Family plays hopscotch outdoors, with one child cheering with her arms above her head

1 piece of chalk, 8 active games

When I was a kid, I was fascinated by a cartoon character named Simon who would use his imagination to climb into his Land of Chalk Drawings. Whatever he drew, be it a rocket ship, a zoo, a herd of dinosaurs, or a soccer game, Simon would find himself on great adventures in amongst his creations.

Fast forward to my own life as a parent and sidewalk chalk has become a spring and summer playtime staple for my children. Whether it’s used to practice letters, write messages for family and friends, draw great masterpieces, or for many other creative games, chalk is a colourful and inexpensive toy.

Sidewalk chalk has come a long way from Simon’s Land of Chalk Drawings. Chalk now comes in 48 colours, in glitter, and in neon. But what hasn’t changed is the myriad of ways in which chalk can be used as the basis of many active games for your children. Find a safe spot in a driveway, a schoolyard, or on a sidewalk, and prepare to chalk up the fun your kids will have (sorry, I couldn’t resist). Here are great games to play and things to draw with chalk.

1. Hopscotch

This is an oldie (as in kids have been playing it for over 300 years) but a definite goodie. The rules [PDF] are simple and kids can either draw their own course with the chalk or have a parent help. Use your imagination and draw the boxes to be jumped in in various colours and shapes. Use the chalk as the marker or find stones, beanbags, buttons or small plastic toys. Once your children have conquered hopping the course, see if they can double hop on each box or use varying feet for hopping on the way up and the way back the course.

Skills developed: Hopping, throwing, balance, coordination

2. Avoid the Shark

With different colours of chalk, draw “beaches” various distances apart. Use blue chalk to draw water and shark fins between the beaches and have kids jump from beach to beach to avoid the “sharks” in the “water.”

Skills developed: Hopping

3. Chalk Bullseye

Use various colours of chalk and draw concentric circles with a bullseye in the middle. Within each circle, write point values if kids want to brush up on their math skills or simply use markers to see who can throw an item closest to the bullseye. For markers, use chalk, stones or on hot summer days, wet sponges or water balloons.

Skills developed: Throwing

4. Four Square

Four Square is extremely popular in many schoolyards at recess. Draw your own Four Square court with chalk, mark a number from one to four in each square, and use a bouncy ball to play this fun game. Each player stands in each of the squares, and the player in square four starts by bouncing the ball in their square and then hitting it towards one of the other squares. The receiving player then hits the ball to any other player. The ball must bounce in the receiving player’s square once and they must hit it to another player before it bounces a second time. If the player misses a square or the ball bounces a second time before they hit it, they are “out”. If there are more than four players, the player who is out goes to the end of the line of waiting players. If there are only four players, the player who is out would move to the next lowest position, four being the highest square.

Skills developed: Striking

5. Chalk Maze

Have kids design their own web of squiggly lines, circles, and other lines with chalk to design a maze through which others can walk, run, cycle, or scooter. The bigger, more colourful, and more intricate the maze, the more fun kids will have working their way through.

Skills developed: Running

6. Alphabet Hop

Use chalk to make 26 squares or circles fairly close to one another and write the letters of the alphabet in each. For kids just learning their alphabet, call out letters to hop from one to another. For kids who are able to spell, call out words to spell and have them hop using one or two feet from one letter to another. During the summer months, this is a not-so-subtle way to work on spelling skills while having fun.

Skills developed: Hopping

7. Sidewalk Twister

Find me a person who doesn’t like Twister and I will show you my best “what you talkin’ about” face. Create your own chalk twister board with at least four colours and four shapes and have another child or parent call out instructions as to where children should place their right hands, right feet, left hands and left feet. Keep the traditional rules of Twister by having kids balance while moving each hand and foot to different coloured shapes without falling over, or make your own rules. Have kids roar like lions on blue squares or hop like bunnies on a green circle. Ask them to laugh like their moms on a yellow triangle or stand as tall as a tree on a red squiggle.

Skills developed: Depends on activities chosen

8. Corners

This game requires at least three players but can be played with many more. Draw a large square court with smaller squares drawn in each corner in different colours. Draw a circle in the middle of the court. One person is designated the “counter” and stands in the circle in the middle of the court. The counter closes their eyes and counts to ten. While their eyes are closed, the other players skip around the court and choose a corner to stand in (more than one person can stand in one of the corners). With their eyes still closed after counting to ten, the counter calls out one of the four corner colours. Whoever is standing in that colour is out. The game continues until all players are out.

Skills developed: skipping

Head to your nearest yard, driveway, or sidewalk and prepare for your kids to spend endless hours of active fun with one piece of “equipment.” And if they start telling you Simon-like stories of climbing into magical places with dragons and fairies, it will have been an even more super-fantastic day.

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45 responses to “1 piece of chalk, 8 active games

  1. These are some of the games we grew up playing. Benefits psychological and physically health in children and adults both. Intersting. Lovely comments. Thanks people

  2. I played a sidewalk chalk game called Rolly Polly. We drew 10 squares, 5 side by side and labeled them, Boys, Girls, Fruits, Veggies, Colors, radio shows, movies, games, movie stars, etc. bounce arolla ball into a square and name the object. Then roll to the next square and get there before the ball leaves the square. It’s the most difficult to roll to square 10 and run around all 9 before the ball leaves that square. Then do it in reverse.

    1. We played a game with the same set up. We called it “girls girls out”. You had to hop on 1 foot in each square and name girls names without tripping up. If you completed it, you would move onto the next square with the new category

    2. Thank you for posting about Rolly Polly-loved that game in the 50’s and 60’s, but I couldn’t find anything written about it. Maybe it was a Southside Chicago thing.

      1. Thanks for sharing your experience and my favourite thing about this game so I did with my team and that was very helpful 💐

    3. I played Rolly Polly when I was a young girl. I’m almost 80 now. We had such fun. We lived right by the tracks and would sit on the salt box and wait for the trains caboose to come pass and scream for the man on that caboose to throw us some chalk for our sidewalk. It was the best chalk. I’m going to teach my grandchildren that game. Such a great memory!!

    4. I LOVED this game!!! I found not many kids ever knew about it. It was played as you described it. The ball, running, hopping and quick thinking when in the given category was FUN and challenging. Thanks for the reminder.

  3. This version shows it done with hoops, but it would be very easy to set up with chalk lines to mark the grid: running tic-tac-toe (or tic-tac-toe relay):

    When schools shut down for covid, my daughter & the kids next door drew a hopscotch “course” that went all the way up to 102, and had curves, took steps sideways and had some squares specifically required to put the left foot or right foot in (usually on the opposite side of the body) or other challenges. It was crazy.

    Don’t forget that you can draw “roads” through which to ride bikes and scooters! Include challenges like tight turns, lines to balance on, and squiggles. Literal hours of entertainment.

  4. I am 76 and have been trying to pass these precious games to my grandchildren. I home schooled my 2 youngest children and tried to pass them on to them, but the days were too busy and demanding then. NOW is the perfect time to bring these games back.

    I also used to play a jumping rope game “One on time” or “2 on time” for the younger kids. It was a line of jumpers and anyone who missed following was eliminated.

    1. I AGREE! I grew up in Brooklyn and we played, in the street, where the fire hydrant was located so no cars parked. We played stoop ball, dodge ball, games with a spauldeen ball and a wall, as well as playing “switch” game on our bikes, “Survivor” with rocks, leaves and dirt, and “flashlight tag”. I am so grateful for this upbringing, the kids in the neighborhood, and fact that any parent was watching out for any kid.
      it taught me about the importance of community!

  5. Don’t forget Skully. It’s a NY game. Melt wax in a bottle cap and use your fingers to shoot the cap along the
    sidewalk on chalk drawn point system. Sort of mix of shuffleboard and marbles. As kids we played for hours.

  6. Love your list of games and easy to follow directions! Several were new to me but others brought back wonderful memories from my childhood plus playing with my children when they were younger! Thanks

    I don’t know Simon; however, Harold’s Purple Crayon books would also make a great connect with chalk drawings.
    Ideas: Draw/tell a story without lifting the chalk. This can be done individually or as a cooperative storytelling activity. One person begins the drawing and story, then the next person continues the drawing and story, …

    There’s a game my sisters and I used to play called Rolly-Polly. (Unfortunately the explanation is quite long— But it’s worth it!)
    Draw a large rectangle divided into boxes 2×5 (for older children 2×6 to 2×8). In each box write a topic (i.e. colors, cars, holidays, flowers, winter sports, snakes, names that begin with B) except for one box write FREE.

    The first player stands outside the rectangle below the bottom right box. Using a small ball (tennis ball, rubber ball for jacks), roll the ball into the first cube, step into the cube, pick up the ball before it rolls out of the cube. Bounce and catch the ball inside that box while saying the topic name written in that box. Then step into the next box, bounce and catch the ball inside that box while naming an example of the topic you announced from box one.

    Ex. Roll ball into first box—pick up ball and the bounce & catch ball “COLORS”, step into next box—bounce & catch ball “PURPLE”, step into next box—bounce & catch ball “BLUE”, continue to the top of the boxes and then u-turn down the opposite side of the rectangle. In the FREE box—bounce & catch ball “FREE”.

    If the player successfully made it through the entire rectangle using the topic from box one (Always bounced the ball within the box that they stood, caught it without stepping out of the box, never repeated an example of the topic, stated the example within ~4 seconds), then the player continues her/his turn by rolling ball into second box. While ball is rolling, player steps into box one, then steps into box two, then picks up ball before rolls out of box two. Repeat with the topic written in box two. Player continues turn until there is an error and then next player begins at box one.

    When it’s time to roll and pick up ball in the FREE box, state the topic “FREE” and then each box you step into and bounce the ball give one example of the topic written in that box. (i.e. “FREE”, “daisy” “Audi” “Rattlesnake”…).

    When a player has her/his next turn, s/he repeats the box that wasn’t successfully completed the previous turn.
    Winner—first to make it through all boxes.
    Note: When on the last box, player will only state topic and then bounce & step out of the rectangle (since there’s no more boxes, no examples will be given).

    1. My mother taught me a similar game and she called it Boys and girls because the first box was boys, second was girls. And I think we had to name things beginning with a certain letter, but I am hazy on that part and Mom now has dimentia so I will keep researching it. Sounds like your game though. I loved it.!

      1. We played that game and called it girls are because that was the first block to bounce the ball and then went to the next block to name another girls name the more categories you had such as boys names objects beginning with a certain letter the more items you had to name – this was considered a girls game

  7. I saw on social media a couple of kids playing Snakes and Ladders on their driveway. That’s another idea to add to this helpful collection.

    As COVID-19 changes our patterns of behavior, outdoor play is still important for kids and for all of us, within Public Health’s guidelines.

  8. Was looking for some simple games to play in the playground with our pupils today… thank you! (I also LOVED Simon!) :D

    1. I immediately hear… you know my name is Simon and the things I draw come true… thanks for these suggestions, more timely than ever!

  9. Thanks for the great chalk ideas. Another game for our play ground. We can get spray chalk now. Woo, Hoo!!!

    1. Yes, we called it potsy (potsie?), one big square with 2 small boxes on each of the opposite sides and a small box on each corner with the last box on the middle. The boxes are numbered to 13 with the one in the middle no.13. No consecutive numbers should be adjacent. Use a bottle cap to flip with your finger to get in the small boxes starting in the middle and ending in the middle. The big square was about 4-6 feet on each side.

      1. This is the game I was looking for. Do you remember what the playing ‘board’ looked like and/or any rules?

        Thank you!

  10. These are great! Love the simple fun ideas – we’ll be using them with our kids. Even more fun, try some with a Walkie Chalk a fun product we invented to allow everyone to stand up and draw with sidewalk chalk.

    1. Yes, a version of hopscotch was played by ancient roman children and your statement was true but me being a perfectionist I have to make your statement a little more efficient as Ancient Rome fell over 1500 years ago. Here it is: Hopscotch is over 1,000 years old – it was played by ancient Roman children!

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