Three girls jump in the air as they play outside on a fall day.

5 group games from memory lane to pass on to your kids

Do you remember the hours we spent outside as kids playing classic games like Mother May I? Take a trip down memory lane and teach your children how to play these easy group games.

1. Mother, May I

While the goal is technically to get across the finish line, the fun in this game is coming up with all kinds of creative and zany ways to move.

How to play:

  1. Participants line up at a starting line, spaced well apart. 
  2. One person stands at the finish line with their backs to the start line (the Mother). Mother is not allowed to turn around to look at the players.
  3. Each player asks permission to move forward, asking “Mother, May I …. ?” before the request (example: “Mother, may I take three giant steps?”)
  4. Mother at the finish line replies with either “Yes, you may” or “No, you may not.” If the answer is no, Mother tells the child what to do instead. Example: “No, you may not. You may do four kangaroo jumps.”
  5. The first person to cross the finish line takes the next turn to be Mother, while the others return to the starting line for another round.

Examples of some Mother’s responses in “Mother, May I?”

  • Yes, you may take three giant steps forward.
  • No, you may take two normal steps back.
  • Yes, you may take 10 baby steps forward.
  • No, you may take two frog jumps forward.
  • Yes, you may twirl six times forward.

Players can also get creative and ask to moonwalk, walk like a monkey, slither like a snake, cartwheel, or any other movement they can imagine!

2. O’Leary

O’Leary is a rhythmic game played independently, with a bouncy ball the size of a tennis ball. Players chant or sing the O’Leary song during the game. The lyrics are: “The song:  1-2-3 O’Leary, 4-5-6 O’Leary, 7-8-9 O’Leary, 10 O’Leary, catch me please.”

How to play:

  1. Bounce the ball to the beat.
  2. Each time you sing O’Leary, perform a trick or skilled move.
  3. At the end of the rhyme, catch the ball.
  4. If you can perform the task successfully to “catch me please,” you move onto the next level. If you can’t, you’re out.

Here are the different levels for O’Leary:

  1. O’Leary: Bounce the ball under one leg by lifting your leg over the ball as you bounce it under.
  2. Clapsies: Sing Clapsies in place of O’Leary, and clap your hands with the bounce.
  3. Kneesies: Sing Kneesies in place of O’Leary, and hit your knee with one hand.
  4. Buttercup:  Sing buttercup in place of O’Leary, and clap your hands under your leg as you raise it.
  5. Peter Pan: Sing Peter Pan in place of O’Leary, and bounce the ball under your right and then your left leg while lifting your legs up over the ball so that you only bounce the ball twice. 
  6. Around the world: This challenging step requires you to do all the skills and the song adds them all in: 1-2-3 O’Leary, Clapsies, Kneesies, Buttercup, Peter Pan, 4-5-6 O’Leary, Clapsies, Kneesies, Buttercup, Peter Pan, 7-8-9 O’Leary, Clapsies, Kneesies, Buttercup, Peter Pan, 10 O’Leary, Clapsies, Kneesies, Buttercup, Peter Pan, catch me please.

3.   What time is it, Mr. Wolf?

The participants in this classic game stand at the start line.  One participant is Mr. Wolf and stands at a distance, facing away from the group. 

How to play:

  1. Participants take turns asking Mr. Wolf: “What time is it, Mr. Wolf?”
  2. Each time he’s asked, Mr. Wolf responds with a time: one o’clock, 10 o’clock, three o’clock. Players then step forward the corresponding number of steps.
  3. When the wolf senses the players are getting close, Mr. Wolf shouts, “It’s dinnertime!” and chases the kids.  The object of the game is for the kids to return to the start line without the wolf tagging/touching them.  

Variation: Use a pylon or another marker for the wolf to run to at “dinnertime.” If Mr. Wolf touches the pylon before the kids return to the start line, he successfully fills his tummy.

4. Hopscotch

Use chalk or tape to make a hopscotch grid to hop along. One square means to hop on one foot, and on two side-by-side squares, use both feet. You can use the classic format (as shown in the video), or challenge children to make their own variations of this hopping game.

Variation: Players can toss a stone or bean bag onto the hopscotch grid. When they reach this number, they must hop over it without touching the number. On the way back to the start of the grid, they must lean down to pick it up (standing on one leg if on a single square).

5. Stone toss

This game is adapted from bocce. You will need one larger stone or another heavy and unbreakable object, and two smaller rocks for each player.

How to play:

  1. Toss one larger stone, or place an object at a challenging distance from the players.
  2. Everyone starts at the same spot, and tries to toss their rocks as close as they can to the larger rock or object. 
  3. The person with the closest rock to the target wins the round.  

Check out these other game ideas:

3 responses to “5 group games from memory lane to pass on to your kids

  1. I love it! Have heard of all of these with the exception of “O’leary.” I know what I’m doing to start off my sending and receiving theme in physical education this Monday!

  2. I loved playing some of these games when I was young. My wife and I often remark what a shame it is that the traditional games are disappearing from the schoolyard. Thanks for reminding us that what is old can be new again.

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