Children in France play certain traditional games and sports that American children probably have not heard of. These games might sound familiar--some of our own games are simply variations on older European versions. The following list offers a sample of traditional French games, from simple toys to group leisure sports.
Americans will recognise this simple “catch the ball in the cup” game. In France, children make their own ball and cup games by stringing yarn through a large bead or ball and knotting the yarn to a small hole in the bottom of a cup. Play the game by using only one hand to try to swing the ball into the cup.
Escargot is a different version of what Americans call Hop Scotch. Children draw a snail-shaped course in chalk, with the numbers increasing toward the centre. Unlike American hopscotch, children playing escargot do not use a stone or marker. Rather, each player simply hops on the selected foot toward the centre. A player loses his turn if he touches any lines or hops in a square more than once. Once a player hops all the way to the centre and back out again, she may choose one square as her “house” and place her initials in it. This square becomes a resting place for her so she can take a break mid-turn; other players must avoid the square by hopping over it. All players can rest in the centre square. When the board is so full of players’ “houses” that players can no longer make it to the centre, the player who has claimed the most squares wins.
You might know this traditional French game by its other name, “boules.” This leisurely social activity recalls British bowls, or American horseshoes. The game requires a special sand surface and metal balls. Each player tries to toss her ball closest to the target ball, or tries to hit the target ball to direct it toward her previous tosses.