50 traditional games and activities from your childhood

Days out, Vintage Holidays, Activity

Posted by Ed on 29th November 2021


To share our love of Ladybird Books, we've listed our top 50 traditional games and activities. From building a den to making daisy chains, flying a kite or blowing bubbles, traditional childhood games allow us to use our imagination and creativity.

Remember making paper aeroplanes or building sandcastles? So do we. Nostalgia is a huge part of family holidays whether you’re on the beach or in the countryside. There’s a reason why these traditional activities are still so popular – it’s because we all love being creative and being outside. 

Here in the UK, traditional seaside holidays in places like Devon and Cornwall have allowed us to go rock pooling and fly kites, while rural breaks were all about making daisy chains and skipping rope. And these ideas never go out of style. 

Check out our top 50 traditional games and activities graphic below to inspire your next holiday, or browse our fun printables for children to take with you.

Holiday cottages in the UK


50 traditional childhood activities explained

  1. Making paper aeroplanes: carefully fold a sheet of paper into a soaring jet and see whose flies the furthest.
  2. Building a den: whether inside or outside, a den is a perfect place to hide away from the grown-ups for a while.
  3. Rock pooling: grab your buckets and nets and see what critters you can find lurking in the curious pools left behind by the sea.
  4. Building sandcastles: challenge your family to see who can sculpt the biggest castle from the sand.
  5. Playing ‘tag’: run away from the person who is ‘it’ and try not to let them touch you. If they do, then you become ‘it’ and you must try to tag someone else.
  6. Hide and seek: while the seeker closes their eyes and counts to 100, the others have to hide. The first player found becomes the next seeker and the last is the winner of the round.
  7. I spy: choose an object that you can see and give its first letter as a clue. The other players then take turns to correctly guess the object. Works perfectly as a car game!
  8. Crabbing: dangle your line into the sea, weighted with some bait, and see who can catch the biggest crab.
  9. Catch: throw a ball, frisbee or similar object back and forth to each other.
  10. Tiddlywinks: take turns to see who can flick all their coloured winks (small plastic discs) into the pot first.

Paper aeroplanes, dens, and sandcastle building

  1. Skipping rope: two players turn a rope, swinging it in a circle, and the others jump over it while chanting a rhyme or counting.
  2. Hopscotch: toss a small object into numbered triangles or a pattern of rectangles outlined on the ground, and then hop through the spaces to retrieve it.
  3. Cat’s cradle: create various string figures between the fingers by passing a loop of string back and forth between two or more players. 
  4. Sleeping lions: turn into a sleeping lion and lay motionless on the ground while the ‘hunters’ roam the room telling jokes, and so on. Anyone who itches, wriggles or giggles is out. 
  5. Marbles: place your marbles inside a circle and when it’s your turn, flick your shooter marble with your thumb and try to hit as many out of the circle as possible - the more you knock out, the more you get to keep.
  6. Heads down thumbs up: half of the group put their heads down onto a desk and close their eyes with their thumbs raised. The others quietly choose one person each and press down on their thumb – those whose thumbs have been pressed down then have to guess who touched them.
  7. Daisy chains: thread daisies together to make necklaces, bracelets, rings and crowns.
  8. Roller skating: don your wheels, put on your favourite music and get your heart pumping.
  9. Duck Duck Goose: if someone tags your head and yells ‘goose’, the chase is on! Run after that person and try to tag them before they get around the circle and sit in your spot.
  10. What’s the time Mr Wolf: avoid being caught by the ‘wolf’ when he shouts ‘dinnertime!’ and gives chase.

Daisy chains, skipping rope, and roller skating

  1. Hula hoops: swing your hips and see who can spin a hula hoop the longest.
  2. Telephone plastic cups: forget iPhones, tie two plastic cups together with some string, keep it taut and you’ve got yourself a telephone!
  3. Conkers: each player has a conker threaded on a string and takes turns hitting the opponent’s conker – the winner is the person whose conker doesn’t smash.
  4. Handshakes: put your rhythm and coordination to the test with some hand-clapping games.
  5. Snakes and ladders: a board game where you roll dice and navigate from the start (bottom square) to the finish (top square), helped by climbing ladders and hindered by falling down snakes.
  6. Rounders: a bat and ball game where points are scored by players completing a circuit past four bases without being put ‘out’.
  7. Yo-yo: this popular toy consists of a length of string tied at one end to a flat spool, which can be wound up and down with a series of fun tricks.
  8. Diabolos: throw and catch a spinning top by moving a cord fastened to two sticks.
  9. Road mats for toy cars: bring your toy cars to life with these illustrated play mats.
  10. Cowboys and Indians: choose a side and recreate the wild frontier, with pretend shooting, chasing and capturing.

Hula hooping, snakes and ladders, and telephone plastic cups

  1. Pooh sticks: play Winnie the Pooh’s favourite game, dropping sticks into the water from the upstream side of a bridge and seeing whose stick appears first on the downstream side.
  2. 40 40: a game similar to hide and seek, but the hiding players must get back to a ‘base’ without being seen by the seeker.
  3. British bulldog: run from one end of a playing field to the other, without being caught by the ‘bulldogs’ waiting in the middle. The last remaining player is the winner.
  4. Frisbee: fling this flying disc back and forth between players.
  5. Bubbles: mix some washing up liquid with water and chase, pop and have great fun blowing bubbles.
  6. Swingball: compete to get the ball to the top or bottom of the spiral to win.
  7. Space hoppers: rubber balls with handles that you can bounce around on.
  8. Pogo sticks: a device for jumping off the ground in a standing position, through the aid of a spring.
  9. Treehouses: there’s nothing more magical than climbing up into a playhouse in the sky.
  10. Jacks: several small, six-pronged metal pieces are strewn on the floor. The player tosses a ball into the air and then tries with one hand to pick up the jacks and catch the ball, usually before it bounces.

Frisbee, bubbles, and space hoppers

  1. Kiss chase: similar to tag, the person who is ‘it’ has to catch and kiss another of the participants, who then subsequently becomes ‘it’.
  2. Kite flying: the perfect way to spend a windy day, make your kite soar and dance across the sky.
  3. Wheelbarrow races: two players race with one teammate playing the role of the driver, holding onto the other player’s ankles as they walk with their hands as the wheelbarrow.
  4. Leapfrog: players vault over each other’s stooped backs.
  5. Collecting shells: wander the seashore and see what shapes, colours and designs of shells you can find.
  6. Burying each other at the beach: scoop enough sand to bury each other’s feet, legs, hands and arms.
  7. Piggy in the middle: try to throw a ball to each other without the player in the middle intercepting it, if they do, the last player to throw the ball is now the ‘piggy in the middle’.
  8. Hacky sacks: stand in a circle, kicking a footbag to each other for as long as possible without it touching the ground.
  9. Tie-dye: transform your clothes into a rainbow masterpiece by tying the fabric in knots with rubber bands and immersing in various bright-coloured dyes.
  10. Donkey rides: these friendly animals are usually found at traditional seaside resorts for rides along the beach.

Leapfrog, collecting shells, and kite flying

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Holidays in the UK

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.