Traditional Irish games for kids

Written by alicia roque
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Traditional Irish games for kids
Ireland is a country full of history, music, and traditional games for children. (Getty Thinkstock)

A land rich in folklore, dance, music, and history, Ireland also brims with many traditional games for children. These games provide a taste of the past and yet, are fun and easy for children to play today.

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Mr. Fox

In this game for three or more children, the group chooses one child to be the fox. The fox and the rest of the group stand at least twenty feet apart, facing one another. The children say to the fox, "What time is it, Mr. Fox?" The fox replies, "One o'clock." The children step slowly toward the fox and repeat their question. He answers again, "One o'clock." This continues until the fox decides to reply, "Dinnertime!" at which point the children turn and run away from the fox, trying to get back to the starting line before the fox tags one of them. If the fox does tag someone, that person becomes the fox. If the fox doesn't succeed, he remains the fox until he does tag someone.

Johnny Hairy

In this slightly modified version, three or more children sit in a circle, extending their right foot. The chosen leader chants, directing one phrase to each player as she points in a clockwise direction around the circle, "One-ery, two-ery, dickery-dary, wispy, spindy, smoke of the kindy, old Johnny Hairy, crap-in!" Whichever player the leader's finger points to when she chants, "crap-in" (derived from the Irish phrase "to draw in"), must kneel in the centre of the circle. The leader blindfolds that player and gently thumps on his back while chanting, "Hurley burley, trump the chase, the cow ran through the marketplace, Simon Alley hunt the buck, how many horns stand up?" On the last phrase, the leader holds up her chosen number of fingers, and the blindfolded player must guess. If the player guesses correctly, the leader takes his place and he then becomes the leader. If he guesses incorrectly, the leader chants her question again until he guesses correctly.

Plainy Clappy

A ball game that could be played by many children or by just one, the players line up, facing a wall. Each player takes a turn throwing the ball against the wall and catching it in the ways prescribed by the song they are chanting: "Plainy, clappy, rolley, to backey, hippy, tippy, a jelly bag and basket." On "plainy," the player simply throws the ball against the wall and catches it. On "clappy," the player throws the ball against the wall, claps while the ball is airborne, and catches it. On "rolley," the player throws the ball against the wall, rolls his arms over one another, then catches the ball. On "to backey," the player must clap his hands behind his back while the ball is airborne. On "hippy," he places his hands on his hips while the ball is airborne. On "tippy," he touches the ground while the ball is in the air. On "a jelly bag," the player forms a "bag" with his hands, touching and spread widely at the wrists, in order to catch the ball. On "and basket," the player locks his hands with the knuckles facing toward himself to form a "basket" and catches the ball. If the player makes a mistake at any point during the chant, he must go to the end of the line and may start where he left off when it's his turn. There are four stages to this game. In the first, players may move their feet as they choose. Once they complete the chant like that, they "go steadies," playing with both feet planted firmly together. In the next stage, they play standing on their right foot. In the final stage, they play standing on their left foot. Whoever finishes all four stages first wins.

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