Games from around the world introduce a sense of tolerance to young children and educate older ones about customs and practices. If there are exchange students or children who have transferred from international schools, ask them or their parents to suggest any particular that were popular in their home country.
North American games are the most common and easily recognized in most schools because they are the ones the children already know and play. Digging deep into history reveals that most of our schoolyard games like tag or hide-and-seek have been around for a very long time. Rather than finding new games, explain the original meaning behind old ones. Innocent games like ring-around-the-rosy are infamous these days because of their original context.
In Chile, children play a game called "Corre, corre la Guaraca," which is similar to duck, duck, goose. "Corre" means run; the literal translation is "Run, run la Guaraca." Guaraca is not a name or even a word with any meaning. The children sit in a circle, eyes closed while Guaraca (the person who is "it") walks around them carrying a handkerchief. He drops the handkerchief on a player's back and runs the opposite direction around the circle. The player where the handkerchief was dropped chases the person who was "it." If Guaraca makes it back to the empty spot in the circle without the chaser tagging him, the chaser is out.
In France, children play a version of hopscotch called Escargot, which is French for "Snails." They draw a curved outline on the ground with chalk that spirals inward. They separate this outline into 18 spaces, 17 numbered 1-17 and the last a circle in the very center. A player hops along the path on either their left or right foot, never alternating. She may only hop on each square once during her turn in which she tries to make it to the center of the snail and back again. If she makes the complete trip, she may choose a square that she hopped in to write your initials. Other players must avoid this square. The game ends when players can no longer reach the center. The player who has claimed the most squares wins.
Pilolo is played in Ghana, West Africa. Pilolo means "time to search for," which is what this game is all about. A stone, penny, button or other item that is easily hidden is gathered for each player and hidden in the playroom or yard. Children must close their eyes while this goes on. A leader will draw the finish line. "Pilolo!" is shouted when the objects are hidden and the children race to find an item first. The first person to cross the finish line with an item wins a point. The game can be repeated until the children tire of it. The person with the most points wins.
In Laos, children play a version of Pick Up Sticks that is like a combination of jacks and traditional Pick Up sticks. Scatter chopsticks--or any sort of thin stick--in a way that would make them difficult to snatch one at a time. Toss a ball straight into the air and try to grab one of the sticks before it hits the ground. Whoever has the most sticks at the end of the game wins.
A common game played in Australia is Rabbits in the Burrow. Six players form a circle is formed; one player is the rabbit and another is the dingo, a type of wild dog that roam in packs throughout Australia. Two more players form the burrow, creating a protective circle with their arms around the rabbit. Another player is a second rabbit that is outside the burrow's protection. The sixth player is the referee, telling others when to start the game. The dingo chases the rabbit that is outside the burrow. If the dingo gets too close, the rabbit can hide in the burrow for protection, but the first rabbit must then leave the safety of the burrow. The game continues until the dingo catches a rabbit, at which time the players switch roles and start play again.
- too many turkish delights! image by Keith Frith from Fotolia.com