Do you remember as a girl spending school breaks skipping until your legs ached, while reciting rhymes at the top of your voice? Or playing rowdy clapping games with your friends? Or those games of catchers and hopscotch that carried on until the sun went down and Mom called you in for dinner?

What is interesting about old-fashioned children’s games is that they are passed down through generations of school kids, and often don’t change much over the decades or even centuries.

Sometimes, however, a popular game or activity from years past may fade out of memory, and this is a pity, because there is no better way of getting kids moving than encouraging them to have FUN while they’re getting the healthy exercise they need. This is so important these days, when kids of all ages spend hours glued to TV, cellphone and tablet screens, where they will stay quite happily unless you come up with exciting alternatives to get them moving and grooving.

We’ve listed a few of the world’s most popular playground games below, plus links to sites that will help you re-learn the rules so you can show your little ones the ropes (if you’ll pardon the pun).

A fast-paced game that requires only one piece of equipment: a skipping rope! Whether a child is skipping on her own, or using a long rope and two friends to ‘turn’ the rope, this is a game that is made much more fun when catchy skipping rhymes are called out in time to the rhythmic jumps.

If you don’t recall any skipping rhymes or songs from your own childhood, ask your mom or older relatives if they do – then write these down and teach them to your kids. You might be surprised at how quickly these rhymes can spread through a school as a skipping craze catches on. You can also find skipping rhymes on the Internet – click here for some great examples.

To find out more about different skipping jumps and moves, click here.

A large loop of thin elastic and three children is all that’s needed for this well-loved game, also known as ‘Elastics’. You can buy the elastic – the sort used to make waistbands – in any sewing shop. Two children stand opposite each other, about two metres apart. They hook the elastic loop around their ankles to form a taut, narrow rectangle, and the third player performs a number of jumps and twists across and over the elastic.

As the game progresses, the elastic moves higher – first to the knees, then to the thighs, and so on. Find out more about French skipping or watch a quick video of kids in action!


Hopscotch is a fun-filled game that has been played by children for at least three centuries, possibly even longer. A grid consisting of squares and circles is scratched into an earth surface, or marked out with chalk on paving or tar.

To play, a ‘marker’ (such as a pebble) is thrown into the first square or circle. The players hop their way across the grid, missing the square containing the marker, and using one foot for single squares and two feet for doubles.

To find out more about the rules of hopscotch, visit Wikipedia, where you’ll also find examples of hopscotch grids you can mark out on a driveway or similar paved surface at home.


Little hands and mouths get the most exercise when kids are playing these traditional games. How many of these do you remember from your school days? Click on the links for full instructions!


If you have any traditional South African games or rhymes you’d like to share with our NutriDay family, we’d love to hear about them! Tell us by posting a comment below! Or click here to tell us on Facebook.