6 Children’s Games from Around the World

Maybe you miss playing playground games as a kid because you’re being crushed by the overwhelming existential dread of the real world and you don’t want to become a nihilist. That, or you’ve been watching Squid Game because you have a Netflix subscription. If you’ve been watching Squid Game children’s or playground games might be the absolute last thing on your mind. Anyway, from tag to the floor is lava, here are some children’s games that kids used to keep themselves entertained. 

Also as a Squid Game aside, the show was so popular and caused such a massive internet traffic surge a South Korean internet provider sued Netflix over it.

1. Blind Man’s Bluff (Also Every Other Variation of Tag)

Whether or not you independently came up with the rules on your own or picked it up from the game-grapevine, tag is super common. You have someone (or maybe a few people) who are “it,” and their goal is to tag people. Once you’re tagged you switch roles and become “it,” or those who are “it” are meant to tag as many people as possible (as in a variation like freeze tag). Anyway, we cited Blind Man’s Bluff because it was a variation of tag that wasn’t “[noun or verb] tag.”  It was super popular in the Victorian Era, and is just tag except the person who is “it” is blindfolded.  

Tag and its variations are international since it’s so intuitive. 

Author’s Note: When I was a kid we got bored of tag so the person who was “it” just threw a tennis ball really hard to tag people instead. 

2. Tinikling

Tinikling is actually a folk dance in the Philippines; one whose origins come from that time the Spanish colonized the Philippines. The origin story holds that rice farmers would set up bamboo traps to protect their land, but tikling birds (commonly slaty-breasted rails) would avoid them. The tinikling dance is said to mimic the movements of those birds. 

The dance itself involves dancing around bamboo poles placed along the ground. While often a performance danced to rondalla music, the children’s game surrounding the folk dance is essentially the same (though gamified). Children are meant to avoid getting their ankles caught by the bamboo poles. 

3. 공기 (Gonggi) 

This game was commonly played by Korean children with flat pebbles picked up off the ground (nowadays you can buy plastic ones). It’s a game of throwing stones and catching them, with point values attached to how well you can flex while doing it–like clapping your hands before catching airborne stones. Equivalent games are common in Nepal and South India. 

If you’re trying to find a more Western analog, jacks or knucklebones is what you’re looking for. 

4. Catch the Dragon’s Tail

This game basically has a chain of kids turning themselves into a human ouroboros. You have one kid at the front who is the dragon’s “head,”  while the last kid is the “tail.” The head’s objective is to tag the tail, while everyone else is trying to keep that from happening. 

5. La Barbichette

Like staring contests or try-not-to-laugh games? Well the French might have found the game for you, with higher stakes (and translates to “goatee”). Players hold onto each other’s chins and try not to laugh.

Except if you lose, the winner gets to slap you.

6. 毽子 (Jiàn Zi)

If you’re used to playing keepie-uppie with a ball, you know this game. It’s the same, except you use a shuttlecock. Just keep it off the ground using anything but your hands. 

See if you know other games you probably played in grade school here.