There’s a reason the best games from your childhood are still the most fun you ever had. Raid the memory bank and teach your kids the old classics, writes Tanya Sweeney
It seems like the whole world is attempting to get back to basics these days. And there’s no better time to revive the games we loved in childhood for a whole new generation.
With nostalgia having a huge moment, raid the memory banks and remember what simple pleasures kept you off the streets (or rather, on the streets).
Kunak McGann had such great memories that he wrote a whole book on the games he used to love as a youngster. Red Rover, Red Rover: Games From An Irish Childhood has plenty of family fun ideas that might spark the odd memory or two in um and Dad.
From Kerbs and Tip The Can to skipping and Blind Man’s Buff, Kunak has resurrected much-loved classics to keep a new generation on their toes.
“This one’s perfect for a couple of kids, or indeed a child playing with a parent or two,” suggests McGann. “If you have any path in your back or front garden, you can use chalk or a stone to draw out the grid, and off you go. If it’s a rainy day, use masking tape to mark out the grid on a tile or wooden floor. I did this in our hall and left it there for a while — it’s hard to resist hopping through a Hopscotch grid when it’s there. Exercise for everyone! This game is great for practising your aim (getting your stone/tin into the right box) and balance and co-ordination. Children may get a good giggle out of watching their parents take this one on.”
Also called French Elastics or Chinese Skipping, this is the classic game where two players stand, facing each other and apart, holding a long loop elastic loop around their legs. Another player jumps between the two sides of the loop while chanting rhymes like ‘England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, inside, Outside, Donkeys tails’. The game starts off with the elastic around ankle level, then up to ‘Kneesies’, then ‘Thighsies’, ‘Bumsies’ and ‘Waisties’. “Daredevil ‘80s kids were known to go up to ‘Under Armsies’ and ‘Necksies’, which basically involves a lot of can-canning,” recalls McGann. “If you haven’t got a good length of elastic? Try knotting together a few pairs of tights. For anyone who hasn’t played this game since childhood, you will be amazed how much energy it takes.”
A game where two players or more take turns throwing a tennis ball (or other small ball) against a wall in a sequence: Onesies (done once, a simple throw and catch), Twosies (done twice, allow one bounce before you catch), Threesies (done three times, clap before you catch the ball), Foursies (one bounce and spin around before you catch), Fivesies (clap your hands behind your back before catching), Sixies (touch the ground), Sevensies (jump up and clap). As soon as you make a mistake, the ball passes to your opponent. “This is the definition of a low-tech game but it’s highly addictive,” explains McGann. “Ideally played outside, against a wall that doesn’t reverberate through the house, at a push it can also be played inside on a rainy day.”
The perfect retro hobby. “All you need is a set of marbles and a circle drawn on a small patch of even ground, and away you go. Another very simple one — roll your marbles into the circle, trying to knock others out — but brilliant for aim and concentration,” says McGann.
For those rainy days, or when taking a break from outside, there are lots of old school games that can be played with a couple of sheets of paper,” says McGann. “Why not go right back to basics with Xs and Os, Dots and Boxes, or Hangman? Or check out Youtube for one of many videos showing you how to make a paper fortune-tellers (also called whirlybirds) — these are nearly more fun to make than to play, and kids can get as creative as they like.”
Families are keeping in touch on Zoom or Skype, so you might as well add an activity into the mix. “Hangman or Battleship [just sketch out the grids on paper], or the old reliables like Charades and I Spy are good,” says McGann. “Our kids love playing scavenger hunt with the cousins online — someone thinks of an item and then they all have to dash off in their separate houses and bring one back to show on camera. For younger kids, try Simon Says, which can be as active or quiet as you like.