Fun old-fashioned games (and rules)

Remember the games you used to play? Lace up the kids' sneakers and get outside—because the best games don't come from a store!

By Dana Dougherty Reinke
Fun old-fashioned games and rules Photo: iStockphoto

Banish boredom with one of these classic playground games.


Number of players Three or more How to play One person is “it.” The other players get a headstart to run and then “it” and chases after them until he touches one; the caught player now becomes “it.” See the rules for tag and more of our favourite outdoor games.


Number of players One or more

How to play Draw a hopscotch board on the sidewalk with chalk and give each player a marker—a beanbag or rock works well. Each player, in turn, throws his marker on the board, starting in square one. He hops on one foot in each square to the end of the board, hopping over the square containing his marker, then turns and hops back, retrieving his marker. A player loses a turn if he steps on a line. The first to get his marker to 10 wins.

Homemade bubbles


1/2 cup (125 mL) liquid dish soap 4 cups (1 L) water 1/2 cup (125 mL) glycerine (available at drugstores)

Gently mix together water, detergent and glycerine in a container with a lid. Allow the mixture to stand for a day or two. The longer you let the mixture set, the bigger the bubbles will be.


Number of players Three or more

How to play Two players hold the ends of the rope and turn it while the other players take turns jumping over it in time to a favourite tune. Click here to find a few of our favourite classic skipping songs.



Number of players Four or more

How to play Draw a large square (about two square metres) on the asphalt or driveway with chalk. Divide it into four equal squares and number them one to four; one player stands in each square. The player in square four bounces the ball once in her own square, then hits it to any other player.

The ball must bounce once in his square, then he hits it to another player. If a player misses the ball or it lands out of bounds or fails to bounce in the square, he goes back to square one and the others rotate up a square. The player who spends the most time in square four is the champion. For a non-competitive option, see how long players can keep the ball going.

Orange Crush

Number of players One or more


How to play Bounce the ball while singing: Orange: Bounce the ball off the wall and catch it. Crush: Throw it against the wall and let it bounce before you catch it. Pepsi: Bounce it on the ground, then the wall. Cola: Throw it against the wall by tossing it under your leg. Add variations, such as clapping or hopping on one foot.

5 outdoor games and rules

Freeze Tag How to play: 1. Determine which child will be “it” (a.k.a. the kid who runs around tagging people) 2. Decide which areas are out-of-bounds. This will provide a contained space for the kids to play in. 3. The “it” child closes her eyes and counts to 10. During this time, the other children run and hide. 4. Once she’s finished counting, she opens her eyes and runs around trying to find and tag other kids. 5. To tag someone, the “it” child must touch a player’s arm, shoulder or back. Children can move around as they are being chased to avoid being tagged. Once the “it” child tags a player, that player must stand with their feet apart as if “frozen” in place. 6. To become unfrozen, another player must crawl under the frozen child’s legs without being tagged. 7. The game comes to an end when everyone is frozen. The last person to get tagged becomes the next “it” child.

What Time is it, Mr. Wolf? How to play: 1. Determine which child will be Mr. Wolf. 2. Mr. Wolf stands at one end of the yard with his back turned to the kids. The other children stand in a line at the opposite end of the yard facing Mr. Wolf’s back. 3. Together, the kids loudly chant, “What time is it, Mr Wolf?” 4. Mr. Wolf answers with different times, for example, “It’s two o’clock!” The kids take a step for every hour that Mr. Wolf exclaims. For two o’clock, the kids take two steps toward Mr. Wolf’s back. For eight o’clock, the kids take eight steps. The kids can determine whether they take small or large steps. 5. As the kids take their steps, they repeat the chant asking again, “What time it is, Mr. Wolf?” He shouts out another time and the kids take the appropriate number of steps. 6. Eventually, Mr. Wolf yells out, “lunchtime!” When this happens, Mr. Wolf turns around and chases the children who have been approaching him. Any children who are tagged must continue the game as “wolves.” Any children who run back to the starting line (without being tagged) get to continue playing. 7. The new wolves join Mr. Wolf and also take part in the chase when “lunchtime” is called out. 8. The last player to be tagged is the new Mr. Wolf. The game begins again.

Red Rover How to play: 1. Divide kids into two teams of equal size. 2. Each team forms a line and holds hands creating a human chain. The two lines face each other standing about 25 feet apart. 3. Decide which team will go first by flipping a coin. 4. The team that goes first chooses a player from the other team, and says, “Red rover, red rover, we call [name] over!” while swinging their arms. 5. The player named in the chant lets go of his teammate’s hands and charges into his opponents. His goal is to break through their human chain. If he succeeds, he picks someone from the opposing team to join his team. If he fails, he must become a part of the other team. 6. The next team takes a turn calling someone over. 7. The teams take turns doing this until one team succeeds in capturing all of the players.


British Bulldog How to play: 1. Find an open space such as a field or a big backyard. 2. Determine which child will be the “bulldog.” 3. The bulldog stands in the middle of the play area. The other children line up at one end of play area. 4. When the bulldog yells out, “British Bulldog,” the kids run to the opposite end of the play area, trying to avoid being caught by her. 5. To properly catch someone, the bulldog must hug or lift the player off the ground and yell, “1, 2, 3, British Bulldog!” At that time, the captured player becomes a bulldog too. 6. The children who didn’t get caught must try to cross back to the other side of the play area when they hear the words “British Bulldog” screamed out. 7. The last player caught is the bulldog for the next round.

Note: This game can get very physical. You may want to only let your older kids play or explain to be gentle with younger children.

Capture the Flag How to play: 1. Choose a playing location such as a field, playground or yard. 2. Divide into two teams of three or more people. You can play with any amount of children, but 10 to 12 works best. 3. Decide which two items will be the “flags.” Something brightly coloured (like a T-shirt or bandana) is perfect. 4. Make a border between the teams. You can do this with a stick on the lawn. 5. Choose a “jail” location for each team such as behind a backyard shed. 6. Now each team must hide their flag on their side of the border. 7. Once the flags are hidden, players can attempt to sneak across the other team’s border, find and steal their flag, then race back to their own side without being caught. 8. To capture an enemy player, team one must tag someone from team two while they are on team one’s side of the border. They will then go to team one’s jail where they wait to be rescued. 9. To rescue a teammate, team two must sneak across the border, find the jail, tag their teammate and race back to their side of the boarder. 10. Players can be recaptured by tagging them again before they reach the border. 11. To win the game, one team must safely capture the opposing team’s flag and bring it back to their team’s border.

— Nichola Anderson

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