Teachwire Logo
MathsBeat
MathsBeat
News

The Games Children (Shouldn’t)? Play

  • The Games Children (Shouldn’t)? Play

The Telegraph has reported this week that a school in Leeds has banned its pupils from playing tig.

The full story is that the school’s playing fields won’t be used at break times until the weather improves. The comparatively smaller space the students currently have to run around in is more likely to result in injuries from games like tig, hence the ban.

Still, it did get us thinking about the long and rich tradition of playground games that carry certain physical risks – those that we played ourselves, the dangers they pose and the occasions when the powers that be have felt the need to forcibly intervene…

1. British Bulldog

The Games Children (Shouldn’t)? Play

The Rules:
A crowd of indeterminate number assemble on one side of an improvised ‘arena’ (usually a space between two opposing walls or a large square), in the middle of which stands a single pupil (the ‘Bulldog’). The crowd has to run from one side to the other without being tagged/tackled/manhandled by the pupil in the middle – any that do get caught become bulldogs themselves. The game continues until the last member of the crowd is declared the winner, or the bell goes.

Why ban it?
The game came up in an ATL survey back back in 2011, in which 29% of respondents reported it being banned from their schools.

While there’s never been a nationally mandated ‘health and safety’ decree banning it from schools nationwide, many have done so of their own volition.

The game’s popularity and subsequent calls to clamp down on it seem to come around every few years - and so long as tragic cases like this one continue make headlines, such concerns aren’t likely to go away any time soon.

2. Tennis balls

The Games Children (Shouldn’t)? Play

The Rules
Okay, so not a game per se, but one tennis ball is all a group of children need in order to get up to all sorts of hijinks – such as a game of ‘Fumble’, for instance, which Teachwire remembers from its own school days (and apparently has an American variant, going by the charming name of ‘Butts Up’).

A group of children gather in front of a wall with a single tennis ball. The game starts when one player throws the ball against the wall – the rest of the players then have to catch the ball on rebound with one hand, before then throwing the ball themselves. Any player that fumbles their catch then becomes a target for the other players, who scramble to try and throw the ball at him or her. If the fumbler can touch the wall before they’re hit, they remain in play; if not, they’re out – and somewhat bruised.

Why ban it?
Any ball game that employs a ‘projectile rule’ is an accident waiting to happen – but at least they’re easy spot and stop while in progress.

Or, you could do what Earl Beatty Public School in Toronto did in 2011 and just ban the use all balls completely, irrespective of shape or size.

3. Conkers

The Games Children (Shouldn’t)? Play

The Rules
Two players stand opposite each other, both holding conkers that have been drilled through and knotted to the end of shoe laces. Players take it in turns be the ‘striker’, which involves wrapping their conker around their fist and using it to hit their opponent’s conker while it’s held suspended above the ground. Play continues until one player successfully shatters their opponent’s conker, whereupon they’re declared the winner.

For a fuller explanation and some interesting notes on the game’s history, see this page hosted by Woodlands Junior School in Kent.

Why ban it?
As noted in the entertaining ‘Myth-busters’ section of the Health and Safety Executive’s website, it’s never been banned officially. Some schools have independently chosen to do so, of course – and there was a notable discussion around conkers circa 2009, when it was reported that children were being made to wear safety goggles before playing.

Cue the health and safety angle – but as one headteacher told the The Guardian, the narrative wasn’t quite as simple as that…

Mind you, safety risk or no, it’s looking like The Kids themselves are less interested in playing conkers these days. Oh well, there’s always this...

4. Red Rover

The Games Children (Shouldn’t)? Play

The Rules
More common Stateside than it is over here, Red Rover sees two teams (‘east’ and ‘west’) line up opposite each other holding hands or linking arms. The east team names a west player and chants “Red Rover, come on over”. That player then has to run across and try to break through east’s chain; if they fail, they switch teams. If they succeed, they nominate one of the two players where the chain was breached to join west.

Play continues with both sides taking turns to do the chanting until there are no more players left on one of the sides.

Why ban it?
Well, depending on the enthusiasm and aggression of those taking part, Red Rover can be an injurious business. And an expensive one too, as one Californian school district found to its cost, after it was sued by the parents of a boy who broke his leg playing the game and ended up settling the lawsuit for $15,000.

  Kyra Malicse

5. Snowball Fights

The Games Children (Shouldn’t)? Play

The Rules
There’s snow on the ground. You throw it at each other.

Why Ban It?
Where to start? Tripping hazards. Risk of exposure. The propensity for some children to pack their snowball with pebble payloads. For these, and many other obvious reasons, schools often outlaw snowball fights – though the penalties for pupils who persist in the practice vary.

When it comes to clamping down on snow-based play, however, authorities in Belgium’s Flanders region are the ones to beat. In 2013 they outlawed snowball fights among children and adults alike, levying fines of up to €100 on those flouting the ban…

Get FREE weekly updates, lesson plans and resources sent to your inbox!