Dozens of games are available at a moment's notice without the need to find needed pieces jammed in a closet or worrying about that one missing piece. Many require only human power, fresh air, open spaces, and creativity.
Let’s explore three that have been played by children as far back as the second century.
Hide and Seek
Britannica notes that the game Hide and Seek is mentioned by a 2nd-century Greek writer Julius Pollux as the game ‘apodidraskinda’ and paintings of the same era. (1)
To play the game, a small group with the seeker closing their eyes and counting to 100. The others in the group hide. The seeker searches for the hiders, and the first one found is then the next seeker. While the game has many forms, one of the most popular has hiders try to run to a home base where they are safe.
Team up is a variation where a found hider joins the seeker in finding the others. In this version, it is essential not to let other hiders know where you will hide!
Another variation is Sardines, when there is one hider and several seekers. When one of the seekers finds a hider, they hide with them. It continues until all the hiders are scrunched together in the hiding place like a can of sardines!
Kick the can game has one person who closes their eyes and counts while the rest hide, but there is some form of base (traditionally was an empty can). The purpose of the hiders is to 'kick the can’ before being tagged. If the seeker finds someone, they can tag them and send them to jail. If someone kicks the can, all those in jail are released and back in the game. The game continues until everyone is in jail.
The game of tag is referenced back to the early 16th century during the reign of Queen Mary as a variation of a Scottish game called ‘touch, tap.’ Some believe it is an acronym for "Touch and Go," but since it has been called different names over the centuries, it is not likely.
The game of tag is excellent for younger children to learn fundamental movement and encourage them to stay active throughout their lives. (2) It requires no teams or equipment and is played with two or more players. One person is ‘it’ and tries to tag another, saying, “You’re it!” That person is now in pursuit of the others.
Many variations of the game have emerged over the years. For example, when tagged, that person is out of the game, or a person who is just tagged cannot tag the person who just tagged them - called ‘no tag backs.’
Duck, duck, goose is a variation where players sit in a circle. One person is the ‘fox.' They walk around the group, tapping each one as they go around saying ‘duck.’ When they touch one and say ‘goose’ that person gets up and chases the ‘fox’ in the same direction, trying to catch them before they reach the vacant spot and sits down. Suppose the ‘fox’ successfully sits down before being tagged. In that case, the other person is now the ‘fox.' They begin going around and tapping each person.
Freeze Tag also has an ‘it,' but when they tag a player, that player must freeze in place. Unfrozen players can tag the frozen to unfreeze them and put them back into motion. The game ends when all but one player is frozen.
There are also team tag games, such as Zombie Tag and Cops and Robbers.
Some believe that the game of four square evolved from a combination of three ancient games: Paume, which was popular in France during the 12th century, lawn tennis (four quadrants), and handball. All three games morphed into a game called boxball that city dwellers played because of their limited space. (3)
The modern version of four square has four players standing around a square court. Players first create a square box (10 - 30 foot square) using chalk or tape and split it into four equal boxes and numbered 1 – 4 on a hard surface. One player stands in each square and uses a red rubber ball typically used for kickball.
In this case, the square with the number 1 would be the lowest rank. A player advances in level through the game. To move up in rank, a player in a higher ranking square needs to lose a point. First, the player in the number 1 position bounces the ball once into another square. The ball must bounce once inside that square (usually served to the lowest rank, square 4 in this example).
You can learn many strategies and variations, such as Cherry Bomb, Around the World, and Baby Bomb. (See reference 4)
This list is long and varied. And to add an extra layer of fun, children can create variations of these games that their grandparents may have played, as well as their great great grandparents.