Traditional French Children's Games

Written by melissa sherrard
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Traditional French Children's Games
Several simple games are played primarily by French children. (France image by Yvonne Bogdanski from

There are several traditional games that are typically only played by children who live in France or who are of French descent, and most American children have probably never heard of them. Upon closer inspection, however, we can see several similarities between these traditional French children's games and their American counterparts.

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Escargot is one of the traditional European children's games from which American hopscotch draws inspiration. Instead of a linear diagram, French children draw the board in the shape of a giant snail, or an "escargot" in French, with 15 to 20 numbered squares leading towards the blank centre square. Throughout the game, players must hop on one foot to and from the centre square without landing on any drawn lines or opponent's squares, or they lose a turn and can not claim a box. If they complete the circular journey, however, they get to choose a square to initial as their own exclusive place of rest Instead of throwing pucks or markers. As the game progresses and players claim more territories, the journey to and from the centre square becomes more challenging and ends when it is impossible for players to hop to the centre square, with the winner claiming the most spaces.


French children make their own ball and cup games called bilboquet, which Americans will recognise as the familiar "catch the ball in a cup" game, by stringing yarn through a ball or large bead and knotting the yarn at a small hole in the cup's bottom. The book Puzzles Old & New by J. Slocum and J. Botermans states that bilboquet was popular in France as early as the sixteenth century, and variations of this game exist throughout the country as well as the rest of the world. Using only one hand, single players try and swing tethered objects into the cup or onto a peg, and variations can be applied to several aspects including the length of the rope, shape of the cup, as well as the size and shape of the ball to be caught.


Pétanque is a traditional French game loved by children and adults alike that is also known as 'boules' and resembles British bowls or American horseshoes. Pétanque requires specific metals balls and a sandy surface to play, as each player attempts to toss his or her ball closest to the target ball. Experienced players take great care in selecting a metal ball, or boule, and shooters often choose lighter balls to better their chances in throwing a 'carreau,' the perfect and highly admired shot where a player's boule remains in place after knocking out an opponents ball out of the game.

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