5 Playground Games from Around the World

We’re always looking for fun ways to get outside and earn a couple more Zamzee Pointz. But sometimes that old game of tag or duck-duck-goose needs a little extra spice in order to convince us to get moving. That’s why we’ve collected a list of great playground games from around the world. You don’t even need a ball to play these games; all you need is your imagination, some friends (the more the merrier!), and space to run around! Here’s how to join in the fun:

Pasi Misí (Spain)

Two players stand opposite each other and raise their hands to form an arch. The other players form a line, and follow one another as they run underneath the arch singing:

“Pasi misí, pasi misá,
por la calle de Alcalá,
los de “adelante” corren mucho
el de atrás se quedará.”
“Pasi misí, pasi misá,
by the Alcalá street
the first ones run quickly
the last one will stay.”

After the last verse, the players who have formed the arch drop their hands to trap the player who is underneath the arch at that moment. Then, the trapped player has to secretly choose between two fruits, each of which corresponds to one side (player) of the arch. After secretly whispering her choice, the trapped player is released and lines up behind the team leader for her chosen fruit. (None of the other players are able to hear which type of fruit corresponds to which line.)

Once all the players have been “caught” under the arch and chosen a line, the two teams do a tug-of-war. The winning team is the one who successfully pulls the other team past a line in the ground.

In this video you can learn the tune to the song, and watch how to play!

Agalmata (Greece)

One player is “It.” It stands, with her eyes covered, in the center of the playing field. She starts counting, at least to the number 10, but she can count higher if she wants. The point is that there’s no set ending number; only “It” knows when she’ll stop and open her eyes. While “It” is counting, the others players scatter around, never sure when she’ll yell “agalmata!” (That’s “statue” in Greek.)

On this cue, players freeze like a statue. They can make up their own statue, or pretend to be a famous statue like the Statue of Liberty. The statues are allowed to use any items they can find, such as sticks, a ball, or a Frisbee, to add a touch of realism to their pose.

After “It” shouts “agalmata,” she can tag any statues that are still moving and they become out. Then “It” tries to make the steady statues laugh or move. The last player remaining composed is the winner and becomes the new “It!”

Two cute Asian pre-teen female kids pose for a fun photo on the beach just north of Morro Rock on the Morro Strand State Beach north of Morro Rock.

from Mike Baird on Flickr (Creative Commons) http://ow.ly/e8I8J

Catch the Dragon’s Tail (China)

Players form a human chain by standing in a line and placing their hands on the shoulders of the person directly in front of them. The player at the very front of the line is the dragon’s head, and the player at the very back of the line is the dragon’s tail. The goal is for the dragon’s head (eg, the first player) to tag the dragon’s tail (eg, the last player). However, this is made complicated by the fact that the line needs to stay connected, and all the players in the middle try to stop the dragon’s head from catching the dragon’s tail! When the dragon’s head succeeds in catching the dragon’s tail, the head becomes the tail and the player who is next in line becomes the dragon’s head.

If you have a large group, a fun variation is to have two (or more!) dragons. Each dragon’s head tries to catch the tail of the other dragon!

In this video you’ll quickly get an idea of how much fun and how hilarious this game is to play.

Captain’s Orders (United Kingdom)

One player is The Captain. The Captain gives orders to The Crew (the other players). If a member of the Crew does not follow an order correctly, they are marooned on a desert island (eg, they are out). The last crew member to complete each order has to walk the plank (eg, they are also out). The final crew member remaining (the one who has followed all the orders correctly) gets to become the new Captain.

Here’s a sample list of orders, but you can make up your own, too!

Bow: Run to the front of the boat

Port: Run to the left side of the boat

Starboard: Run to the right side of the boat

Stern: Run to the back of the boat

Hit the deck: Lay down on your stomach

Attention on deck: Salute and yell, “Aye, Aye, Cap’n!”

Three men in a boat: The crew forms groups of three and sings “Row, row, row your boat” Anybody who is not in a group of three is out.

Clear the deck: Feet up off the floor and balance on your hand

Scrub the deck: Everyone on their knees scrubbing the deck

Captain’s Quarters: Everyone run towards The Captain

Man-over-board: Players must find a partner as quickly as possible. One partner must lie on their stomach while the other places their foot on their partner’s back to pump the water out of them.

Periscope: Every player falls on their back and sticks on leg in the air

SHARK!: Swim like crazy!

Crow’s nest: All players must fin a partner. The lightest player rides on their partner’s back. Anybody who does not have a partner is out.

Sick Turtle: Everyone falls onto their backs and waves their hands and feet in the air

Row the boat: Everyone finds a partner. They sit face to face, holding hands, and pretend to row a boat.


She’s not taking any prisoners! from DavityDave’s Flickr (Creative Commons) http://ow.ly/e8IEZ

Kho-Kho (India)

What you need: A stopwatch or something to keep time

Split the players into two teams, the chasers and the dodgers. All but one member of the chasing team starts by sitting in a line in the middle of the field. Each player must sit facing opposite directions. The last player stands at the end of the line, ready to run.

The dodgers take turns entering the field in small groups (say, 3 people). They have a set amount of time (eg, 5 minutes) on the field, and their goal is to not get caught by the chasers. Dodgers can get out in three ways: 1) by getting touched by a chaser, 2) by going out-of-bounds, and 3) by entering the field late. While the dodgers can run in any direction, only 1 chaser is active at a time, and he must only run in one direction (say, clockwise) around the line of seated chasers. The active chaser also can’t cut across the line of his teammates, instead he has to tag a teammate by touching him and saying “kho” loudly. The tagged teammate then becomes the new active chaser. As you can see, the chasers must work in coordination to catch the entire group of dodgers.

Once every dodger has been tagged OR the 5 minutes are up, the second group of dodgers enters the field. They also try to avoid being tagged for a 5 minute playing period. At the end of this period, the teams switch sides and the dodgers become the new chasers.

After every player has had a chance to be both a chaser and a dodger, the game is over. The team that wins is the team that tagged all of the dodgers as fast as possible!

It can be a bit confusing to read the rules of this game, but just take a quick look at the video and you’ll see how easy and fun kho-kho really is to play!

As we were searching for games, it was remarkable to see how similarly children play all over the world. All it takes is a group of friends and a bit of imagination, and you can play games from America to Africa to Australia – even to Antartica! – and back again! Have you tried any of these games? What’s your favorite?

6 thoughts on “5 Playground Games from Around the World

  1. Pingback: The Top 10 Zamzee Blog Posts of 2013 | the Zamzee Blog

  2. Pingback: Sharing lives, sharing languages « ¡Vámonos!

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