Traditional Playground Circle Games

Written by gerri blanc
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Traditional Playground Circle Games
Playground (playground equipment 2 image by Kathy Burns from

Young children in elementary school often play games during their recess breaks. Doing this helps them learn to cooperate with others and even make friends. Certain games can also help burn the energy they often need to quell during time in the classroom. For your students' next break, have them play some traditional playground circle games.

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Farmer in the Dell

Play this singsong circle game by first gathering the players in a circle. Pick one of the players to stand in the middle of the circle. The players start walking in a circle and singing the traditional "Farmer in the Dell" song, which goes: "Farmer in the dell, farmer in the dell, heigh-ho the derry-o the farmer in the dell." The song continues with "the farmer takes a wife," at which point, the person in the middle selects a person from the circle to join him in the middle. Other verses include "the wife takes a child," "the child takes a dog," "the dog takes a rat," "the rat takes the cheese" and, finally, "the cheese stands alone." Continue with the verses until everyone has become a part of the circle, at which point you can start the game over with a new "Farmer in the Dell."

Treasure Keeper

For this game, you first need an object to use as the treasure such as a beanbag. Gather the players in a circle and pick one of them to stand in the middle. Place the treasure behind this player's back. One of the players has to steal the treasure from behind her back. Once the thief does this, the treasure keeper has to chase him. If the thief can make it back to the middle before the keeper tags him, he becomes the new keeper. If not, the keeper maintains her position in the middle and the game continues as more thieves try to steal the treasure.

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

Assemble all of the players in a circle and select one of the players as the leader. Tell the leader that she has to give orders to her followers while simultaneously doing a completely different action. For instance, if she says "hop on one foot" to the other players, she does something different such as rubbing her stomach. If she catches any player performing an action other than the one she directed the players to do, that player gets disqualified from the game. Continue until only one player, besides the leader, remains in the game and wins.

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