Please send your memories to the collection.

Traditional games of the playground and other related situations, are a hardly branch of folklore. The one question I am repeatedly asked is “how the games circulate”. This, of course, is the nature of tradition and the appearance and disappearance of games, and their associated songs and chants, ebb like the tide. Most are not taught by the schools although some are reintroduced by them. There seems to be a natural cycle related to the various games whilst some are perennial favourites. Games are very much faddish and when the group is bored with a particular game it is put aside or forgotten. The transient nature of schools where students come and go is ideal for the oral transmission of games.

In collecting games I have found the names of games change often and so do the rules. I try and encourage contributors to explain the rules, the place the game was played, the name of the game etc. Most people think that this is the “bleedin’ obvious” but, as a folklorist, I am interested in variants and surely every contribution is different.

Alan Walker

Here’s a game we used to play probably in the late forties, I certainly was not playing it by 1951 when I started high school. The game was played with empty cigarette packets folded flat. The tray inside the packet was used to lock the folded packet flat. The folded packets were flicked towards a wall and the closest to the wall won. The winner took the losers’ packets. We played this game on front verandahs.

Arthur Elliott, Brisbane


I played the following games at primary school in Brisbane in the period 1954 to 1961. I hope this helps you. Needless to say, I don’t often play these games now!

MARBLES (and all of the different games and rules covered by this term.)
Usually marbles involved drawing a ring in the dirt, and crouching at the edge of this ring to have your shot. But I do remember a game we played called Eye Droppers with the large glass marble of that name, about the size of a squash ball. This involved standing over the circle and dropping your eye dropper into it, and any marble that it knocked out of the circle became yours.

FLY – a game involving any number of (usually) boys.
Two sticks or twigs about a foot long were placed parallel to each other, some small distance apart. The “Fly” or boss of the game (this changed for each game, often depending on who won the previous game) nominated the number of steps that all players had to make within the space between the sticks (if you touched a stick, or took the wrong number of steps, you were out.) He went last, and would take a large final step beyond the second twig. Where he landed became the position that the second stick was now placed. And so on, with the gap becoming wider with each round, although the number of steps stayed the same. Players gradually were eliminated, sometimes including the Fly himself. Whoever was the last person remaining became the Fly for the next game. There was a Mosquito too – I think he was the first person in the line of players.

– a well-known playground game, where you had to run from the safe area at one end, through increasing numbers of players in the middle trying to catch you, to the safe area at the other end. If you were caught, you stayed in the middle. A variation was Blue Rover, in which you weren’t allowed the three step dispensation over the line that Red Rover gave you.

DEFENDERS – played with a tennis ball between two teams.
It started with a bounce, and the team who got the ball had to keep it away from the other team. There were no goals as such. It was eventually banned from my school, as too many shirts etc were being ripped while playing it. Very popular.

BRANDY – another well-known game played with a tennis ball.
One person had the ball, and tried to hit anyone else playing by throwing the ball at him. If successful, that person became “it”. A variation was Wall Brandy, where players lined up against a wall, and the person with the ball threw at them. It was quite hard to dodge the ball, as the target was now in quite a confined area. Could be rather painful.

BEDLAM – very popular.
Two teams were chosen. One team had a designated base (say, an area around a tree, marked by a scratched-in line), and it was their job to hunt members of the other team, capture them, and “imprison” them in the base. The prisoners could only escape if an uncaptured member of their side managed to run through the enemy’s base. When all of one side was captured, the teams changed over.

Robin Death, Screensound


My two sisters and I were at school in the 70’s and 80’s.

  • oranges and lemons – infant school
  • ring a ring a rosie – infant school
  • hopscotch
  • elastics
  • skipping, singles and groups
  • handball
  • wallball
  • chasings
  • Fly – A game where a person faced a wall and called out letters and if you had that letter in your name you went that many steps towards the wall. Then when you were close, you tipped the person at the wall and all ran back to the starting line. Or something like that. I can’t remember what it was called though.
  • What’s the time, Mr Wolf
  • Playing on the Monkey Bars – round and round the monkey bars and doing “deathdrops”. Using steel frame equipment.
  • Round and Round the monkey bars . – Hook one leg over the bar. Both arms under the bar and over your leg. Then spin around the bar.
  • Deathdrops – hang from the high bar by the back of the knees. either swin and drop to the ground onto your feet without using your hands. or ­no swing and drop onto your feet.