Pining for the West

Children’s Games | November 3, 2009

When my kids were at primary school a woman ‘advisor’ was given the job of teaching the children games which they could play at break-time. Well, can you believe that tag (tig or chasies) or whatever it is called in your area was actually banned by the school?

Apparently it was too competitive and it was seen as a contact sport and therefore ‘too risky’. So no fun there then. Needless to say that none of the newly made up ‘safe’ games caught on with the kids, so the whole thing was a complete waste of time and money.

But I have been thinking recently that none of the games and pastimes that I did at school seem to have survived. Or maybe they have and I just haven’t realised it.

Each game seemed to have its own season and without saying anything to each other the seasons magically changed as at the same time we decided to take our skipping ropes to school or Chinese ropes (coloured elastic bands all looped together) or small rubber hand balls. We bounced the balls one after the other onto the ground near the base of a flat wall whilst singing songs and twirling around and performing all sorts of feats, but always quickly enough to catch the balls again.

Well it kept you very fit and it was great fun. Then there were the scraps which we all brought in, kept safe and flat in thick
books, just to admire each other’s or to swap them. I used to know loads of songs and rhymes for use during skipping but I can’t remember any of them now.

And remember Klackers. What would Health and Safety say about them? Mind you sometimes being cracked by them was so agonising you couldn’t even yell in pain.

Ah, those were the days. I’d like to think that wee girls were still playing like that but I haven’t seen any evidence of it in the local school playground.

The boys just played football. Or with yoyos. But yoyo crazes seemed to be about every 5 years or so, so I don’t think that you could call that a season.

And I’ve just remembered ‘jacks’. Five bits of metal and a small rubber ball. The boys used to play at that too. I’m thinking that maybe the boys were just attracted to round or spherical things.


Anyway, I’d be interested to know if any of these games are still played nowadays.



  1. Heheheh! I used to play those ball games.

    ‘Mathew Mark Luke and John, next door neighbour carry on…’ then there was ‘

    10 boys names I really must know wish me luck and away we go: one was so and so, two is blah blah….’ and on and on.

    I remmember my sister’s having clackers, blimy they killed the fingers, probably caused arthritus if the truth be known. A couple of the first games I remember playing when I was about 5 in Liverpool was ‘The Big Ship Sails through the Ally Ally O’, Oranges and Lemons, The Farmers in his Den, and ‘Im a little Dutch Girl’

    Talking about health and safety…what a bout ‘split the Kippper’, played with a penknife. The boy (typically daft) stood with legs akimbo and a lolly stick stuck in the ground, whilst his opponent, threw the penknife, trying to split the lolly stick (the kipper)! Just laughing, hubbys just said that he played it with a Dock leaf! because it was kipper shaped, he said (who does he think he’s kidding?) Every lad had a penknife in those days. I believe these days, conkers are played with safety goggles. lol! There were loads of skipping games, used to love the double rope ones. I remember ‘Salt mustard Vinegar Pepper’ (Pepper was ver fast)
    I remember Jacks, oh and ‘Cats Cradle’ with the 2 eleastic bands that you criss crossed in 2 hands.
    Cowboys and indians, (boys) Marbles (boys) Statues, ‘Kerb or the red brick wall’. There were loads of ‘dips’ too. Remember those? deciders who was going to be boss, or ‘on’ or whatever. Here’s one;

    Dip dip dip
    My blue ship
    sailing on the water, like a cup and saucer,
    O.U.T. spells out
    With a dirty big clout
    across your face

    Oh happy days eh!

    Comment by echostains — November 4, 2009 @ 1:44 pm

    • You have such a great memory. I don’t think the boys at my school played anything like ‘split the kipper’, but yes they did all have pen knives, supposedly for sharpening pencils or whenever they had an urge to be sombody’s blood-brother!Mixing of blood and all that. I loved skipping ropes, on my own or with 2 girls ‘cawing’ them and the rest of us all queuing up waiting for our turn to jump into the ropes and the extra big jumps on the word like ‘pepper’. Great fun, no wonder we were all skinny. I can only remember – one potato two potato three potato four and eeny meeny miny mo and of course then came the n word. I don’t think the kids today will be looking back talking about what a great time they had playing with their gameboys or whatever.

      Comment by piningforthewest — November 4, 2009 @ 7:55 pm

  2. Tag is banned at most elementary schools in our area, though my kids and the neighbors kids played it constantly in our backyard when they were little. They made up lots of variations to the rules–freeze tag was a favorite where you could rescue frozen players.

    I also remember clackers–they were noisy, lethal, and tremendously addictive to play with.

    When I was growing up dodge ball and kick ball were favorite games, and my kids still play them in gym class.

    The game my kids played as young children that scared me the most was when they played tag on a jungle gym and the person who was It had to close their eyes. Sort of Marco Polo on a jungle gym. I made them promise not to play it, but I know they did because all the kids did despite the school banning it.

    Comment by JaneGS — November 6, 2009 @ 4:11 pm

    • I suppose they ban things as they are afraid of being sued. I don’t know what it was that my youngest got up to in gym but all of his teachers wrote that he had no sense of fear and it terrified them as he threw himself around like a madman. Well I sort of knew that already but no broken bones anyway.

      I’ve been looking at your blog but I haven’t a clue what is entailed in a Wilkie Collins tour. By coincidence, I was just thinking that the only classics which I have in the house and haven’t read yet are The Moonstone and a whole pile of Sir Walter Scott and Smollett. Anyway, I’m going to start The Moonstone as I have just finished Bronte by Glyn Hughes which I will review soon.

      Comment by piningforthewest — November 6, 2009 @ 10:14 pm

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