Playground Game Origins

British Bulldog, What’s the Time, Mr Wolf and conkers have provided hours of fun for people of all ages, but do you know were these games originated? We have taken a look this month at some of our most beloved school playground games.

British Bulldog

As the name suggests this was a game first started in the UK. A controversial lunchtime past time, it has often been considered too rough for children to play although with careful supervision any issues can be eliminated. Bulldog has been spread across the world with many variations, including Pom-pom-pullaway, Chinese Wall and Fishy Fishy. Having been around since at least the 1920’s this is a perfect game for large school play areas.

Blind Man’s Buff

One of the first versions was played in Ancient Greece where it was called “Copper Mosquito” as well as China as far back in 500 B.C. This is an international known game reaching remote areas as Afghanistan and far Asia. Similar versions include Marco Polo, a water based version, as well as Deadman. The term “buff” refers to a small push in its older sense.


The playground game we know and love was first mentioned in Robert Southeby’s memoirs published in 1821 when snail shells or hazelnuts were used. It was only from the 1850’s that horse chesnuts were first used. The first recored game was on the Isle of Wight in 1848. There is uncertainty over the origins of the name, possibly from the word Conch as it was originally played with snail shells, but could also refer to conquering an opponent.


The first recorded reference was in the 1600’s although it is believed that an ancient form was played by Roman children. It was originally called “Scotch-hope” or “Scotch Hoppers” with the term “scotch” referring to “an incised line or scratch”. Interesting, in Czech and Slovak both “hop” and “scotch” (skoc) mean to jump.


So there you have it, some background in to our most treasured playground games!

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