Passing the wild foxtail grass growing by the side of the old off-road car park on the Esplanade recently, I remembered my grandmother’s game of “grandfather, grandfather, jump out of bed”.

She’d pick a foxtail grass, pinch the flowering grass head a few millimetres from the bottom to separate it, then pop it back putting the grass stem between her middle and ring finger of her left hand with her palm facing down.

We would then chant the rhyme and, on the word ‘jump’, would bring the other hand up to knock the heel of her left hand causing the grass to pop out.

Amongst other traditional outdoor pastimes which are too good to be lost in the mists of time are:

Daisy chains – pick a few daisies taking care to leave long stalks.  Use a fairly long thumbnail to make a slit in the middle of the stem of the first daisy, then thread the next daisy stem through the hole and repeat until you have a chain long enough to make a bracelet, crown, necklace or anything you can think of…  Children often get the hang of it quite quickly, but younger children and nail-biters may need a little extra help splitting the stems.

Kim’s Game – you will need a selection of small items such as a flower, a pebble, a leaf, a seed, a snail shell, a berry and a cloth or something to cover everything with.  Set the items out and ask the child/ren to look at them for a minute or so, then cover them over and see how many the child/ren can remember.  Variations of the game include covering the items, then removing or adding something, or swapping one item for something different and see if the child/ren can spot the difference.

Cat’s Cradle – all you need is a length of string about 1.25m (4ft) long tied in a loop.  Two or more players take turns to twist the loop into patterns using their hands and fingers then transferring the shape to the next player without making a mistake.  Too complicated to explain in words but here’s a video demonstration:


Simple timeless fun!

If you know of any other such games or activities do please let us know

Natalie, Friends of Rochester Churchfields and Esplanade (FoRCE)

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