A guide to Chinese kids games
A long, long time ago, playing a game didn’t mean plugging in a PlayStation or turning on the computer. In fact, in Chinese society, traditional games were a great way to form intimate friendships, get some exercise and have a great time with your peers. Here’s an introduction to a few Chinese children’s games from the era before fancy video games and high-tech gadgets. If you want to play these old-school games, you’ll probably have to find a Chinese partner who was born no later than in the 1980s.
For three or more players
A popular game among Chinese girls, this game involves sewing six square pieces of cloth together into a cube and then stuffing the bag with uncooked rice, sand or beans. Two kids stand facing each other, while one player stands in the middle. The two outer players will take turns trying to hit the child in the middle with the sandbag. The middle player, meanwhile, has to avoid being hit and catch the bag instead. He loses a point each time he is hit, and gains a point each time he catches the bag. Once he reaches a balance of zero points, it’s time to switches positions with one of the outer players.
Dropping the Handkerchief
For seven or more players
Children sit in a circle and chant “Dropping the Handkerchief” while a designated “handkerchief dropper” stand ups. Holding a handkerchief, the child has to walk around the circle and drop the handkerchief behind one player before the chant is finished, then run back to his original position.
The kids in the circle wait until the end of the chant to look around for the handkerchief. As soon as a player finds the handkerchief behind him or her, he or she stands up and chases the handkerchief dropper, trying to catch the dropper before the child reaches the original seat. If he or she cannot catch the handkerchief dropper, then this player becomes the handkerchief dropper in the next new game (similar to the chasing part of Duck Duck Goose). If caught, a new game begins with the same handkerchief dropper.
The Eagle and the Chicks
For five or more players
With plenty of running, chasing, hiding and teamwork, this game is probably one of the most fun ways for kids to play outdoors. The strongest or tallest two children play the mother hen and eagle. The remaining kids, who play the chicks, line up in a row behind the hen and hold on to the waist of the person in front of them. When the game begins, the eagle will try to chase down and tap a chick; meanwhile, the hen faces the eagle and waves her arms to defend the chicks. To catch a chick, the eagle must try to go around the mother hen while the other chicks remain linked behind the hen. If the eagle catches a chick, the game ends and the captured chick plays the eagle in the next round.
Many kids games in China are similar to those popular in the West. In Jumping House, which is similar to hopscotch, children draw squares on the ground, jump and kick empty candy tins. Telephone, the game in which kids sit in a circle and pass a whispered phrase from one person to the next, goes by the name of Chinese Whispers. Girls also like to stretch pairs of jump ropes taut above the ground, then execute fancy twists, steps and jumps.