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Kickin' it Old School: 15 Games Parents Played as Kids {That are Still Fun Today}

Parenting Just For Fun

Admit it. As a parent, you've used the classic line, "Back in my day, before video games, we played __," while your child rolls their eyes and shutters at the thought of a screen-less childhood. Well parents, today is your day to bring back the old school classic games that you and your friends played way back when - before cell phones, social media, and Netflix on-demand.

Plan a screen-less day with the whole family for some classic fun with games like JOTTO, Red Rover, Cats Cradle and more. This is your chance to relive those schoolyard glory days while your kids can finally learn what real fun is all about!

Photo credit: Dukes & Duchesses

Kick the Can
For this game, you will need plenty of space to run and an old can. Check out Kick the Can from Dukes and Duchesses for easy DIY can and game instructions. The game is similar to hide and seek, except there is a designated spot known as a "jail" for players to go to after they've been tagged. To start, somebody is picked to be "it" (you can use one of these counting-out games to decide who's it). The game ends when all players have been tagged by the "it" player. 

Jacks is a game that some historians believe dates back to Ancient Greece and was played stateside during the Colonial era. To play, you will need a set of jacks, a rubber ball and a group of two or more players. Check out Jacks from Fun Games Kids Play to learn the rules. The goal of this game is to pick up the largest number of jacks at once to get to the highest round.

Red Rover
"Red Rover, Red Rover, let (insert child's name) come over!" A neighborhood staple for years, Red Rover requires ten or more players, meaning everyone is included and nobody gets left out. Players are divided into two equal teams where each side creates a chain by holding hands. One side calls out an individual's name using the chant above and that person runs to the other side to try and break through the opposing team's chain. The successful player grabs an opposing player and returns to their line to await the next chant. The game ends when all the players are in one line, with only one team standing. For detailed rules, check out Red Rover from liveabout.com. 

Zero, 1, 2, 3 Playworks
Photo Credit: Marc Yu, Playworks

Zero, 1, 2, 3
Jumping rope is a classic schoolyard activity that many kids still play today. Zero, 1, 2, 3 is an old jump rope game that requires one or two jump ropes and a group of 4-10 players. Similar to Simon Says, kids will jump once, twice, three times (and so on). Check out Zero, 1, 2, 3 from Playworks for the game rules, variations, and game tips. Get jumpin! 

You don't have to be a baller to love the classic basketball game H-O-R-S-E! All that is required is one basketball hoop, a basketball, a group of four or more players and a little shooting skill. Players form a line with each player taking a turn trying to sink the ball in the hoop. If they succeed in making the shot, they continue to the end of the line or row. If they miss, they receive a letter, beginning with "H." When a player has missed five shots and spells "H-O-R-S-E," the player is out of the game. The game ends when only one player is left. For rules, variations, and other basketball games check out H-O-R-S-E from liveabout.com. 

Cat's Cradle
Cat's Cradle Photo Courtesy of My KidsTime

Cat's Cradle
There are no cats involved in this fun game, but if you string your string right you can make some cat whiskers. Cat's Cradle is a classic schoolyard game beloved by kids everywhere. All you need is a string (shoelaces also work) with the ends tied together so it makes a big loop, and a partner. While this is only a two-person game, that doesn't mean other Cat's Cradle games can't be happening at the same time. Learn how to set up Cat's Cradle and how to play the game from MyKidsTime.com.

Like the game of Jacks, this game has also been around for centuries. Marbles have been found in Pompeii, in Egyptian Tombs, and at Native American settlements. There are several different ways to play marbles, but a popular version is called Ringers. For this game, you need a sack of marbles (Dollar Store carries them), a flat ground surface, and chalk to draw a large circle. Marbles are arranged within the circle in the shape of an X and players (two or more) sit outside the circle and take turns shooting the marbles in the X with their own marbles. For more directions and information, check out Ringers from The Everyday Mom Life.

Telephone With Tin Can Phones
Before kids had cellphones, there were tin can phones! With tin can phones, the classic version, kids whisper secrets back and forth to each other in tin cans connected by a string, seeing how far they can separate and still understand what the other is saying. Like the Telephone game played in school, you'll likely erupt into laughter as you repeat back what you heard the other participant say. Check out Tin Can Phones from A Girl and A Glue Gun to make your own tin can phones with your kids.

Sardines in a Can Game
Photo Courtesy of Growing Play

Sardines in a Can
Sardines is the reverse version of Hide-And-Seek. In this game, one person hides and everyone else searches for them. If a seeker finds the hider they then join and hide with them. You need at least four players for this game. For more game instructions, check out Sardines from Growing Play. Unlike other games, the name of this game is referencing the pickled sardines bought in a can, hence multiple players hiding together is similar to the crowded can of sardines.

What Time Is It, Mr. Fox?
Photo Courtesy of Fatherly

What Time Is It, Mr. Fox?
This classic game is great for kids who are still learning to count. All you need for this game is a wide open space and three or more players old enough to know how to count. One player is selected to be the Fox and the other players stand across from him or her in a line and take turns asking the question, "What time is it, Mr. Fox?" The Fox responds with a numerical time and the players take a number of steps forward equal to that time (e.g., three steps for 3 o'clock). At some point, the Fox responds with "Lunchtime" or "Midnight" and a chase ensues. Check out What Time Is It, Mr. Fox? from Fatherly for more game tips and instructions, and beware the lunchtime hour!

For kids that love word games, teach them the OG word game, Jotto. This game requires two people, pen and paper, and the original Jotto sheet which you can download here. To begin, both players think of a secret five-letter word with no repeated letters. The goal of the game is to crack your opponent's word before they guess yours. The two players take turns trying to guess each other's secret word. Check out rules and tips for Jotto from Word-Grabber.com.

Photo courtesy of It's Always Autumn

Many a kid back in the day had fun foretelling their future with this classic paper and pencil game. M.A.S.H. stands for Mansion, Apartment, Shack, and House, the four possible dwelling options for where you’re going to live when you grow up. Start by writing M.A.S.H. at the top of the page with these following additional categories below, each with four possible options: who you will marry, what your job will be, how many kids you will have, and what kind of car you will drive. Then, tell your partner to close their eyes while you draw a spiral (from inside to outside) on the bottom of the page. They should say "stop" at some point, and then you count the number of lines you drew from the outside to the inside to come up with your "magic number". Starting with the "M" in M.A.S.H. at the top of the page, and moving clockwise, count each option until you reach your magic number. Cross off the option you land on. Continue doing this (skipping over the marked off options) until you are left with just one option in each category, foretelling your future life! You can find a M.A.S.H. printout and game directions on It's Always Autumn.

Fortune Tellers
Fortune Tellers (also known as Cootie Catchers) have been used to tell fortunes for school-aged children for years. This simple game can be played by two or more players. One player will create the folded Fortune Teller with a piece of paper and then fill in the Fortune Teller with questions on the outside and answers in the flaps. Then they will present the Fortune Teller to the other player who will pick a number from 1 to 10. The Fortune Teller holder will move the folded paper back and forth the number of times the player chose when picking their number. Each time the Fortune Teller stops counting, they will ask the other player which options or which numbers to pick until eventually, they select the last option and the Fortune Teller reveals to them their fortune inside the flap they choose. For instructions to make your own Fortune Teller follow this guide from Teach Beside Me.

Ghosts in the Graveyard Project Play
Photo Courtesy of Project Play

Ghosts in the Graveyard
This Halloween-themed game requires three or more players and a large open space. Similar to Hide-And-Seek, a player is chosen to be the ghost and hides. The other players look for the ghost. When a player finds the ghost, they alert the others by yelling, "Ghost in the graveyard!" The player that found the ghost is safe but the other players have to run to the base (This spot must be established BEFORE game play begins). If the ghost tags them before they reach the base, that player becomes the next ghost. For the complete rules and game directions, read through Ghost in the Graveyard from Project Play.

Photo Credit: MomsMinivan.com

Lines and Dots
Long car trips were always saved by a lively game of Lines and Dots! This is another simple game that requires only a pencil and paper. First, create a game board (or print one) by filling a piece of paper with evenly spaced rows and columns of dots. Each player takes turns connecting two dots with one line. When your line completes a full square, write your initials in the box. When the whole page is filled with boxes, the game is over. The player with the most initialed boxes wins. Check out instructions and template for Lines and Dots at MomsMinivan.com. This game is perfect to play anywhere and fun for all ages!

For more family game night fun check out 16 Awesome Backyard Party Games for Kids {For the Best Summer Birthday Ever!}.

Tags: Classic Kids Games Parent Childhood Games Old School Games


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