How do children from other nations play?

Pia Kotzur has been working as an editor at NetMoms since 2010 and has since been able to gain a lot of experience on what moves mothers in everyday life. After completing her studies in gender research and cultural studies, she delved into the cosmos of parent and family issues and now heads the NetMoms editorial team. Even part of a great (and sometimes challenging) patchwork family, they are particularly interested in unconventional family models. Her creed: If it feels right, then it is also good.

Whether with building blocks, dolls or toy cars – we seem to know what our children like to play with. But do we also know what children from other nations like to play with? Here you can read to what extent children’s play behavior is similar in different countries and how it differs. We have also put together a selection of games from other countries for you and your child.

In this article

Who doesn’t know the famous children’s games? On the one hand there are “catch”, “blind cow”, “the sack is about” and “mother, father, child”. On the other hand there are the dolls, dream castles, building blocks and racing cars. Our age likes each other strongly have digitized and digitization may have long since found their way into our children’s playrooms (just think of the game consoles: every fifth household in Germany now has at least one), but these classics remain popular with children as leisure activities. But what about other nations? Are there similar games or similar toys there??

Europe and the USA: colorful, digital and sustainable

The corresponding children’s games are often found in the countries of Europe and the USA. They are just hiding under a different name. In the United States, for example, blind cow is called "Blindman’s buff" (literally translated: the leather of the blind man), in Spain "Gallina Ciega" (literally translated: the blind chicken). You can find this and other classics in Great Britain, France, Spain, the Czech Republic, Italy, Austria and Switzerland. The equipment in the children’s rooms is similar: almost every child knows dolls and the like. Germany in particular has contributed to these trend toys since teddy bears and dolls were developed and produced here at the beginning of the 20th century, and their sales increased over the years – and even spilled over to the USA. But there are also many trends coming to us from the United States that make children’s hearts beat faster: battery-operated cars, talking dolls and sparkling plastic locks are now also decorating children’s rooms in Europe.

Africa, Asia and South America: creatively handcrafted

Unfortunately, such trends are often a question of cost, which is why DVDs, video games and CDs in particular are sold primarily in the industrialized countries of Europe and the USA. But although children in developing countries often have to do without expensive toys, their playfulness and imagination are in no way inferior to children from Europe and the USA. They often show a lot of improvisation skills regarding the use of their toys.

In addition to the increasing popularity of computer games and consoles, the motto of this year’s toy fair in Nuremberg draws attention to another trend: sustainability and ecological materials are also important and in some cases even decisive criteria for buying toys. It should also be colorful. Toys with a learning function and high tech are also becoming increasingly popular.

On the contrary: in many developing countries, children build their own toys because they lack the means to buy doll houses and leather soccer balls. Here you can play with soccer balls made of clay and with dolls made of fabric remnants sewn together. There are no limits to children’s creativity. But even if the children have to make their own toys, their playing behavior is very similar to the behavior of European and American children – even if, due to the circumstances, not quite as consumer-oriented or technically oriented.

Climate influences game behavior

In addition, the climate influences children’s play behavior: in warm countries, it is common for them to spend a lot of time outdoors and play outdoors. In colder regions, such as in some regions of Russia, the children tend to adapt to the more homely environment: the famous matryoshkas, small wooden dolls that are put together and played a lot with at home. In contrast, children in South America and Africa often grow up in the country with many animals that move their center of life and play outside.

Different countries, different conditions – but everyone likes to play a lot

The children’s natural play instinct is all over world available. Playing behavior often differs in material matters and climatic conditions. But through creativity and talent for improvisation, the child’s play instinct prevails all over the world and thus contributes to the development of children. You can find out in our articles why play is so important for children and how you can promote your child’s creativity and self-confidence: "Why play is so important for your child" and "Promote creativity and self-confidence through play".

Well-known games from other countries

From Israel: apple, pear, cherry

Age: from 4 years

Number: 5-8 players

You need this: a rope to jump

Thats how it works: A fruit name is assigned to each child, for example apple or pear. Two of the children are now swinging the rope, which must be big enough for the children to jump through. Those who swing the rope call the fruit names and the child whose fruit name has been called must jump into the rope. Several fruit names can be called at the same time, so that more and more children jump in the rope.

From the Philippines: The Gordian knot

Age: from 4 years

Number: 8-10 players

You need this: enough space

Thats how it works: The children stand in a large circle and close their eyes. Now they have to run towards each other and take their hands. When you open your eyes again, the so-called Gordian knot is created. The children must continue to hold hands and try to free themselves from this knot by climbing and climbing over other players.

From South Africa: give me the ball

Age: from age 6

Number: ideally from 10 players

You need this: a ball

Thats how it works: The children divide into two groups of the same size and face each other. one meter in a row. The foremost child bends down and passes the ball on to his backers through his legs. When the last child in the row has got the ball, they have to dash forward and pass the ball back again. The group in which the first player is at the top of the group from the beginning has won.

From the Czech Republic: obstacle race

Age: from age 6

Number: 8-10 players

You need this: some larger items, e.g. Boxes, piles of wood, etc.

Thats how it works: The children have to set up a course with the objects. They form two groups and appoint approximately two runners and two pilots in the respective groups. A child is the referee. The two runners are blindfolded and line up at the start line. The man behind holds his man in front by the shoulders. The two pilots must now try to lead the blind runners through the course by shouting. Then it’s the other group’s turn. The group with the fastest runners won.

From Spain: jump over the sheep

Age: from 3 years

Number: from 3 players

You need this: resourcefulness

Thats how it works: The most important thing in this game is fun and creativity. There is no winner or loser. One child lies down on the floor and is the sheep, the other child is the "stupid sheep". It has to try to "skilfully" jump over the sheep. If it starts up, it can somersault, roll over the ground or do other things. Several children can lie in a row. The more sheep, the more difficult it becomes for the so-called "stupid sheep".

From Australia: who will find the treasure?

Age: from 4 years

Number: from 2 players

You need this: a few items to hide (they shouldn’t be too small or too pointed / sharp) and a sandy area, e.g. a sandpit, playground or beach

Thats how it works: First, the children have to mark out an area where they want to hide the objects. A time frame must also be set in which the hidden objects are to be found. If one child hides the objects in the sand, the other child must look away. Then it has to search for and find the objects that were hidden in the given time frame. It is then the turn of the other child to search.


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