Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point

In Depth

On Air

Low Graphics

Friday, May 21, 1999 Published at 17:16 GMT 18:16 UK


The games children play

And you thought playground games were just a fun way to pass the time during meal breaks. . .

According to one devotee of ancient games, hopscotch, skipping, London Bridge and hide-and-seek are actually a means of suppressing dominant characteristics among pupils.

Alison Dike has won a grant to promote traditional playground games in primary schools in Somerset in the hope it will curb bullying and promote greater co-operation among children.

Mrs Dike says many playgrounds today are dominated by one game of football, leaving those who do not want to play "pushed to the edges".

[ image: Pattercake, pattercake. . .]
Pattercake, pattercake. . .
"But if you give dominant children something new to learn they have to relate to other children and learn to share and co-operate," she told the Daily Telegraph.

She has spent six months teaching pupils in four schools to play games such as jacks, skittles, cat's cradle, whipping tops, oranges and lemons, skipping and trap ball.

Everyone has fond memories of the school games they used to play, and BBC News Online wants you to e-mail in your favourites. To refresh you memory here are a few of the best known:


A grid is chalked out on the ground with numbered boxes in a one-two-one formation. Players take it in turns to throw a stone into the grid and then make their way to pick it up by alternately hopping and standing astride in the squares.

[ image: But there are tempting alternatives to marbles]
But there are tempting alternatives to marbles
Having picked up the stone they must mark off the square and make their way back to the start in the same way. The game is over when all the boxes have been marked.


A fun way to develop rhythm, although the slightest mistake is punished by a grazed knee on the asphalt, swiftly followed by a dab of yellow antiseptic cream from the school nurse.

A minimum of three players are required - two to wave the ropes and mouth repetitive chants while the other dances between them. Traditionally skipping is for girls only, but don't tell that to Prince Naseem Hamed or any other boxer.

British Bulldog

Notorious for being banned because of the heavy emphasis on violence and therefore unlikely to be one of Mrs Dike's chosen games.

[ image: Mrs Dike]
Mrs Dike
The game begins as a kind of David and Goliath challenge, with one child standing alone as a mass of pupils charge directly at him. His job is to "bring down" as many as possible. Those caught then also assume the role of "catcher" against those that slipped through.

As if that were not violent enough, one variation has the catcher holding his victim, shaking him, spinning him round and dropping him.


A perennial favourite, mainly because of its simplicity. You are "it", so you run around the playground until you "tag" someone making them "it". And so on_ Kiss chase is one popular variation, where the act of tagging involves kissing your victim.

Its quality for curbing dominant characteristics is undocumented but it certainly keeps children fit.


Low on physical exertion, but good for hand-eye co-ordination. Marbles are small, hard balls made out of glass, steel, baked clay or even onyx. The object is to roll, throw or drop your marbles against those of your opponent, to knock them out of a prescribed area and so win them.

[ image:  ]
Mostly associated with children, marbles has in fact transcended the playground and national tournaments are held in many countries.

Traffic Lights

There are five colours: red, amber, green, purple and pink. A shouter calls out a colour and everyone else must perform the required action. Red is stop, amber is sit down, green is run, purple means jump and pink is hop furiously.

This is not played for competitive reasons so Mrs Dike, for one, will be pleased that it's the taking part that counts.

E-mail your playground games or memories to

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage |

UK Contents

Northern Ireland
Internet Links

Georgia Newman (aged 8) reports what happens in her playground

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

Next steps for peace

Blairs' surprise over baby

Bowled over by Lord's

Beef row 'compromise' under fire

Hamilton 'would sell mother'

Industry misses new trains target

From Sport
Quins fightback shocks Cardiff

From Business
Vodafone takeover battle heats up

IRA ceasefire challenge rejected

Thousands celebrate Asian culture

From Sport
Christie could get two-year ban

From Entertainment
Colleagues remember Compo

Mother pleads for baby's return

Toys withdrawn in E.coli health scare

From Health
Nurses role set to expand

Israeli PM's plane in accident

More lottery cash for grassroots

Pro-lifers plan shock launch

Double killer gets life

From Health
Cold 'cure' comes one step closer

From UK Politics
Straw on trial over jury reform

Tatchell calls for rights probe into Mugabe

Ex-spy stays out in the cold

From UK Politics
Blair warns Livingstone

From Health
Smear equipment `misses cancers'

From Entertainment
Boyzone star gets in Christmas spirit

Fake bubbly warning

Murder jury hears dead girl's diary

From UK Politics
Germ warfare fiasco revealed

Blair babe triggers tabloid frenzy

Tourists shot by mistake

A new look for News Online