly Aunt called Margie, who used to visit once a week to give my mother a break from child-care and domestic drudgery. She was a terrific person and her visits were wonderful because she would spend so much time with us..listening to our childish opinions, telling stories and playing games. We got attention.

As some of the games are for young children, they really work better and are more fun if there's an adult in the mix, at least until they get the hang of it. I've found children seem to get a lot more out of them with an adult playing too. It occurs to me now that many seem girl-oriented,...I guess because I was a girl. However I'm sure the boys used to play most of them too.

Puss in the Corner

This is one Margie taught us and it's as old as the hills and went down through the generations. In fact I found a reference to it dating back to1881. We loved it and I think young kids still will.

It can be played just about anywhere where there's four corners but requires space so a big, relatively empty room, a barn or rec hall is ideal or you can play it in in the backyard, making your own corners using posts or something similar.

Five players are needed. One person is Puss and stands in the middle of the room, while the other four playes takes a corner each. Puss goads the other players by calling out Puss Puss Puss, just as you'd coax a cat to come to you and the other players have to change corners with each doesn't matter which.

While this is going on Puss has to try to grab an empty corner. If Puss succeeds, the player left without a corner then becomes Puss and the game continues until every one gets tired of it.

I Love my Love with an A

I used to play this one after school with Margie while she did the ironing in the spare room and I lay on the bed gazing out the window. Although it's super simple, I remember being amused by it. A very good alphabet word game for young children as it increases vocabulary and also general knowledge as it involves a bit of geography. For two or more players.

Players must find adjectives to describe their imaginary sweetheart - the good and the bad, their name and the country they live in, so the first person starts thus:

  • I love my love with an A because he is adventurous. I hate him with an A because he is annoying. His name is Anthony and he lves in Antarctica.

The next person then has a turn and must come up with B words:

  • I love my love with a B because he is beautiful. I hate him with a B because he is boring. His name is Bruce and he lives in Brazil.

And so on, until you go right through the alphabet. It can get quite difficult when you get up to XYZ. Like many of these old games, this is not a win/lose game, (unless you can't come up with the words) but rather an individual thinking exercise you do with a companion.


Another archaic Margie favourite that used to cause peals of laughter- this is a ball game and you need at least three or more to play. It's a game of bluff and requires good acting skills. One person stands with their back to the others, holding the ball, while the rest line up behind from several feet away.

The 'front' person thows the ball over his or her head, still with their back to the others. The rest scramble for the ball and the first to get it hides it behind their back. Everyone lines up again - all with their hands behind their back and everyone shouts:

Queenie, Queenie...who's got the Ball? Is she big or is she small?

This is the signal for the front person to turn around, who must then guess who has the ball. It's important for everyone to keep a straight face so as not to give anything away. If the front person guesses correctly they can keep their spot. Otherwise the person who had the ball gets a turn.


This an old standard that most people will be familiar with, but just in case you haven't heard of it, here it is:

  • An outside game. One person is nominated to stand out the front with their back toward the other others with a baton on the ground behind their feet. The rest must stand in a line some distance away. The front person yells "advance" and players must creep up and try and snatch the baton without being seen to move.

  • The front person turns around at random tiimes to try and catch someone out and if they see someone move, that person must return to the start line to try again.

  • The game is called statues because everyone must freeze in the position they were moving in when the front person turns. To be good at this you have to have split second reflexes and be able to anticipate when the turn might occur.

  • The first person to grab the baton wins and then gets a turn out front.

Image from Wee Wonderfuls
Image from Wee Wonderfuls
Image by ellenmelon
Image by ellenmelon


This is a great card game for older kids and in fact it can be a riot for adults too...things can get very ruthless and grasping.

Based on the musical chairs principle...a spoon for each person, MINUS ONE, is placed in the middle of the table. The object is to not be left without a spoon and if you are you have to exit gameplay.

  • For each person in the game, you need four cards of the same rank. For example, with 5 players you could use the Aces, 2s, 3s, 4s and 5s.

  • After shuffling, four cards are dealt to each player, who must find four of a kind before they can grab a spoon.

  • All at the same time, everyone picks one card from their own hand and passes it along to the person on the left, while collecting the card from the player on their right. Players can never have more than four cards in their hand, so it's against the rules for a player to pick up a new card before passing one to the left.

  • When a player gets four of a kind, they must, as subtly as possible grab a spoon. this is a game that involves observation skills, so it's up to the other players to twig when a spoon goes missing. The slowest to twig is left without a spoon and leaves the game, taking a spoon with them. It's quite easy to look in the middle of the table and find that the spoons have suddenly vanished. Play continues until there's only one person left, who shall be declared the winner!

Red Rover (British Bulldog)

Although I haven't played this myself, it sounds like a good old-fashioned rough and tumble game:

  • The game is played between two imaginary lines, around thirty feet apart.

  • Each team lines up along one of these lines, and the game starts when the first team (usually called the "East" or "South" team, although this does not relate to the actual relative location of the teams) calls out, "Red rover, red rover, send [name of player on opposite team] right over." or "Red Rover, Red Rover, let [name of player of opposing team] come over." or "Red rover, red rover, we call [name of player on opposite team] over."

  • The immediate goal for the person called is to run to the other line and break the "East" team's chain (formed by the linking of hands). If the person called fails to break the chain, this player joins the "East" team. However, if the player successfully breaks the chain, this player may select either of the two "links" broken by the successful run, and take them to join the "West" team. The "West" team then calls out "Red rover" for a player on the "East" team, and play continues.

  • When only one player is left on a team, they also must try and break through a link. If they do not succeed, the opposing team wins. Otherwise, they are able to get a player back for their team.

Instructions verbatum from Wikipedia. Thanks to drbj for this one.


A variation on the old classic, Hide and Seek, the Sardines game requires players to cram into the same space, like sardines in a can. The rules are as follows:

  • One person must hides while the rest all count to one hundred.

  • When that number is reached players call out coming, ready or not!, then everyone scatters to search for the hidden person.

  • As each player discovers the missing person, they must then join them in the hiding place.The more 'sardines' in the hiding place, the more obvious it becomes.

  • Whoever is last to discover the hiding-place, must then hide in the next round.

What's the Time Mr. Wolf?

This game is played played with three or more people and while I've never played it myself, I'm assured it promotes squeals of delight among those who do. Here's how it goes:

  • One Person is Mr Wolf who has his back to everyone and all other players stand at some distance behind Mr Wolf.

  • The players behind call out "What's the time Mr Wolf" and Mr Wolf turns around and calls out a time eg 3 o'clock ( all players are safe while Mr Wolf only calls out the time)and then turns his back to the group again and keeps walking forward.

  • The game continues in this manner until Mr Wolf turns around and calls out "Dinner Time" this being the signal for all to flee and Mr Wolf needs to capture a victim by chasing the nearest player.

  • The trick is for the players to creep up as close to Mr Wolf as they can before he turns around in the hope of touching him thus winning the game. A game best played when the adult is Mr Wolf, children usually shriek with delight at being chased by a wolf.

~Thanks to Jenny Jones for that one.

Still Fun


I'm throwing this one in because I loved elastics (also known as Chinese Jump rope). In fact for a while there, when i was about nine, I was obsessed with it. I'd play it at school every day and then I'd play it again when I got home. If I couldn't find anyone to 'hold' the elastics I'd use two dining-room chairs. It involved skill and physical dexterity and the challenge was to move up through the levels of diffculty.

This is one game that was strictly for girls..I don't recall ever seeing a boy play elastics, though I don't know why. They were really missing out.

All you need for this is a long piece of elastic and some energy. The elastic is held around the ankles of two people , forming a rectangle (see video at right) and one persons jumps in and out of the rectangle, not touching the elastic until the final moves. If you touch the elastic you're out! If you're successful, the elastic is moved higher and higher up until it becomes near impossible to jump. The moves are a bit tricky to describe and my memory is a bit shaky on it so here's a link:

NB: This game is not complete unless you chant a ridiculous rhyme while you're jumping. Ours was something like:

England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales

Inside, Outside, Monkeys' tails

Image from Wee Wonderfuls
Image from Wee Wonderfuls

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