In this age of tablet computers, smartphones, Xboxes and PlayStations, your tech-obsessed kiddo would find it unthinkable to play a game that’s not on a hand-held device, computer or Smart TV. In fact, he’ll likely be shocked to learn the most entertaining games of yesteryear often made use of simple everyday items like erasers and rubber bands!
Sure, games like Five Stones and Zero Point sound strange and are a far cry from the 3D virtual reality games we can expect in the near future, but they are no less fun, and, even better, enhance various skills, including physical and motor! Take a look at:
1) Five Stones
WHAT This traditional game was popular with village children back when kampongs dominated the Singapore landscape (yes, that long ago). Originally played using small stones, these were later replaced by five small triangular-shaped cloth bags filled with rice, sand or even dried beans. Making your own can be a bonding activity, too!
HOW IT’S PLAYED The game can be played individually or with two or more players. First, a player begins by throwing all five stones on the floor. With only one hand, he tosses one stone in the air and picks up another while catching the first “stone”, preventing it from falling to the ground. Round by round, the player will toss more stones in the air while picking up another until all five are collected in his hands. Whenever the player fails to catch any of the stones, he is disqualified or misses a turn.
BOOSTS THESE SKILLS Quick and accurate hand-eye coordination as well as deft motor skills will help a player win at this game.
WHAT Back in the day when roosters and chickens reigned supreme in kampongs around the island, shuttlecocks were fashioned from discarded poultry feathers that were tied to a weighted rubber disc. This game was used in the past to the enhance the martial arts skills of Shaolin monks and military men!
HOW IT’S PLAYED A participant can only use one of his insteps to kick the shuttlecock into the air. That same foot has to kick as many times as possible, while ensuring that the shuttlecock remains airborne. The winner is the participant who clocks up the most kicks.
BOOST THESE SKILLS A game that’ll build up your kid’s balance, physical flexibility and stamina. Remember the shuttlecock can only be in contact with one’s instep!
WHAT Players will need to hop over a series of squares drawn on the ground. He or she will use an item ― a small beanbag or wallet ― to serve as a puck. Some playgrounds have the hopscotch outline. If not, use some chalk to mark out the hopscotch play area on the cement floors of your void deck. After play, these chalk marks can be cleaned with a damp tissue or cloth.
HOW IT’S PLAYED Requires at least two players. Standing in front of square 1, the player will throw his puck onto square 1, making sure it does not touch the lines or borders of the square. He then hops on one foot through squares 1 to 3, landing on two feet, each within the confines of squares 4 and 5. He repeats the process until he reaches squares 7 and 8, at which point he will have to turn around and return to square 2. While balancing on one foot, the competitor will bend down to pick up his puck, in square 1. Hopping onto square 1, the player will turn to throw his puck onto square 2. The player will repeat the process until he has thrown and picked up his puck from all eight squares. In the final round, once the player reaches squares 7 and 8, with his back facing the semi-circle, he will need to bend down and fish for his puck with his hands feeling the ground behind him. The winner is the person who manages to pick up his puck. Whenever a player’s foot touches the edges of any of the squares, he’ll miss a turn.
BOOST THESE SKILLS The agile player with the best balancing and hopping skills will win.
More old-school games coming up next…
4) Flag eraser game
WHAT This used to be the top reason why student made a beeline for the school bookshop during recess to buy rectangular erasers — each costing 10 cents — marked with the national flag of a country. The earlier version of this game, called kuti kuti, uses colourful tiny plastic figurines of various fruit, vegetables, insects and animals (in photo above, right). These can be bought from a mamak (neighbourhood Indian provision) shop or stall. Bottle caps and rubber bands were also used as well.
HOW IT’S PLAYED Requires at least two players. Using a finger — often the index or thumb —players take turns to flick their erasers so as to land theirs on top of their competitor’s. The winner of the game is the eraser that lands on top of his opponent’s. To make the game even more competitive, the losing party will have to surrender his eraser to the winner. The same rules apply to kuti kuti.
BOOST THESE SKILLS Use this game to hone your kiddo’s fine motor skills as he will need to apply just enough force to ensure that his eraser lands on top of his opponent’s. Kuti kuti requires even more precise motor skills, given how much smaller the game pieces are.
5) Marbles (Goli)
WHAT Coming in a wide variety of colours, some gamers eventually become collectors of marbles. Just be sure not to play this noisy game in the middle of the night. Your neighbours won’t be too pleased. Use chalk to draw a circle on the ground ― each person will then place all of their marbles within the circle.
HOW IT’S PLAYED Requires two players. Round by round, players will take turns to flick their competitor’s marbles out of the circle. The player with the most marbles left inside the circle at the end of the game is the winner.
BOOST THESE SKILLS The game puts your child’s fine motor skills to the test. He will need to apply just enough force to flick his opponent’s marbles out of the circle while ensuring that his stays within its borders.
6) Pick-up sticks
WHAT This game is commonly played using wooden or plastic sticks bought from toy shops. You can also use satay sticks painted in different colours.
HOW IT’S PLAYED Needs two or more players. Use one hand to hold the bunch of sticks upright, then release them. These sticks will fall in random spots. Taking turns, each participant will have to pick up a stick without moving others. The participant will miss a turn whenever he moves another stick accidentally.
BOOST THESE SKILLS Besides improving one’s fine motor skills, the game also puts your kid’s spatial awareness to the test. He will need to decide which stick to pick and how he should pick them in such a way that it does not affect the position of the other sticks.
7) Zero point (Yay yay)
WHAT Using a long loop of interlocking rubber bands, participants will have to jump in various patterns before they can move on to the next level.
HOW IT’S PLAYED Requires at least three players. The loop of rubber bands should be long enough such that a participant can play without hitting the two players holding it, nor can it rest on the ground. The two players holding the rubber band loop will stand on opposite sides facing each other. Wrap the rubber bands around the holders’ ankles, then form a rectangle. The player will be jumping in a series of patterns. Each pattern has to be repeated seven times before proceeding to the next. The patterns are as follows:
Pattern #1 The player first plants both feet within the rectangle, he then jumps out by spreading his legs on either side of the rectangle, while ensuring that he doesn’t touch the rubber bands.
Pattern #2 Place one foot (eg left) inside the rectangle and the other (eg right) outside it. You then jump to switch the positions of your feet ― your left foot will now be outside the rectangle and the right foot inside it. Continue switching your feet six more times to complete this pattern.
Pattern #3 Place your feet on the rubber bands on either side of the rectangle, then jump and place your feet outside the rectangle. Next, jump to return to the starting position. Do this six more times.
Pattern #4 Rest one foot (eg left) on the rubber band, while placing the other foot (eg right) outside the rectangle. Jump, then place left on the outside of the rectangle, with the right foot on the rubber band. Next, return to the starting position by jumping. Repeat this six more times.
The player who successfully carries out all four patterns will move on to the next level, where the rubber band will be shifted to knee level. The rubber band will be shifted higher and higher (the highest everyone can attain is waist level) after each level is cleared.
BOOSTS THESE SKILLS A physically demanding game, the player is required to coordinate the legs and eyes in order to progress through the different levels.
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