On the surface, hopscotch may just seem like another fun little game from your childhood. However, did you know that being able to play hopscotch outside can actually serve as a developmental mile marker? When our kids were babies, we played close attention to their development — when they rolled over, crawled, walked, or spoke their first words. By the time they reach the toddler years, you’ve usually moved on to working on language and social development. The truth is, though, that even young children are still working towards hitting physical milestones.
According to ScienceDaily, toddlers learn to jump between the ages of two and three. From there, most kids pick up standing on one leg and, eventually, hopping on one leg soon after. By five, nearly all “typically developing” children will have learned to hop on one leg. In other words, you can add a hopscotch “board” to your sidewalk-chalk repertoire when your kiddos finish preschool because, by kindergarten, it’ll be another fun game to play together outside.
Do you actually remember how to play hopscotch, though? If you need a refresher (and you probably do, since you’re here), we have one ready to go!
The History of Hopscotch
The earliest form of the game can be traced back to prehistoric India and then the early Roman Empire. Some historians say a longer design of the game was used to train Roman soldiers, working on their footwork and agility as they went through the course in full armor. But the modern version of the game can be pinpointed to a seventeenth-century game in the English speaking world when the Book of Games written between 1635 and 1672 by Francis Willughby mentions a “Scotch Hopper.”
The Hopscotch Board
The typical hopscotch playing area consists of drawn squares. The first three squares are in a straight line. Then two squares are drawn together, followed by another single square, another pair, and then the final spot.
There are multiple variations, however. And it can be as plain or as festive as you’d like. This one features some Sesame Street friends for moral support.
How To Play
The gist of hopscotch is actually pretty simple. Grab a flat stone and toss it along the hopscotch design. You should aim for the first square during your first turn, the second square during your second turn, and so on. Next, hop through the design/board, but skip the square where your stone landed. Once you get to the final spot (number ten), turn around and return to the start, picking up your stone on the way back… but still skipping that space as you return.
The Nit-Picky Rules
For little kids, just skipping the square where their stone landed might be enough of a rule. As they get older, though, there are a few more things to consider.
1. Only one foot should be put down at a time, unless you’re at a double square.
2. When you hit a double-square, you can put both feet down… as long as they’re in separate squares.
3. Hop the squares in order.
4. If you skip a square, you lose your turn.
5. Your foot must be solidly in the right square. Landing on the lines between or around squares makes you lose a turn.*
*In other words, if you’re dealing with a small human or amateur “hopper,” you should probably make your squares smaller, so they don’t have to take giant hops.
How To Win
As you work your way through the board, players will inevitably tip over or trip out of line, thus losing their turn and needing to repeat the number during their next turn. As such, the first person to move their way through all ten “levels” is the winner.
Add Some Variations
Looking to change it up? Try personalizing the board. There’s no rule that says your hopscotch board must be in a straight line. Go in a spiral or make a hard turn to the right or left midway through. You could also vary the squares or use other shapes altogether. You could also incorporate other body parts. If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, you could even turn your hopscotch game into more of an obstacle course. Really, there’s no right or wrong way to play… as long as you’re having fun. And, of course, practicing those hopping skills.
Maybe you hate that chalky feeling on your fingers. Or you hate wasting time drawing the hopscotch board every single time you want to play. Whatever the reason, there’s a way around it: buying a reusable hopscotch mat! Many major retailers (think Target) offer yoga-like hopscotch mats with the pattern printed on for ease of use.
More Chalk Games
If you had a blast playing hopscotch, you can use that chalk to keep the good times going. Try some of these fun games once your hopscotching is done:
- Avoid the Shark: Draw “beaches” various distances apart with waves (or blue chalk lines) between. Add some shark fins in the water between the beaches, and take turns trying to jump from beach-to-beach without falling in the water. If a player falls on a shark, they have to start over!
- Chalk Bullseye: Draw one or more concentric circles with a bullseye in the middle. Assign a point value to each circle and, of course, the bullseye. Then have everyone take turns tossing items to try to get the most points.
- Chalk Maze: Hey, if you’ve got a big driveway, a box of chalk can keep your kiddos entertained for hours. One particularly fun thing for them to do is to create a maze to follow — or to challenge friends to follow. It can me one super-long loopy line or a squiggly “track” for bikes. It can even be a mix of lines, hopscotch boards, and any other chalk obstacles your little one can think up.
- Chalk Twister: Yes, we are talking about the beloved game that requires you to bend your body like a contortionist! You’ll need at least four colors of chalk for this so you can create four lines of six colored shapes that will make up the playing “board.” You can even get creative and use different types of illustrations, as opposed to just circles. Then all you need are some bendy players and someone to yell out instructions.
Ready to play?