It’s time we taught our kids to play the games we played as kids!

My Childhood Memories

I don’t know about you, but my mom always told us to “go play outside”. Our parents did not entertain us. They didn’t stress about keeping us busy and preventing us from being bored at all costs, literally ($ R £). We were forced to create our own fun, or play games that we learnt at school with our friends, in the park, or with our cousins. Either we played on our own as kids, or we played some of these WITH our parents.

I decided that this summer holiday, during our time at home, I would try to remember some old school games we played as kids, the games from our childhood and to teach them to the girls.

Granted I grew up in Africa (in a far more peaceful and free time of life, with fantastic weather) but after a bit of investigating and asking around it seems that there are several games we played as kids that transcended countries, continents, and lifestyles. Games from our childhood in the late 70s, 80s  and early 90s, before TV was life, and screentime was currency! So let’s see how this list is looking: 

24 Games We Played As Kids

Here are some of the most popular suggestions for games we played as kids. There are a few explanations because what I did discover is that we might have played similar games, but sometimes the rules were different, or they had different names.


Hopscotch seems to be the most popular suggestion from so many people. I mean, what’s not to love. It’s so simple. You draw the hopscotch plan out on your driveway or pavement in chalk that will just wash off so no stress about cleaning up, and voila!

Granted, I had to google the rules. But it did take my girls all of 10 minutes to crack it. They obviously play it at school because they did know it. I think I’m going to have to find a few more complicated versions to keep them intrigued though cos the novelty did wear off a bit quicker than I had hoped for.

games for kids to play outside hopscotch

Although I’m glad I’m not the only one who doesn’t remember all the rules. Helen from The Mulberry Bush also had a little trouble:

My daughter has been playing hopscotch this week. I know there’s throwing and hopping involved, so I improvised. 

Playing In The Mud!

Sometimes I think we can all get caught up in the idea of an Insta-Perfect garden, perfectly landscaped and suitable for the cover of any home improvement or DIY catalogue. But the joy, for you and your kids, of having a little mud patch in the corner where they can just be dirty messy kids is one of the things they will remember forever.

I have vivid memories of growing up and being hosed down in the outside bath (I don’t know why it was there, just hooked up to cold water under the kitchen patio area), but I do remember that we were allowed to play in the mud, get as dirty as we wanted to, as long as we ‘bathed’ in that outside bath before being allowed inside.

playing in the mud outside is great for kids

Credit: Jacqui & Pieter Marais

And if you don’t want to mess up your garden, there’s always the option of donning your wellies, and going for a walk to find a muddy puddle (no mention of pigs please – she’s banned on my blog!). Just look how much fun it can be.

jumping in muddy puddles is a fun game for kids

Credit: Jacqui Bester and her Bester Zoo kids from One Messy Mama

Here are even more ideas to encourage children to play outside.

Making ‘Perfume’

Letting your children mix concoctions of mud, leaves, sticks, flower petals etc. Keeps them busy for ages. Provided you are happy to sacrifice a patch of landscaped garden for a messy play, preferably a muddy patch of course!

Sarah from The Penniless Parent says:

Making ‘perfume’ by mushing water and rose petals in the garden. Don’t feel guilty, many of my priceless memories of growing up are moments and times spent at home. Watch their faces if you randomly put a hose pipe on them from the kitchen window.

A Hose Pipe and Water Play

When I was growing up, one of the places we lived in was a town called Bulawayo that even today has terrible drought problems and water restrictions. We had a swimming pool in our garden that was only 1/4 full at the best of times. Other times we had to make do with a hose-pipe and spray.

I turned the spray on my girls the other day and they loved it. My lawn took a while to recover, but there is water play fun to be had without a swimming pool. Even though we do miss ours in South Africa. It definitely did occupy the girls a lot.

Writing With Chalk On The Pavement / Sidewalk

Don’t underestimate the fun to be had drawing on the pavement or sidewalk with chalk. My daughters are extremely creative when it comes to this. Check out their viral creation on TikTok.

We also had some leftover pavement chalk from our Mud & Bloom subscription pack which came in handy for the HopScotch plan. After that was done they just had fun drawing on the pavement.

Juanne from 4 Sticks In A Bundle says:

I think it’s important for the kids to be bored every now and then. They also need to figure out how to entertain themselves. But what my kids love, although a bit younger, is playdough, writing on the sidewalk with chalk, and bügelperlen (I don’t know what this is in English but a direct translation is ironing beads. You put them into some sort of shape or design and then iron over them).

Keeping “Pets”

Pets are always a great distraction for kids. The conventional ones are cool, but finding the unconventional ones can be just as much fun, if not more so because of the imagination it inspires.

Emma Phillips of Fuelled By Latte says:

I remember keeping a ladybird that I’d found on the drive as a pet and spending ages watching it walk about. I would’ve been in primary school as I remember the house. Also Rounders! I remember playing rounders in the street in between the 4 trees that grew in 4 different gardens. 

Ladybird Pet games we played as kids

Elastics / Skip Jump / Chinese Skipping / French Skipping

We called it French Skipping, but these are just some of the names that the same game concept is known by. Here’s an example of what I mean, although I’m sure you all remember. It’s still a good tutorial to show the kids. And remember, there’s nothing wrong with using a chair if you don’t have three kids.

Nicole (another ex Zim friend of mine) says:

French skipping (although you need more than two people) – do you remember the one you have to spell out Mississippi? I just remember that one & “England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales. Inside, outside, inside, on”

Oranges and Lemons!

Gosh I remember playing this game as a young girl at school … “Oranges and lemons ring the bells of St Clements”. This song dates back to Victorian times. Check out this video to see how it was played, although it doesn’t have the original tune. You’d have to google that separately.

I did ask that the mum who suggested this to me should get her 5 kids to do a video demonstration for us, I’m waiting Jacqui (One Messy Mama).


Yes, I need to get us some of these. I think this is definitely a game that my two would enjoy spending time doing. This is one of those games that was always there on our camping trips as a kid. Thanks Amber for suggesting it. Obviously another ex-Zimbo who spent time roughing it without TV, making memories and playing for fun.

As well as Dominos, Amber Cathro also suggested:

Marbles, dominoes, hopscotch, hula hoops, any skipping rope game (two people swinging, one jumping), colouring the pavement with chalk. My 5-year-old is so good at dominos! I’m ashamed to say he beats me (also proud as punch though!)

Kerbs and Tip The Can

These aren’t games that I can remember being on the list of games we played as kids, but they are so similar that I think we played them but called them something else. Thanks to Erin for both suggestions. Here’s how she explains them:


One person stands each side of the road up on the kerb. Take turns to throw the ball at the other person’s kerb. If it bounces back off the kerb you get a point and keep your turn until you miss the kerb with the ball.

hide and seek

Tip The Can

Tip The Can is like hide and seek but the person that is “on” has to tip an agreed lamp post and say “tip the can I see Jane behind the wall”… the others that are hiding have to try and sneak up to touch the same lamp post. They can say “tip the can free my soul”. The last person can say “free all souls” so anyone that has already been caught can hide again! Hours of fun.

Cat’s Cradle

We definitely called this something else, but I definitely remember playing this for hours with my sisters and my friend Louise.

Thanks for the reminder Joanne. Here’s a few other suggestions that she had:

Clapping games- we spent hours doing them as children. ‘Miss Mary Mack’ and ‘Say say my playmate’ were my faves. Also handstands, elastics and cats cradle … ah memories!

Clapping Games

Clapping Games were a major passtime for me as a kid. What’s so weird is that the girls came home singing Tic Tac Toe a few weeks ago, so obviously it’s still something they play at school. Here’s a reminder of “A Sailor Went To … ” but there was also “Tic Tac Toe”, “Miss Mary Mack“, and – again, Louise, I’m sure you will remember many of these. I’m pretty sure we played A Sailor Went To in groups, not just in pairs.


This one is one I don’t remember playing but here are the rules by another fab follower, Rachel Matthews:

You get a bunch of school rulers (or woodcuts about the same size) and lie them down in a line (all horizontal) 1 foot apart. You run the course, stepping in each gap. Hit a ruler or miss a gap and you are out. The last person jumps after the last ruler and then chooses a ruler to place where he or she landed. The course gets increasingly complex and you keep going until there is only one person left. If the ruler mover gets out, the person before them in the line takes over the job. Normally about 12 rulers at a time.

Jumping Jacks

This was a game I remember playing during a similar time in my life as the dominos memories. It was a great Christmas Stocking gift too if I remember correctly. You got a back of metal crosses and a bouncy ball, and you had to see how many Jax (the metal crosses) you could pick up between the bounces of the bouncy ball. Thanks for the reminder Nicky Liddell (who is an amazing photographer based in Winchester, Hampshire) another Zimbo Expat. x

Mom Of Two Little Girls | A Parenting blogger based in Yorkshire, raising strong girls in a modern world.

I decided not to wait to buy one and ended up making our own with some Hatchimals Colleggtibles and an old bouncy ball. It was fun for one child, but the other is possibly not suited for a game that requires patience and practice. lol

hatchimals as jacks

Other Ideas of games we played as kids:

  • 7s: bouncing a tennis ball against a wall and catching it, whilst counting the number of claps you can do in the meantime. Thanks, Nix.
  • Loom Bands can make a come back at any time! Thanks, Jacky Boyd
  • Jump rope, marbles, just good old Barbie, Monopoly (my kids love this now, keeps them entertained for hours), colouring, hop scotch, hide and seek, paint, making paper dolls with clothes and some other outdoor games which I only know in Afrikaans from Marishka of Mom Just Saying
  • Erin Kelly: Collecting papers – I don’t remember this, but Marishka says it was a thing for them too.
  • Cowboys & Indians with homemade Bow & Arrow probably not allowed. Bezant where the player is spun around about 10 times & then given a stick to go & klap the tin while he is still dizzy. Birds egg collecting. Squashed sardines. Options from my dad, even though I had to explain that a few of these would now get us arrested or at least reported! lol Thanks, dad. x
  • 3 Tins: This made me smile. My mum taught us a game called 3 Tins when we were little that she used to play as a kid and so did my granny as a kid (when bought toys were a luxury, few and far between). You need three empty tins (from canned food) and a stone. You stack the tins and try to knock them down with the stone. So simple but it’s actually so fun. It sounds great. Thanks, Nadia of The Non-Adventures Of A SAHM.
  • More awesome memories provided by my Aunt Marge: Ludo, snakes and ladders, draughts scrabble, dolls, paper dolls, any card games patience rummy snap and 52 cards pick up, listening to story records or CDs drawing, colouring and painting.
  • Lisa Forsyth suggested: Hopscotch, skipping, that game where two people wrapped the big elastic around their legs and another person jumped over the elastic (not sure if I a describing it right), marbles, that game where you roll the dice and get to eat chocolate ???
  • Colour Colour – where someone calls out a colour and everyone has a countdown up to 10 to find something of that colour and be touching it before the countdown ends. 
  • Squares … like the picture below. To download a template to this game, just click the button below. 
squares games we played as kids

I’m Emotional Now

I can’t believe how many awesome memories this post has brought back for me. If you have any other Games We Played As Kids to add to this list, please put them in the comments below. I will keep updating this post to include suggestions from my followers.

And please share this post. If you’d like to send me pictures of you and/or your kids playing any of these games, I’d be happy to share them on my social media (crediting you), and adding to this post.

games we played as kids