12 Old School Games To Teach Your Kids This Summer

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Do you remember your favorite old school games from childhood? Games that you would play outside with friends until the sun went down. Games you would play in gym class at school before you ever thought about shaving your legs. What were some of your favorites?

Last week I realized that some of the games I loved from childhood were no longer being taught to kids. My Girl Scout Troop finished our activity early and my co-leader suggested a game of Red Rover.

“What’s that?” one of the first graders asked.

Old school games to teach your kids

It turns out, none of the girls – out of all 21 in our troop – had played Red Rover before. I was shocked. How could these 5, 6 and 7-year-olds not know what Red Rover was? They are prime Red Rover playing age. Didn’t they play it in gym class?

Based on that I asked my daughter about the other games I remembered, and she didn’t even know half of them.

With summer on the way I decided that we were going to change that. It’s time to put the tablets down, get outside and bask in my nostalgia with my children playing some old school games. Honestly, whether they like it or not.

There are some moments in life that should not be missed. These games create those moments between lifelong, childhood friends and parents and children.

Here are some of the games we’re going to be learning and playing.

Red Rover

Let’s start here since I mentioned it already. Red Rover is one of the easiest games to play and even young kids can get on the action. It originated in the United Kingdom in the 1800’s and then spread to Australia, Canada and the United States.

Two lines of players stand across from one another about 30 feet apart. Each line of players holds hands and then takes turns yelling, “Red Rover, Red Rover let (insert kid’s name) come over.” Then that person runs and tries to break the link of hands on the team.

It may sound pointless but it’s really fun to try and see if you can keep the other children from breaking through. It really was a favorite of mine because it was so simple and so easy to play.

The downside and the upside to this game is that you need a lot of kids to play. Easy for gym class, not as easy for at home.

Hop Scotch

Hop Scotch is a wonderful game because it can be played with several people or alone. It’s easy to draw the hop scotch board out of chalk almost anywhere and find a stone to use as the marker.

Check out these variations of the “court” and try them all. I had no idea there were variations in how it looked but these would be so fun to try and some of them age up with your kids and become more complicated.


This game is much older than me so many more people will have played it throughout the ages. According to Wikipedia, it actually originated around the time people believed it the Greek gods.

It was originally called Knucklebones because it would be played with sheep bones so “Jacks” is actually considered the modern version of this game.

Players take turns bouncing a rubber ball and pick up as many jacks as they can before the ball bounces a second time.

Double Dutch

I was never coordinated enough to play Double Dutch and was always totally jealous of people who were.

For this game you need at least three players. Two players hold the ends of two jump ropes and the third jumps them at the same time – alternating feet and ropes.

It’s still being debated where this game originated, and no one really seems to know if it came over with Dutch immigrants. However, while no one seems to play it here in the Midwest anymore, it is a varsity sport in New York public high schools according to Wiki.

Hand Slapping Games

Double Dutch may not have been my thing, but I could rock (slap?) a good hand slapping game like Miss Mary Mack or Rockin’ Robin.

These games are found throughout the world and played with at least two people. They’re part of an oral tradition of passing down stories and tales and include a series of clapping hands with your partner in an organized and repetitive manner.

Technically, Pat-A-Cake is a hand clapping game – maybe the original one that most people in the U.S. learn. Take some time to refresh yourself with a few YouTube videos and then teach your kids the more complicated ones. This one is super cute and one of my favorites.

Monkey In The Middle

This is a more formalized version of keep-away. Most people have probably informally played the game but it can actually be a fun game if it’s a bit more organized and not mean spirited.

You draw a circle and one person stands in that circle. Two or more people stand outside the circle and throw the ball back and forth, keeping it away from the person in the middle. Take turns on who is in the middle and it can be a game that keeps a group of kids busy.


I remember attempting to play this game on a playground in the heat of summer once. I was never very good at it but nevertheless it can be a fun game.

You need a basketball net and at least two players for this game, but you can have more. One person tries to make a basket from a specific spot in a specific way. Then everyone else has to do the same.

If the first player (or subsequent players) makes the shot, then everyone has to do it in the exact same way he did. If not, then he earns the letter H and it move to the next person. Players are knocked out of the competition as they complete the word.

Tag Variations

Everyone knows the old school game tag but there are variations of the game that have grown up with different variations. Freeze tag and flashlight tag (at night) was popular when I was growing up. Another version of the game that used to be played a lot more was chain tag. Where once the person who is “it” tags someone they need to hold hands and as they tag subsequent people, they join the “it” chain to go after the other players together.


No one knows the origins of marbles. They’ve been found in the tombs of Egypt and the ashes of Pompeii. Native Americans played them too, so it has been near impossible for historians to nail down.

They were first mass produced in 1915 and very popular in the first half of the 1900s. They also had a bit of a revival in the 1970’s, which is why I (as a child of the 80’s) have some fuzzy memories of them.

The game is played in literally hundreds of ways because there is no one game named, “marbles.” Instead, there are many games you can play with the little glass balls and, technically, all of them can be called marbles.

A popular version of the game is called Ringers and is played by drawing a circle the ground with an X in the middle. The marbles (called ducks in this game) are arranged around the X and players take turns shooting them out. For substantially more information on marbles, click here.

Chinese Jump Rope

When I started writing this I wondered if the name Chinese Jump Rope was PC or if it was a name Americans gave the game when they didn’t really care about any of that. Color me surprised when I learned that Chinese Jump Rope actually originated in China in 7th century!

My friends and I used to play this every day at recess in elementary school. It’s played with a rope that is a stretchy circle, like a large rubber band. Two players hold the rope around their ankles and there are variations with the rope to make the game easier or harder. A third player jumps in and out. The rope positions get harder and higher as the game advances.

You can find the ropes on Amazon here.

old school games - The Everyday Mom Life

Cat’s Cradle

Cat’s Cradle is one of the oldest recorded games, according to Wiki. This is one that was heavily tied to my childhood. If it wasn’t Chinese Jump Rope, it was Cat’s Cradle. Everyone always had a piece of string or something (Was it really just string?) ready to go to play this one.

The game is played by making string figures with your fingers and can be played with two or more people. As each player takes the string from the person before them, they grab and pull the X parts of the string to make new figures.

Hacky Sac

Um, so this one isn’t as old as the old school games that were started in the times of the gods or anything like that. This one harkens all the way back to the 70’s. It remained popular through the mid-90’s among the “hippy, stoner and grunge” crowds according to Wiki. This is probably why I didn’t play it.

Goodie too shoes as I am, I always watched people play this and never tried playing it myself. I imagine my husband (with his once purple hair) playing this game with his grungy friends.

Hacky sack is considered a football-like game where players stand in a circle and kick a crocheted, round “football.”

You should probably have kids that are a bit older to play this game, like tween and teenager, just for general coordination purposes. But I think your kids could still have fun learning it without being part of any of the Wiki described crowds.

What other games would you add to this list?

For more kid experiences, click here.


  1. We taught all of our kids these games we played as a kid. Now we are teaching our grandchildren. The local schools have band red rover and kick ball as to dangerous.

  2. I used to play all of these games when I was little. I did teach a few to my kids last Summer. I need to show them a few more. I think my daughter is old enough for the hand claps.

  3. I loved H-O-R-S-E and monkey in the middle. I hadn’t considered teaching my nephews these until I read your post! Thats a great idea.

  4. I love this post! So many great games! Hard to believe that kids today probably do not know of them but you are right, nowadays they are “old school”! I loved all of these games as a kid and one that you didn’t mention … foursquare!
    Sharing this!

  5. These are some great blast from the past child hood memories! I can’t be the only one who is anti red rover though? That game terrified me! I’d drop my hand before I let a kid come charging through!! And that’s why they always went to me.

  6. I think teaching them the games we used to play as children is great! It’s also a fun way to spend time with them. These games you listed are totally awesome!

  7. I have to admit not knowing how to play marbles or hopscotch until becoming a dad and playing these games with my kids. I did spend countless hours as a child and teenager playing HORSE on the basketball hoop hanging over my family’s garage door.

  8. Ohhh wow I remember all of these games! Honestly my favorite part of childhood was drawing on the concrete with chalk… it’s the simple things that I’d hate to miss out on again.

  9. Cats Cradle used to be my favorite thing to do as a kid. I would bring my string everywhere and show off my skills. I will have to do a refresher on the hand game songs, but I think those would be fun to teach some of my nieces and nephews!

  10. Oh this post took me right back to my childhood indeed. What a wonderful idea to share these classic playground games with children and keep them alive. I definitely used to love all of these.

  11. aww this post is so cute, it has brought back so many childhood memories, and I would love to do these games with my nieces and nephews this summer!

  12. I don’t know some of the games but I have tried a few of them. This is a great list of old school games.

  13. OMG! This took me back! Hpo Scotch and HORSE are my favs. I actually play these with my nieces and nephews now. I’m definitely going to try a few of the other’s with them too. These games made being a kid awesome

  14. Being not athletic, HORSE was basically the only way to get me to play basketball LOL. Hopscotch was a favorite, too!

  15. I forgot about the cat’s cradle! My nine year old daughter has played all the others and I always smile when I overhear her teaching her younger sister some on your list. My youngest is currently a big fan of hopscotch!

  16. Those were definitely the good old days back in the 60’s and 70’s. The only one I have never played is H-O_R-S-E. You must remember King of the Hill, Duck, Duck, Goose, Simon Says and London Bridges. I don’t tell my children or grandchildren about that game its morbid. How it turned into a game that I played at Vacation Bible School I’ll never know.

  17. This is such a fab round up! I had forgotten some of these!! This is especially important to save the generation from the wrath of the ipad and smartphones. Thanks for putting this together<3


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