English for parents – playground games

I could write a whole book about the games children play, but I’m just going to talk about a few here. Do you know…?

  • Grandma’s footsteps
  • What’s the time Mr Wolf?
  • British bulldog
  • 40/40 or 123 Blocky

These are all outside games, that don’t need any equipment. They’re really popular with primary-aged children (aged 5-11). Can you guess how to play?

Grandma’s footsteps: One person is ‘grandma’, all the other players stand some distance away. ‘Grandma’ turns away from the other players, who have to race to Grandma. But when Grandma turns around the players have to stop. If Grandma sees you moving, she will send you back to the start line. The first person to get to Grandma takes the next turn.

What’s the time Mr Wolf?: One person is Mr Wolf. The other players walk around with Mr Wolf asking – what’s the time Mr Wolf? Mr Wolf replies with any time: It’s 8 O’clock, It’s 3.30. When Mr Wolf says It’s dinnertime, all the other players must run away while Mr Wolf tries to catch one.

British Bulldog can get quite violent, and is banned in some schools. You need a lot of people for the best game. One person is ‘the bulldog’, all the other players have to cross from one side to the other side of the playing field without being caught by the bulldog.  Once you are caught you have to join the bulldog and catch others. ‘Being caught’ can mean just touched by the bulldog, but can involve full on body tackles, and being thrown on the floor. The winner is the last person standing.

The last game has a lot of different names, depending where you are. It’s known as 40/40, or Blocky 1,2,3 or Pom-pom Home – which is the name I used growing up in Somerset. The players decide a ‘base’ – this could be a tree, a bench, a lamppost, or something that is clear and obvious in the landscape. One person is chosen to protect this base. Everyone runs away and hides, but has to try to get back to base without being seen by the protector. If you are seen you must race the protector back to the base. If the protector gets to base first, he or she shouts; ‘Pom-pom home , I see X (name) over there (says the place where you’re hiding)’ and you are out of the game. The first player back to base without being caught is the winner.

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Published by Abbie

English teacher, coach and writer. Helping English learners and teachers get more confident in their skills.

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