Kenyan Children's Games

Written by shannon tinker
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Kenyan Children's Games
Kenyan children find ways to play despite living in extreme poverty. (untitled ii image by Paul Marriot from Fotolia.com)

Kenyan children play many games that resemble those we'd see in our own backyards. Poverty, however, changes the playing field for most Kenyans, prompting kids to find ways to entertain themselves with little or no equipment or gear. Through innovation and creativity, Kenyan kids have discovered ways to make something out of virtually nothing. Common household products and found objects in nature are used to spice up their play and make their games decidedly Kenyan.

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Stick-Kick Relay

A common relay game morphs when sticks replace the batons and the passing is done by feet. Two ropes are used to mark the start and halfway point, placed about 15 to 25 feet apart in a clear space. The children are divided into teams and line up behind the starting rope. As in a traditional relay race, each team has only one person participating at a time. While kicking the stick in front of them, each child travels from the starting rope to the second rope and then returns. After the first child makes it back to start, the next teammate can begin. The game ends once everyone on the team has had a turn. Bragging rights go to the team who finishes first.

Playing Catch

Playing catch with a small bouncy ball takes on new life with decorated, homemade ball catchers. Plastic milk, juice or washing powder bottles are snipped with sharp scissors to remove the bottom and then create a U-shaped cutout just below the handle. The newly created opening is perfect for corralling wildly bouncy balls that are tossed from friend to friend. Kids use coloured electrical tape to design and individualise their new catching device.

Splish, Splish, Splosh

Kenya's heat inspires a refreshing twist on the familiar game of "Duck, duck, goose." Add water and a sponge and presto, instantly Kenyan. Someone is selected to be "It" while the others sit in a circle. "It" walks around the circle while chanting "splish, splish --" and holding a water filled sponge over everyone's head. Eventually "It" picks his willing victim and squeezes the sponge water on the participant's head while saying "splosh." Once selected, the wet kiddo gets up and chases "It" around the circle. If "It" gets to the wet child's seat first, the wet child becomes "It" for the next round, otherwise, "It" repeats this ritual.

Slap, Clap, Snap

Kenyan's strong music tradition is front and centre in this camp concentration game. Children sit in a circle and each seat is given a number in sequence starting with "one." Each child becomes known as the number of the chair where she is sitting. Creating a beat, children use their hands and repeat this pattern: 1) two leg slaps, 2) two claps, 3) one snap -- or slap, slap, clap, clap, snap. During the "snap," No. 1 child begins by saying her own number first and then says a second number from the group. For example, on the snap, No. 1 child says, "one, eight," telling the No. 8 child that he is next. On the next snap, the No. 8 child says his own number and picks someone else in the group. This pattern is repeated until someone forgets her turn or messes up the sequence. The child who makes a mistake moves to the seat associated with the highest number and everyone else moves up one seat closer to No. 1.

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