Written by 9:15 am Family Fun

10 Traditional Childhood Games Your iPhone-playing Kids Will Never Know


Here’s a rundown of the most popular childhood games of the ’80s and ’90s. They might be so ‘last century’ but your kid could learn a thing or two from them.

Kids these days will probably never be able to understand and appreciate the simplicity of hanging out with your friends and playing games that don’t involve gadgets of any sort. Remember when we used to play all sorts of inventive games with our friends? All we needed were a few props – sometimes even none – as all we used was our imagination (Police and Thief, anyone?).




How to play
Another game that’s more popular with girls, all you need is some chalk and empty floor space – just make sure you’re allowed to ‘draw’ on the floor; we don’t want anyone arrested for vandalism. You also need a stone or any object (we even used to use wallets!) that you can throw without it breaking.

Draw large squares in a specific pattern, with a number on each of them. Each player throws the stone into a square in turn, then hops from one square to another, avoiding the ones that already have a stone in them. There are actually several ways to play this game, so it’s easy enough to switch between them for a bit of variety.

Why you should teach your child to play it
It teaches balance and strategy.

Zero Point


How to play
If you remember begging your mum for her extra rubber bands – or ‘stealing’ them from anywhere! – you definitely loved this game. Take a lot of rubber bands and loop them together to form a long rope. Then get two friends (you need a minimum of three people to play this) and take turns where two hold either ends of the rope while the third one jumps.

Start low and gradually move the rope up after you successfully clear each height. The aim is to jump over the rope without touching it – otherwise you lose your turn. The video above shows another variation where the person jumping has to do different patterns. This game was more popular with girls but that doesn’t mean that boys can’t play it too.

Why you should teach your child to play it
Coordination and teamwork are just two of the skills kids can develop with this game.

Scissors, Paper, Stone

childhood games-scissors paper stoneImage cc licensed (CC BY 2.0) flickr image Rock, Paper, Scissors by Michael Smith

How to play
A great way to fight boredom, you don’t even need any props for this game, just your hands. It was also how we decided who was ‘chosen’ to do what task. You make three actions with your hands – scissors (index and middle finger made to look like scissors), paper (palm wide open) and stone (fist). Then say, “Scissors…paper…stone!” and each player (not more than two) makes an action of their choice. Stone ‘crushes’ scissors, paper ‘wraps’ stone and scissors ‘cuts’ paper. Hours of fun!

Why you should teach your child to play it
It’s a far healthier way to kill time while they’re waiting around (for the bus, medical appointment, or what have you), instead of staring at a phone or tablet screen.

(See also: Get your Kid to Disconnect from that Gadget!)



How to play
All you need is a chapteh (or capteh), which is essentially a bunch of colourful feathers mounted onto a round piece of rubber, not unlike a shuttlecock. Try to keep the chapteh in the air with your feet by ‘kicking’ it with the side of the heel of your foot while standing on the other foot. Play it by yourself or get a few friends together and challenge each other. Mostly played by boys, you can still find chaptehs sold at some neighbourhood shops.

Why you should teach your child to play it
It helps to develop good leg-eye coordination, focus, concentration, balance and sportsmanship.

Four/Five Stones


How to play
Kids used to play this with actual stones back in the kampung generations ago but most of us grew up using mini cloth ‘stones’ filled with beans (some of us made our own too!). You have to follow a sequence to get from one difficulty level to the next, each basically different ways of tossing and catching the stones in various configurations. A favourite with girls, it can be played with four or five stones and, while it’s most fun in a group, competing with friends, you can play it alone too, when you have time to kill.

Why you should teach your child to play it
Good hand-eye coordination is necessary for this game.

(See also: Why Kids Need Kampong Play)

Pick Up Sticks

childhood games-pickup-sticksImage cc licensed (CC BY 2.0) flickr image Pick up sticks by Kim Love

How to play
This game had to be bought from the shops. It basically consists of a handful of very thin plastic sticks in various colours. Throw all of them onto a table – make sure they’re not too spread out – and the objective is to collect as many sticks as you can. Sounds too easy? Well, you have to ‘pick up’ (with your hands or with the aid of another stick) the sticks one by one, making sure that no other stick moves while you do so. When a stick is shifted, it’s the next person’s turn. Once all the sticks have been picked up, the person who has collected the most number of sticks wins.

Why you should teach your child to play it
Steady hands are very important in this game, as are hand-eye coordination and analytical thinking.

Hantam Bola


How to play
Before there was paintball, there was hantam bola. It translates from Malay to mean ‘hit ball’ and, well, that’s pretty much how the game is played. Take a tennis ball and hit your friends. Anyone can then pick up the ball and hit others. That really is it.

Why you should teach your child to play it
They’ll benefit from all the exercise while running around, and learn to develop strategy too.

(See also: The Benefits of Active Play for Kids)


childhood games-marblesImage cc licensed (CC BY 2.0) flickr image Game of marbles by Larry Lamb

How to play
Goli is the Malay word for marbles, which were very popular especially in the ’80s. Draw a circle on the ground and put some glass marbles in it. Then take turns using another marble to knock the marbles out of the circle. The person who collects the most marbles at the end of the game wins.

Why you should teach your child to play it
They’ll develop good hand-eye coordination.

Police and Thief

childhood games-policethief-sticks

How to play
Play this in a field, with enough people to form two groups – one will be the police and the other, the thieves. The police go around catching the thieves and once caught, they’re placed in ‘prison’, usually a tree that was assigned to play this role. While the police catch more thieves, the thieves that are still out attempt to free those who have been imprisoned.

Why you should teach your child to play it
It’s heaps of fun and they’ll learn about teamwork. Plus, they’ll get loads of exercise from all that running around too.

Card and Board Games

childhood games-compendium

How to play
Remember when your exams were over and you still had to go to school, but were allowed to play games all day? Card and board games were very popular; we spent hours playing them. The most fun – and simple – card games included Happy Family, Donkey, Snap, Old Maid and a bit later, UNO. Board games like Monopoly, Risk, Cluedo and Scrabble kept us busy and entertained too. There were also games that you could buy in ‘compendium’ sets, and always included the likes of Snakes & Ladders, Chinese Checkers and Ludo.

Why you should teach your child to play it
Good sportsmanship is very important when playing these games – nobody likes a sore loser!

childhood games-yoyo-paperdoll-tictactoe-nintendoImage cc licensed (CC BY 2.0) flickr images (clockwise from top left) Tic Tac Toe by Tru Konspirazy, Paperdolls by various Brennemans, Yo-yo by David Mulder and Nintendo Game & Watch “Octopus” by Christoph Bauer

Footnote: We couldn’t fit all the old-school childhood games into this article so we’d like to give an honorary mention to games like Tic Tac Toe, Paper Dolls, Yo-yo, Cat’s Cradle, Kuti Kuti and Country Rubber (Flag Eraser) Game, Paper Aeroplanes, Bottle Caps, Plastic Army and of course, the closest we got to the mobile phone games of today – Nintendo’s Game & Watch!


Feature image: Image cc licensed (CC BY 2.0) flickr image Hopscotch by Dean McCoy

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