Traditional Russian Children's Games

pink playground image by Barbara Tripp from

Children in Russia play games very similar to other games played in the United States and throughout the world. Russian children enjoy games that involve chasing and role-playing, as well as card games. Any group of children can easily play traditional Russian games on a playground or in their neighbourhood.


Russian children enjoy playing a card game called P'yanitsa. This game and the American card game War share commonalities. Two to four players can play this card game. Typically, children only use 36 cards for this game, including the face cards and numbers six to 10. Players attempt to either collect no cards or collect all the cards, depending on the version played. To begin, one child deals out the cards evenly to all players with the faces down. Then, each player lays down one card and the player with the highest card played picks up the cards and adds them to the bottom of his pile. Cards rank according to their face values, except when an ace and a six appear at the same time; in this case, the six always wins. When a tie occurs, each player lays down another card to determine the winner.

Cossacks and Robbers

To begin this game, children separate into two equal groups. The children should elect one group to play the role of Cossacks and the other group to play the role of robbers. The robbers run and hide while the Cossacks stay behind to guard an area that serves as their camp. Once all the robbers have hidden, all of the Cossacks except one go to look for the robbers. The one remaining Cossack guards the camp. When a Cossack catches a robber, the Cossack takes the robber to jail at the camp. The game continues until the Cossacks catch and jail all the robbers.

The Cat and the Mice

Five or more children can play this game. To begin, one child plays the role of the cat and all others play the role of mice. The cat should keep his eyes closed while the mice talk to him and challenge him to catch them. When the mice clap, the cat begins to chase them. The first mouse caught then becomes the cat, and the game repeats.

Who is Stronger?

To play this game, the children need to divide into two teams. The children draw a line on the ground and then each team lines up behind one side of the line. The children each hold onto one another by wrapping their arms around the person in front of them. Then, the leaders of each team reach out grab hands and attempt to pull one another over the line. The team that pulls the other team over the line wins.

Snake Game

To play the snake game, children stand in a line holding hands. The first person, or leader, in the line then begins to run while all the other children try to keep holding hands. Any child that breaks the line leaves the game. The game continues until only the leader remains.


Four or more children can play Wizards. One child runs after the other children to touch them. When touched, the children freeze and yell for other children to touch them so that they can start running again. The game continues until the child with freezing ability freezes all the children.