Top 10 Playground Games of the 80’s

Most children love playtime at school. It is also a vital aspect of a childs learning process. However in the days of old, long before computers did our imagining for us and before the giant corporations decided which toys that we should play with during playtime, we had old school playground games that did just as well at teaching our children the vital skills learnt through play. If you were lucky enough to be a child of the 80’s you will remember the energy that would buzz around the playground as you gathered small groups of children together to indulge in these playground games. These 10 are just some of our playground favourites of the 80’s. Do you remember playing these games?


1. Hopscotch

(Variations – Laylay, Escargot, Potsy)

Hopscotch was undoubtedly one of the most popular playground games of the 80’s. A game that can be played either alone or with a handful of other players. To play Hopscotch you would need to first lay out a course. In the 80’s this would usually be done with chalk or even roughly marked out in the dirt! However nowadays most schools are now able to choose from a whole range of pre-designed playground markings in the shape of hopscotch courses. There are a large range of varying rules for this game. The simplest explanation is that the players begin by tossing some kind of small object, usually a stone, onto the first square. They will then hop on each square to the end of the course and back again, avoiding the square they tossed the stone to without stepping on a line, missing a square or losing balance.


2. British Bulldogs

(Variations – Red Rover, Tag)

Usually played in the school playground, but the school hall was just as useful a venue for this classic school game of the 1980’s. There is no limit on the amount of players that can be included in this game which also made it one of the most popular playground games of its time. You begin by selecting one or two bulldogs to start. You then need to clearly define two “home”areas (usually at each side of the playground). All other players should stand within one of the “home”areas. The aim of the game is to run across to the other without being caught by one of the “Bulldogs” If you are caught, you then join the other “Bulldogs” The winner is the remaining free player at the end of the game. This game was once banned from many school playgrounds across Britain in the 80’s for being too violent because of its physicality but this has since been reversed.


3. What’s the Time Mr Wolf?

(Variations – Grandmas Footsteps, Red Light Green Light, Tag)

What’s the Time Mr Wolf?, like British Bulldogs, is another variation of the playground game tag. There are a few different versions of this game but the most popular version described here was the standard format for childhood playground games in the 80’s. This game involves one player being chosen to be “Mr Wolf” This player should stand at the opposite end to the playing area with their back to all the other children. What’s the Time Mr Wolf is a call-and-response game. The group will chant “What’s the time Mr Wolf?” The chosen wolf should then answer with a standard clock time such as “four o’clock” All players must then move that amount of steps towards Mr Wolf, which in this instance is four. They will then repeat this process. At any point during this game Mr Wolf may choose to shout “Dinner Time!”as a response to being asked the time. He must then chase the callers back to their original starting position. The first player to be caught then becomes Mr Wolf.


4. Kiss Chase

(Variations – Tag)

Yet another variant of the game tag where only kissing is counted as a tag. Like most kissing games “Kiss Chase”has very few rules. All members of one sex (usually the boys) are “it”and they chase all members of the opposite sex until they are caught. At this point in the game the roles are usually reversed.


5. Hide and Seek

(Variations – Manhunt, Sardines, Smee)

Hide and seek is again a game for any number of players. Begin by choosing a homebase and deciding who will be your “seeker” The seeker will then turn their back, close their eyes and count to a number out loud whilst all the other players try to conceal themselves within the surrounding environment. Once the seeker has finished counting they begin to search for the hidden players. Once found the player must try and get back to home base without being tagged by the seeker. In Sardines or Smee, the roles are reversed and you have one “Hider” As each of the seekers find the hider they must also hide with them until there is only one person left searching – the losing seeker.


6. Stuck in the Mud

(Variations – Sticky Glue, Scarecrow, Ice and Water, Freeze Tag)

Stuck in the Mud is yet another version of tag, in which players that are tagged become “Stuck in the Mud”and must stand as though frozen with their arms outstretched, until they become untagged by a member of their team. Usually by crawling through their legs or tapping their outstretched hand.


7. Skipping

(Variations – Jump Rope, Double Dutch, French Elastic)

Skipping, or “Jump Rope”as it’s known in The States is played with just a piece of rope. One or more players will jump over the rope as it passes over their heads and under their feet again and again. This process is usually performed to any number of skipping rhymes. There is also a version called “Double Dutch”in which two ropes are swung simultaneously. This version is significantly more difficult than standard skipping. You play until you trip on the rope and are out.


8. Piggy in the Middle

(Variations – Monkey in the Middle, Keep Away, Pickle in a Dish)

The main aim of this game is for two players to pass a ball back and forth to each other without the third player, the “Piggy in the Middle” intercepting or catching the ball. Again there are many variations of this game and the rules can be adapted to suit, including the area you play within and the size of the ball.


9. Blind Mans Buff

(Variations – Marco Polo, Deadman, Tag)

Blind mans Buff is a good playground game for any amount of children but should be played in a large area to avoid tripping accidents. A Player is chosen to be the “Blind Man”and they should be blindfolded. All others players will then hide in plain sight and tease the blindfolded player over their whereabouts until they are caught. Once caught, if the blind man can guess who they have, this player then takes a turn to be blindfolded and the game continues.


10. Clapping Hand Rhymes

Clapping hand rhyme games are non competitive and rely on team cooperation. Generally clapping hand rhymes are played by just two people and involve clapping hands with the other person as you recite a rhyme. Clapping games are great fun and are suitable for children of all ages. Clapping hand rhymes are still popular within the playground today.


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One Response

  1. Bridge Timber

    British Bulldog is a really fun game, great for promoting aerobic exercise in young children. You do have to be careful though. It’s easy to break an arm or a leg if you fall wrong so play on springy playground flooring if possible.


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