What was your favorite childhood game? Do your kids play it now? These classic childhood games are loved by every generation.
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Last week I introduced my kids to Cat’s Cradle. It was a favorite childhood game of mine, and my seven-year-old was immediately hooked. That experience prompted this post featuring classic childhood games that never grow old. Besides engaging children across generations, these games are wonderful because they tend to be very simple and require only basic materials. Nearly all of them are often played outside!
See also: Classic Games for Younger Children
Playground Childhood Games Every Generation Loves
What You'll Find on This Page
All you need for Cat’s Cradle is a bit of string tied into a loop! You can buy a set like the one above, or look for books at the library. I bet there’s one you can check out!
We love this Green Toys jump rope or solo jumping, but Jump roping also makes a fantastic group activity! I had some friends who were amazing jump ropers as kids, and it turns out that jump roping is a great fitness activity for grown ups, too. Did you have a favorite jump rope song?
Chinese Jump Rope
Chinese jump rope was another childhood favorite of mine. Two people hold either end of the stretchy rope in place around their ankles while the other kids jump in and out in different patterns, trying not to touch the rope. The rope moves higher and higher, and – the way I played at least – when you touched the rope it meant it was your turn to hold one end of it.
My dad loved playing marbles as a kid, and I inherited that love, although I played marbles the French way (follow the link for those rules). In American marbles, you place a predetermined number of marbles inside a circle, usually drawn in chalk. The goal is to hit as many marbles out of the circle as possible; the person with the most marbles at the end wins.
All you need for hop scotch is a bit of sidewalk chalk and something to throw! I usually used rocks when I played as a kid.I played hop scotch a lot in France, where they add the element of starting on heart (terre) and working your way up to heaven and then back to earth. Wikipedia details a few other fascinating hop scotch variations.
My son plays this game a lot! All you need is a bit of sidewalk chalk and a playground ball. Draw one square, divide that into four smaller squares, and bounce the ball from square to square in order, without the ball touching the inner lines or going outside the outer lines.
Jacks is a great coordination game that can be carried around in any child’s pocket! I never really mastered this one, but my mom got pretty good at it as a kid.
This one does require special equipment, but Tetherball is a fun active game for all ages.
Indoor Games that Appeal to Every Generation
I spent hours and hours playing checkers as a kid. My sister and I always called our kings queens (because we were girls).
My husband Mike has fond memories of playing chess with his dad, and now he and my nine-year-old son Johnny play this game most frequently in our house. Seven-year-old Lily is also quite good at chess. Four-year-old Anna uses the pieces as small dolls – something I remember doing around her age.
Snakes and Ladders
My kids share my preference for the less violent Chutes and Ladders version of Snakes and Ladders, but either way it’s a classic childhood game that is successful partly because it is easy for a range of ages to play.
I love all the themed Monopoly games you can find – there’s something for everyone! You can even make your own version of the game. We play an Edinburgh version that we were given the first time we left the UK (after living there for three years). Mike created a simplified version of Monopoly that is great for young children.
Chinese Checkers was another childhood favorite of mine. Since up to six can play at once, it’s a simple game our entire family can play!
Candy Land is popular for its simple play model as well as a colorful, imaginative board. My younger siblings spent hours playing. It’s not my children’s favorite, but they all enjoy playing.
Patience, strategy, and a firm hand are key to Jenga. I like that it is pretty non-competitive, so far as games that appeal to teens and adults go. This color coded version of the game adds an element of chance.
What Childhood Games Did you Play?
What were your favorite childhood games? Do you have one that should be on this list? Please let me know in the comments. You can also leave a note on my Facebook page, or tag me on Twitter or Instagram.