CHILDHOOD GAMES: HOPSCOTCH

Hopscotch has a long history, having been played by Roman soldiers, dressed in full battle armour, thousands of years ago to test their strength and agility! The name refers to hopping over the scotch, which is a line or scratch in the ground. It was a favourite game when I was in primary school. There were plenty of sandy places where we could draw the markings for the game with a stick, and any number of stones to choose from to use as our markers.

This is a game in which a configuration of squares are drawn on the ground. The squares should be large enough to fit one foot and to make sure that a stone thrown into the square will not bounce out too easily. The semi-circle at the end was regarded as a rest or stop area where one could turn around and/or regain one’s balance.

To play, you have to toss your stone inside the first square without touching the border or bouncing out – otherwise you miss your turn and have to pass the stone to the next player. You then hop through the squares, skipping the one containing your marker. What makes it difficult is that you can’t have more than one foot on the ground at a time, unless there are two number squares next to each other. Here you can put down both feet, one in each square. When you get to the end, turn around and hop your way back in reverse order. While you’re on the square right before the one with your marker, lean down and pick it up. Then, skip over that square and finish up. If you managed to complete the course with your marker on square one (and without losing your turn), then throw your marker onto square two on your next turn. Players begin their next turn where they last left off. The goal is to complete the course with the marker on each square. The first person to do this wins the game!

It is not a game I see my grandchildren playing, either at home or at school. Then again, hopscotch hasn’t been a familiar game to any number of high school girls I have taught over many years.

It seems to me that this is a worthwhile game to pass on to the next generation before it is lost completely.

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