Remembering the afternoon games

What do I remember fondly as a child, the after school games. Our house had the big yard that was open, only partially fenced, and kids from all over the street would come to play, we would play until dark and then one by one would hear a call for each child to go home.

The games that stay in my memory are; “What’s the time Mr Wolf?” Red light/ Green light, French Cricket, Stuck in the mud, Red Rover Cross over, British Bulldog, Crocodile, crocodile may I cross your golden river, Hide and Seek, and on weekends when we were able to stay out after dark, spot light tiggy was played at the local park with even more children coming to join in.

I think that today’s children are missing out on this simple opportunity of playing with their neighbours, playing out in the environment and making do with what you can find. In these afternoon games there was no adult intervention, children created and kept the rules, usually the oldies of the group.

As a kinder teacher, each year I expose my children to a couple of these games. What I find is that the children come back again, and back again asking to play them. But our kindergarten yards also reflect many modern homes, in that the yards have shrunk, there is not enough room to really run so we have to play the games under tight safety conditions (often taking out the running aspect).

So it was with great excitement today that we went to the local school and used their field to have ago, we played this groups current favourites “What’s the time Mr Wolf?” and Red light/ Green light. We played for over half an hour with constant running, laughing and yes falling but all complaining when I said it was time to head back to Kinder. It made me realise what from memory was an everyday activity, for many children these days it is an exciting opportunity.

What’s the time Mr Wolf?

How to play:

One child stands apart with his back to the other children, who should be a good distance away. He or she is Mr Wolf.

The group calls out “What’s The Time, Mr Wolf?”

He replies with a time – for example, “It’s 5 o’clock”

The group then takes 5 steps forward, towards Mr Wolf, and asks again, “What’s The Time, Mr Wolf?”

This time he might say “it’s 7 o’clock”, in which case the group would take 7 steps forward.

The group is attempting to reach Mr Wolf without him first catching them. When Mr Wolf senses that somebody is close, he can call out, instead of a time like before, “It’s Dinner Time!”, at which point he can finally turn around and see where everybody is, then try to catch somebody before they can make it back to the starting line. There is usually much screaming and excitement at this point!

Red light/Green light

Red Light Green Light is an outdoor game suitable for children of all ages. You will need quite a bit of space! If you play the game with younger kids, you can use it to reinforce the concept of “red is for stop” and “green is for go”.

One player (or an adult) is chosen to be the caller. The caller stands facing away from the other children, who stand behind a starting line drawn up about 30 feet (10 metres) away.

When the caller calls out “green light”, the children run forward to try to tag him. They must move as quickly as possible but at any time the caller may call out “red light”, at which point all the children must freeze. The caller turns round and if he catches anyone moving – even a tiny bit – they are sent back to the starting line.

The first player to tag the caller becomes caller in the next round.

French Cricket

French Cricket is a very popular game with older children and teenagers, but it is fun in a family gathering too. You need at least 6 players for a good game, and a fairly large space to play.

You will need:

A cricket bat or tennis racket
A tennis ball

How to play:

The players stand in a circle, and somebody is chosen to bat first. He stands with his feet together, defending the “stumps”, which are his legs below the knees. The players in the circle bowl at the stumps and he must hit the ball away. If he hits the ball, and only if he hits the ball, he can move his feet and turn around to face in another direction. If he doesn’t hit the ball, he must twist and turn to try to defend the stumps without moving his feet. He can also be “caught out”, if he hits the ball and one of the players in the circle catches it before it bounces. You can get yourself into quite a pickle if you are trying to defend your stumps against a player who is bowling at you from behind!

When he is “out”, he is usually replaced by the player who bowled him or caught him out. If the game is very unequal, you might step in and make sure that everybody takes it in turns to bat instead.


One or more players are chosen as catchers depending on numbers playing. There is no ‘home’ or safe base and depending on the version you are using, players when caught either stand with their legs apart (the most common form) or arms held out. Players can be set free again if another player who has not yet been caught crawls between their legs, or ducks under their arms respectively. Game stops when everybody has been stuck.

Red Rover Cross Over

It is played by dividing a group of children into two teams. Each team stands in a single line holding hands. Team 1 sends for a member of Team 2 to see if she can run through the linked arms of its players. The chosen player is called by chanting, “Red Rover, Red Rover, send ____________on over.” The player summoned then has to cross over and try to break through Team 1’s line.

If the player is able to break through, she is allowed to take one player from Team 1 back to her team. If the player is not able to break through, she must stay on Team 1. The team that ultimately has the most players is the winner. The game can continue until one team has only one or two people on it.

Crocodile, Crocodile, May I cross your golden river?

The players along the start line then start chanting “Crocodile, crocodile, may I cross the river?” and the crocodile replies “Yes you may, yes you may, if you are wearing *insert colour*”.

All the players who have that colour somewhere on their clothing may pass across to the finish line (you may want to put in an “underwear doesn’t count”) without being tagged.

The rest of the players must then run across to the finish line and avoid being tagged by the Crocodile.

The players who are caught then join the Crocodile in the middle of the field as Crocodile Helpers. Begin the game again, this time with the Crocodile Helpers also tagging players. This goes on until one player is left who then becomes the Crocodile for the next round.

British Bulldogs

Use a large pitch or hall for this game, to allow players plenty of room for manoeuvrability. Home is defined as being either end of the pitch/playing area. At the start all players stand at one end with one or two chosen as Bulldogs (the catchers) who stand in the middle. On the call “British Bulldogs 1, 2, 3” by the catchers, all players have to get the other side without being caught. This can either be by ‘tagging’ (simple touch) or in the more boisterous version catchers have to catch and hold onto players for the count of three in order for players to be caught. Anybody who is tagged becomes a Bulldog as well. The first two caught or last two caught in each game become the Bulldogs for the next one

Spotlight Tag

Play in a darkened area, have at least 4 people.
The person chosen to be ‘It’ closes their eyes and counts to whatever you want them to. Everybody else goes and hides. When the person who is It has finished counting they have to find those hiding using a touch light to highlight those found, the last person they find or ‘tag’ then becomes ‘It’ and then tries to find or tag the others.

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April 2011
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