Getting Back to Basics: Games our Grandparents Played


There’s no denying we’re living in a digital era­ ­– even our kids are now being described as ‘digital natives’. They know about superheroes from movies, not comic books, and Ofcom reports that more than a third of children aged between 5 and 15 own their own tablet computer.

In between juggling work and family life, it’s not easy to find the time to lure the kids away from their video games. When was the last time you took the kids on a nature walk through the park, or play a board game? Do you even remember how to play marbles?

If you’re beginning to realise just how precious quality time (away from a screen) can be, we’re here to remind you of a few of the good old-fashioned games our grandparents used to play when they were younger; games that are still more than capable of entertaining and educating our little ones today!


Marbles can be traced all the way back to the Romans, but it was during the 1800s that they really became a popular game for little boys and girls.

  • How to Play Marbles

If you can’t remember how to play marbles, don’t worry – it’s simple to teach your kids. Use a piece of chalk to draw a circle on the ground – any size (the bigger the circle, the more challenging the game), but around 90cm in diameter is standard. Place marbles in the centre of the circle, with each player keeping their biggest marble as their ‘shooter’. Players take turns to try and knock as many marbles out of the circle by flicking their shooter with their thumb. The rules are straightforward – if you knock a marble out, take another turn. The player who has collected the most marbles when the circle is emptied is declared the winner.


Scotch hopper ­– now known as ‘hopscotch’ ­– became very popular in wartime Britain because it could be played for free. All you needed was a small piece of chalk and a lightweight stone or rock.

  • How to Play Hopscotch

Using a piece of chalk, draw a hopscotch course on the floor – there should be 10 numbered squares in total. Throw a small beanbag (much safer than a stone!) to land in one of the squares, then hop your way along the course. Only one foot should be on the floor at a time, except where two squares are side-by-side. Hop over the box containing the beanbag, turn at square 10, and hop back. Pick up your beanbag on your return, but still hop over the space that it landed in.


‘Jacks’ is a relatively modern term for a very old game. So old, in fact, that the game is referenced in many Greek epics including the Odyssey.

  • How to Play Jacks

The first player holds the jacks in their hand and softly throws them to scatter around. The first player gently throws a rubber ball up into the air, attempting to pick up a jack before the ball bounces, and then catch the ball after one bounce in the same hand as the jack. They then move the jack to the other hand, and repeat until all jacks have been collected. Continue by picking up two at a time, and then three at a time and so on. The player’s turn ends if they fail to pick up a jack, fail to catch the ball after one bounce, or if they drop the jack. The game continues until a player has successfully collected all jacks in one go.

If you often read advice for kids, you’ll know that many experts recommend an ‘everything in moderation’ approach. This means that you don’t need to ban your kids from watching TV or playing video games, but that it’s important for children to spend time playing outdoors, too. This allows them to get more exercise, learn more about nature, and express their creativity. So the next time you’ve got a sunny weekend, get out into the garden and give these great, old-fashioned games a try!

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