a peek inside the fishbowl

05 Sep, 2007

The games we play: an archive of playground games

Posted by andrea tomkins in: - Archive of playground games

I was teaching the girls how to play 7-Up (rules to follow) and it occurred to me that these games are (a) fun (b) a part of our culture and (c) in danger of being forgotten.

I have decided that I’m going to try to archive the outdoorsy games that I used to play as a little kid.

Regular readers probably know how I feel about unstructured outdoor play. I truly believe it is a critical part of growing up. Kids are increasingly overscheduled and are spending way too much time in front of the screen. They are getting less and less time just to play and be kids.

Anyway, this is the beginning of my virtual collection of playground games. I’m hoping that it spurs some good memories, some good ideas, and that the parents and caregivers out there, (not to mention grandparents and aunts and uncles!) decide to give some of these a try.

If you have anything to add, let me know and I will happily create a new post for each game.

Here’s the first. It was a regular game of ours on the street where I grew up.


Equipment needed: a ball. We always used an Indian rubber ball. It does increases the injury factor, but that’s up to you.
Players: any number

One “first” player secretly assigns all the players a number, including him/herself. So if there are 8 players, the lead player will use all the numbers between 1 and 8.

All of the players stand around the first player. Holding the ball, the first player throws it vertically, up in the air as hard as physically possible and calls out a number (from 1 to 8) at the same time.

The other players scatter and run off in all directions, but the player whose number was called has to catch the ball. Once the ball is caught, the catcher of the ball yells “FREEZE” and everyone has to stop running. The player who caught the ball chooses the closest person, takes seven giant steps towards him/her, and throws the ball. If the player hits that person (who, if they’re smart, are crouched down on the ground in a fetal position), that person is now “it” and it becomes their turn to throw the ball up in the air and call a number.

7 Responses to "The games we play: an archive of playground games"

1 | jo(e)

September 5th, 2007 at 11:39 am


We played that game, but we called it SPUD. I don’t have any idea why it was called that.

2 | Sherri

September 5th, 2007 at 10:38 pm


You should have heard the whine I got today for telling my boyfriend’s 10 year old son he was not allowed to watch TV- we’re going outside. He dragged his feet, moped a bit, and reluctantly got on his bicycle. The neighbor’s kids were outside, and while there weren’t official games happening, at least we were all getting a little fresh air. I even caught him smiling a couple times.

3 | MomOnTheGo

March 5th, 2008 at 2:46 pm


Andrea, I love this theme. I have a post started to capture some of my childhood games. Someday …

I was singing the “Name Game” to my daughter last week and it occurred to me that I have songs in my head that were shared among the kids I play with but that aren’t shared at daycare due to the diverse backgrounds of the kids there. I’m glad for the diversity but want to keep some of the songs alive. I bet you have some as well.

4 | MomMo

November 29th, 2008 at 4:09 pm


I’m interested in finding the rules to the playground game that I played as a child called 7-up, where you use a bouncy ball and have different skills for each number.
For instance 1-up would be, bounce the ball against the wall and catch it. 2-up would be bounce the ball against the wall then let it bounce on the ground and catch it….each time you would have to say “1-up” or “2-up” etc. all the way up to 7-up. I just can’t remember all the different “stages”. Can someone help me out?

5 | Marcia

December 9th, 2008 at 2:25 pm


4 MomMo I want the rules to this game too. This is what I recall. I use to stand in front of a school wall and 1) face wall toss ball against wall and then catch it, say 1-up; 2) was toss against wall raise right leg, clap hands under leg before ball comes back to catch, say 2-up; 3) do left leg 4) put back against wall toss ball over right shoulder move out to catch before bounces, 5) do left shoulder, 6) toss ball against wall spin around catch ball and 7) toss ball on wall let bounce once and catch. But each time you would say 1-up, 2-up etc. until you got to 7-up. Something like this does this sound right????

6 | Tina

March 26th, 2009 at 9:01 pm


I also remember a game of 7up or ball on the wall, where (onesy’s) 1 was throw against the wall clap and catch before hitting the ground, then we did (twosy’s)2 throw against wall let bounce one time clapp twice and cath before second bounce, threesy’s 3 bounce against the ground on to the wall clap three times and catch before it hits the ground, then foursy’s 4 under left leg on the ground to the wall clap 4 times and catch, fivesy’s 5 under right leg on the ground to the wall clap 5 times and catch, sixy’s 6 bounce between legs on ground to wall clap 6 times and catch it, sevensy’s 7 turned backward to wall bounce between legs turn around clap 7 times and jump over it as it bounces once and he following person in line catches it and starts at onesy’s.

7 | MomMo

June 12th, 2009 at 12:04 am


Thanks Marcia and Tina, those sound similar to what I remember. I think that you, Marcia are pretty close.
Thanks for taking the time.

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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