Tradition has it that Roman soldiers played hopscotch to improve their footwork, and the children's game developed from youngsters watching the soldiers. We do know that it has been played for many hundreds of years, on different types of grids. Hopscotch is adaptable for kids of preschool age on up.
How to Play
The first step is drawing the grid. The hopscotch grid most often used in the United States begins with a circle, often named "home." This is followed by three single squares, a double square, a single square, a double square, two single squares and another circle, traditionally called "heaven."
Some grids simply alternate singles and doubles, beginning with a single. This is an easier grid than the more traditional, because hopping on one foot is a higher level skill.
When the grid is ready for play to begin, the first player tosses a marker into the first square. The marker must land completely within the square. The player hops through the court, landing on one foot in single squares and both feet in double squares. At the end of the course, the player turns around and moves back to the beginning, stopping to pick up the marker on the way back. If a player steps on a line or steps out of the grid, the turn is over.
If the player successfully finishes the course, he or she throws the marker into the second square and repeats the exercise. The first player to move the marker through the entire grid wins the game.
Where to Play
A concrete driveway or patio is the spot most often used for hopscotch, but an area of dirt or sand is usable, so don't forget about hopscotch on your beach vacations.
And if you want to participate with the grandchildren, beach sand is easier on older joints than concrete. Avoid soft sand, though, because it can cause falls.
In inclement weather, you can make a grid indoors using masking tape. An area of tightly woven carpet is ideal for this trick. Hopscotch rugs are also widely available at online toy stores.
To make hopscotch easier for a beginner, don't penalize players for stepping on the lines. To make hopscotch more challenging for more advanced players, try these variations:
- The player must skip the square holding his or her marker.
- A square which holds a marker must be skipped, no matter which player the marker belongs to. This variation can require considerable athleticism.
- When hopping in a series of single squares, some require that the player alternate feet.
Versions Played in Other Countries
Variations of hopscotch are played in many areas of the world. Some of the games are quite complex, but here are two that are easy to learn and to play.
- In Albania, children play varra. The grid is a simple 3X3 square, yielding 9 squares. The bottom row is numbered 1-3 from left to right. The middle row is numbered 4-6 from right to left. The top row is numbered 7-9 from left to right. The players decide on two squares that can be designated as rest squares. In those squares players can put both feet down. The object is to hop from 1-9 without stepping on a line or putting both feet down (except in a rest square). Once children have mastered that level, they can try it while holding their hands behind their back.
- In the Netherlands, children play a version based on the days of the week. They start in a square called home, then single jump into squares named Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Next comes a double square -- Thursday and Friday -- that allows a chance to rest. Then one more single jump for Saturday before they reach Sunday, where they are allowed to put both feet down and turn around to do the same thing in reverse. Part of the game is saying the days of the week correctly as you jump.