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Historical Outdoor Children's Games

by
author image Corinna Underwood
Corinna Underwood began writing in 2000. She has been published in many outlets, including Fox News, “Ultimate Athlete,” “Hardcore Muscle,” “Alternative Medicine” and “Alive.” Underwood also wrote "Haunted History of Atlanta and North Georgia" and "Murder and Mystery in Atlanta." She has a Bachelor of Arts in English literature and philosophy and a Master of Arts in women’s studies from Staffordshire University.
Historical Outdoor Children's Games
Children playing tag in an outdoor setting. Photo Credit Naomi Bassitt/iStock/Getty Images

Some outdoor children's games have changed little over time. Street games such as marbles, hide-and-seek and ball games are mentioned in some of the earliest historical records. Outdoor games keep children fit and healthy and also help them build their social skills.

Marbles

According to Collector’s Weekly, the game of marbles dates back as far as Roman times. The earliest marbles were made from stone, but as their popularity grew, they were also made from baked clay and real marble. Later still, marbles were made from agate and alabaster long before glass marbles came on the scene. Early games involving marbles were similar to the English game of bowls and involved rolling a large marker across the ground. Opponents would then try to hit the marker or get their smaller marbles as close to it as possible. The winner was the one who hit or got closest to the marker. Children still enjoy playing marbles today. Popular games include ringer and old bowler. Children gather every June in Wildwood, New Jersey, for the National Marbles Tournament. They play ringer to decide who the best marble player in the country is.

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Annie Over

An outdoor game popular more than 100 years ago was Annie Over. This game was played by two teams. A barrier such as a table or log was set up between the two teams. One of the teams had a ball, and on the call of “Annie,” the ball was thrown to a member of the opposing team. If she didn't catch the ball, she took a turn to throw. When the ball was caught, the teams switched sides as fast as possible. The catcher attempted to hit an opposing team member with the ball while he ran to change sides. If she was successful, the player who was hit had to change teams. The game progressed until one of the teams was eliminated. A modern version of this game is called red rover. This type of game is popular in school yards where young children can play with large teams. It’s a fun communal game that does not need any equipment, and ultimately there are no losers. Red rover is good for fitness and helps improve speed and coordination.

Graces

Another game popular more than 100 years ago was graces, which was played by two girls or a girl and a boy. Each child had a hoop and a stick, and they attempted to use the stick to successfully pass the hoop back and forth. This game was devised to promote grace and dexterity in young children. Although hoop-and-stick games are no longer played by contemporary children, the hula hoop has maintained its appeal to children of all ages. The hula hoop can be incorporated into many games, including those involving obstacle courses, skipping and running. Mini hoops are used in target games where objects are placed at a distance from the thrower, and the thrower tries to capture them with the hoops. Hoop games are good for improving coordination and dexterity.

Chase and Capture

Chase-and-capture games -- similar to different variations of present-day tag -- have always been popular with children both in Europe and the United States. There are a number of variations. For instance, a game popular in the streets of Brooklyn in the early 20th century, ring relievo, was a variation of the European game relievo. This game involved chalk rings drawn on the street; these served as bases for "prisoners." The game often extended through many city streets.

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