American Playground Games

Written by nancy hayden
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American Playground Games
Along with slides and swings, playgrounds are used to play sports and games. (playground image by tim Elliott from

Passing by a schoolyard and spotting the playground can bring smiles and sighs, evoking memories of hours spent playing playground games. In America, the list of games played on the playground before and after school and during recess, has grown over the generations. New games have been invented, old games have come to be known by new names. The classic games, however, are still being played on playgrounds throughout America.

Four Square

Four Square is played with a kickball. A large box is painted or drawn on the cement. A cross is then drawn in the box, forming four equal squares. Four players stand in the box, each occupying a square. The person chosen to start the game is called the King. The squares are ranked one through four, with the King being number four. The King bounces the ball once in his own square, and then to someone in another square. That player then bounces the ball to another player, and so on. Three things can cause a player to "die," if the ball bounces more than once before he touches it, if the ball doesn't bounce at all before he touches it, or if he knocks the ball out of bounds. When a player dies, he drops to the lowest ranked number and the other players move up.

Red Light/Green Light

Red Light/Green Light begins with one child becoming the "stop light." The other players line up across from her, approximately 15 to 20 feet away. The traffic light turns her back to the other players and begins the game by saying "green light," at which point all the other players move toward her. When she calls "red light" she turns around, and anyone caught still moving is out. The game ends when either the traffic light gets all the players out, or when one of the players gets close enough and touches her.

Duck Duck Goose

For younger children on the playground, it doesn't get much more fun than playing Duck Duck Goose. All of the players sit facing each other in a circle on the ground or floor. The player who is "it" walks around the outside of the circle, lightly tapping players on the head as he goes, naming each of the other players "duck, duck duck." When the caller taps a player on the head and says "goose," that player jumps up and chases the caller around the outside of the circle. The caller must reach the empty space left by the goose and sit down to be safe. This makes the goose the caller.

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