Childhood games


Growing up as a kid, I loved playing games with all the other neighborhood kids and more often than not, cousins too. A lot of the games we played are your standard stuff like hide and seek, tag, freeze tag, trompos, canicas, soccer, going on long bike rides around the hood, hitting rocks with a stick, throwing stuff at RTD buses passing by, you know, those kind of games. The ones were all you needed was a bunch of friends and a sunny afternoon. Since we were all from low income families back in the day, course we didn’t know it at the time and speaking for myself, still am, we created our own fun and those were some of the best times I had in my childhood. I was even caught up in the whole pog craze. Then I got swept up in the yo-yo craze tambien. One of the best games I remember playing with my cousins was getting two sticks. A short, thick one and a long skinny one. We would dig a hole in the dirt and place the small stick over the hole. We would then used the longer stick to chuck the short stick as far as we could,  the way you hit a golf ball with a club. The winner was who ever threw it the fardest. We had some good times playing with two sticks and a hole in the dirt. So, I wanna know what games you guys/gals played when you were a kid. Was it made up ? Did someone get hurt from the game ? Were you emotionally scarred for life like I was when you were picked last at everything because everyone thought you’d suck, but then you’d be the one kicking ass ? Do you even remember how to play those games ? (cause god knows I can’t remember how to play canicas anymore) Have you taught your kids, nephews and god children to play those same games ? Dime… AND please keep any crazy stories about playing house and doctor to yourself, this is a family site. Unless they’re really good, then please share them by all means 🙂

34 thoughts on “Childhood games

  1. We played “the beans are burning in the pot” or at least thats what we called it. We got a belt and one person “cooked the beans” which meant he hid the belt. then hed yell “the beans are burning in the pot” and we all had to find it. Whoever found it got to hit everyone with the belt until they got back to the safe zone.

    it was great!

  2. I used to play many games as a kid let me try and list them.
    cops and robbers
    water balloon fight/trash bags filled with water fight
    ride bikes in groups
    mud taco stand
    tell scary stories
    hide n seek
    freeze tag
    water slide with a plastic runner used for inside the house we would add soap and water and slide all over the place
    haunted house
    and of course with the toys I had which was a combo of girl toys and boy toys since I had older brothers
    I have played with rocks and even water bugs and caterpillers yuck!
    I can’t think of anymore I’ll be back when I think of some more.

  3. Besides marbles, tops, and yo-yos, and all the other games kids play, one of the most popular pastimes in much of the LA Eastside was playing in the hills, I in Lincoln Hts. When the grass was green and the soil damp it was perfect for making forts and having grass clod battles. Nothing more fun than pulling up a large hunk of grass with a huge dirt clod still stuck on it, then throwing it at your enemy in the other hole in the ground fort, and making a direct hit on them.

    Then when the grass got dry in the summer we would scrounge up old cardboard and make slides down the hills. Onetime above Eastlake Park we put together an old matress and put it on top of a refrigerator cardboard container.
    About eight or ten of us kids got going so fast down the hill from Thomas St that we ended up hitting the pavement on the street and got all kinds of road rash and bruises.

    Then of course there was always the rockfights whenever we were playing at the railroad yards, but somebody always ended up getting stiches at the old Lincoln Hts Emergency Hospital next to the Boys Club.

    Another favorite pastime was slidding down the mossy banks of the LA River when a good green slime trail was available in the summer. Then getting so dirty that we would wash our clothes in the LA RIver before going home.

  4. My parents did not have much money, but they showed my brother and I how to use our imagination.

    -Building castles with recycled cardboard boxes

    -Digging holes in the back yard filling them with water and enjoying a mud bath

    -going on saffari in between the over grown bushes in the back yard. As a kid everything seems big and let me tell you I remember those bushes and it did look like a huge jungle while inside. ( I bet if I see those bushes now, they will be no bigger that waist high)

    -asking the postal worker (mail man, mail lady) for rubber bands and making sling shots out of tree branches.

    -water ballon fights, with long rubber slings that would launch the water ballon one block away ( we would battle the kids from the other block.)

    -touch futball on the street with parked cars as obsticles


    -The funnest game ever, “Putaso Ball”. Only the back yard houses that had dogs where off limits. Any ball would do, but our preference was a semi-flat soccer ball. It is played as a combination of Tag and Dodge Ball. Throw the ball- hit the other player and yell “PUTASO, YOUR IT!” It is an aggresive contact sport and just like Rugby no safety pads or equipment where used- Kids heal quickly.

    My wife and I are trying to instill the same type of creative spirit on our son. It is very hard with all the commercial advertisements of toys. Most of the toys are pretty and cool to look at. But, why buy a Star Wars light saver that the child is only going to play with for about 2 to 3 days or until the batteries run out and then toss it. A broom stick is good enough, it can be a sword, cane, limbo stick learn balance by laying it flat on the ground and standing on it. The ideas are endless.

    So, we got rid of our TV cable and hid the TV in a back room that we rearly go into, and all of sudden we have lots of time to play, talk, read, listen to music and/or just hang out.

    Thank you El Random Hero for bringing back memories.


  5. I know this is gonna sound so “not childhood-y”, but for me I always think of playing Super Mario Brothers on Famicom with my Japanese friends. My school was about 30-40% Asian, and that was like a language barrier-proof way of getting to know people from a different culture.

    In my neighborhood there was a lot of fort building, which generally involved digging a colossal hole in someone’s yard, building up a wall around it and then stockpiling some kind of makeshift armory. We did this in the sandboxes at school, but it was more like playing “trench warfare” when we did it there. That could get pretty bloody and brutal.

    I had a bunk bed, so that was a pirate ship, where many arguments were had about who got to have which cool pirate name. I don’t know if our ship ever managed to leave port, but it was crazy fun.

    I remember a lot of kids playing “over the roof” where the goal was to throw balls of various types over the roof of someone’s house to catchers on the other side. Sometimes you would use a bat to hit the ball over. I did once see this done with lawn darts, until someone stopped it.

    Bike gang. I don’t think I need to explain this one, but my block were badass, with our crappy bikes and makeshift weapons.

    I played dodgeball/nationball with my Asian friends pretty much every day from 2nd grade to 7th grade. 8th grade, things became sort of testosterone-fueled and violent, as we switched to really aggressive games of handball played with dodgeballs.

  6. Yeah !! I use to slide down the grass at Hollenbeck park while my mom and sisters were on the swings. I also use to play a game like “putaso-ball”, murder ball or suicide. The game was a combination of hand ball, dodge ball and putasos. Basically we would throw a handball against a wall as hard as we could and catch as it bounced back. If you caught it you throw it back, but if you trid to catch it and dropped it, everyone would wail on you until you touched the wall !!! We learned to be quick and agile REALLY fast because it you didn’t, everyone would bomb on you.

  7. Anybody else play “open chest?” Where you had to walk around all day with your arms covering your chest (like you are making an X) and if you let them down for any reason (like, say, eating) you got punched in the chest. But if somebody tried to punch you but you got your arms back up in time to block it you got a free shot at them. Oh, to me young and just punch fools in the chest all day! Back when it was junior high. None of this middle school BS!

  8. I guess I must have been a rich kid, I had a glove and a ball. Some kid on the block would have a bat, and we could baseball in the park.

    We even had football jerseys, you take one Black Magic Marker and write your favorite football players number and name on your tee-shirt.

  9. Awww, good times and memories. I remember when pogs were in fashion I had just gone to Mexico and brought back the Mexican version “Tazos”. They were made out of plastic and they had all the looney tunes characters on them. They were real pogs, not like the shit that they sold here at the ice cream truck. When I got here, all the kids wanted my Tazos, but I would only play with them and pay up with the cardboard ones. I wonder what ever happened to my Tazos.

    RH, I think that game that you are taling about is “Changais” atleast that’s what we called it in Guadalajara, it was fun, but always sucked at it. There was one “level” I guess you could call it, where you had to hit the lil stick and send it flying in the air and hit it like a baseball as far as you could. Tough game I must say, Requieres some real skills.

    The hot beans or hot pot of beans, whatever you call it, was fun. One time I found the belt, grabbed it by the wrong end and hit a kid on the head with the buckle lol. it was sad, but funny.

  10. “-Digging holes in the back yard filling them with water and enjoying a mud bath”

    Caxcan, this is the funniest thing i’ve heard, and the worst is that ppl in beverly hills pay hundreds of dollars for thiese kind of stuff. the only idfference is that they call them skin treatments. lol
    que pendejos, no?

  11. hahahaha, putaso ball sounds awsome, i dunno that i want my kid playing that or even suggesting it at school. I dont think the school staff would appreciate the name of the game lol

  12. DQ, I also grew up amongst the hills of Lincoln Heights on George St. I, along with my brothers and friends had a Little Rascal/Latchkey kid type of existence filled with creative and crazy activity. I remember kite fights above the skies of Flat Top. Racing down Minnesota,Eastlake,George and Hancock Streets in home made go-carts and wack skateboards till the wheels fell off. I lived in an open court apartment with an aztec pyramid like staircase running through the middle of its ascending eight units with a cranberry and guayava trees from which we ate. We’d run up and down these steps like maniacs playing SWAT,ball tag,kick the can, superheroes in action or “Kung Fu Fighting.” The apartments were nestled between two hills, on one side was Dona Concha’s property where people would occasionally jack nopales much to her dismay. On the other side, was a childhood paradise where we built forts,tree houses and dug trenches to face the dreaded Kucoi or Llorana armed with slingshots and bb guns after dark. During the day we encountered lizards and nina de la tierras and we swung on the giant leaves of palm trees like Tarzan. My friends accidentally burnt the area down while roasting marshmallows and weiners on a stick. We’d ignore the “No Trespassing” sign but would carefully enter the fenced area because it hung about fifteen feet above a parking lot we called “the back”. The owner of this property would finally bring an end to the fun in the mid-eighties by cutting down all the trees and vegetation and pouring tons of dirt over it. We also played baseball with a tennis ball at the end of Hancock street and anything hit over the giant graffitti scarred wall was a homerun. (Long Live the Legends of Street Ball!) Thank for a great topic Random Hero

  13. John Lopez had a video game system, but he’d only invite us over so we could watch him play, asshole. I grew up in Wyvernwood with lots of “park” areas, thus group games were easy to organize. So for fun it was British Bulldog, a tackling game where one person is in the center, the rest try to run by him (it was usually boys) and the tackled start doing the tackling. Last one tackled gets to be in the center.
    Ring around the roof was a ball tossing, catching, freeze, and hitting combo that was quick and fun. But my favorite was Man Hunt, in which you divided into two teams and one runs and hides while the other tries to find and capture them. We start a jail and the captive can also be broken out if you can do it sneakily enough. Once everyone is caught, you switch. But these games would go on over a few evenings as the limits of where you could run and hide were 8th St, Soto, Olympic, and Grande Vista which is a huge playing field.

    Of course there was the extra activities of throwing water balloons or mud balls at cars and buses, and the chase that followed from peeved drivers. Then there were the excursions into the factories, but I’ll just end it at that.

  14. XicanoSerg, it all sounds very familiar to me. For about a year as a kid we lived at the top of Altura Walk (off Eastlake) and those steps and slidding down the metal railing were a blast. And your mention of flying kites in the hills brought back many pleasant memories of Man In The Moon and homemade kites we made. Flatop and “Glasstop were two of our favorite spots.

    Chavo, I can dig it ese, hiding in the bush’s and throwing fruit at cars, then having them chase us, was lots of fun on those hot summer nights.
    Like the Cabrone’s and fuck up’s we were, one of the biggest kicks we got was when we would find an old tire in the hills and roll it down Thomas St or Minnesota or above Johnson St.. I’m glad we didn’t kill someone with our bullshit, sometimes those tires would be going 50 miles an hour it seemed, and at times they would bounce way up in the air and land on someones chante roof. Those old wooden houses would have dust shooting out of every crack when those tires would make contact, que malcriado’s we were!

  15. We used to play bike tag. A whole bola of us would ride around and the point was to tag each other with the wheels of our bikes. It could be dangerous.

    We also played ball tag, which could also get dicey. We’d run around and whoever was “it” would fling a ball at people. I was hit so hard in the head once that I flew face first into one of those V-shaped “NO Parking” poles and totally slip my lip.

    We used to also get these green fruits from a huge tree on an empty lot and throw it at each other. I think we just called that one “War.” I wish I remembered what kind of a fruit it was. It was about the size of a pear.

    Canicas of course. We’d dig little holes in the dirt and the point would be to knock your opponents marbles into the hole. Or we’d play standard marbles. My dad worked as a machinist and sometimes he’d bring me ball bearings, which were the best because they could crack other marbles. Of course if you played with those, you risked losing them.

    Lots and lots of games. I don’t see as many kids playing on the streets anymore, let alone ride bikes in packs like we used to.

  16. Since I grew up by the intersection of Soto St. and Marengo we would play under the bridge there on the train tracks. We would take old tires and roll it down to hit the box cars. Little did we know that it could of derailed them??? This was before the Metrolink train ran pass there. We would have skyrocket fights hiding behind cars and launching them from our hands. We got our shirts burnt but kept our eyes. Playing bow and arrows with broken pieces of kit wood. Playing SWAT, Emergency (we would make each other fall off our bikes and then perform first aid by wrapping them up in old blankets and kicking them, of course not too hard (hehehe). Make “timebombs” of M80 firecrackers by adding kite string to the fuse and set them on neighbors porches or yards that were mean to us.

  17. Evil Kenevil homemade ramps to jump over stuff with your Schwinn, ding-dong-ditch with the old people in the neighborhood (they’d keep answering the door – looking around bewildered), holding on to the back of the ice cream truck bumper for a free ride while on your skateboard, the eternal street football game with the eternal score, and when puberty started kicking in – hide and go get it…

    And getting home before the streetlights came on…

  18. Ah, nostalgia. There was hide and seek, tag, riding bikes, playing in the awesome tree house in the backyard that was really ramshackle pieces of wood in a tree, and yes, Barbies, along with card games: Uno, Go Fish, Old Maid, and Black Jack every once in a while with the familia.

    As I got older… well, there were “Sewer Patrol” group excursions under the tunnels of the San Gabriel Valley. Fireworks + confined spaces = not a good idea.

  19. What about sword fights with a stick (perferably a sharp pointy one)and a metal garbage can lid as your sheild? Man we used to get in some big time wars with the Samoans down the street, but we’d all be out there the next day doing the same shit.
    Somebody else mentioned freeze tag. We also had cartoon tag , where you had to name your favorite cartoon.
    Thanks for the memories.

  20. I played a lot of girly games like truth or dare but also fun stuff like hide and seek, tag, easy basketball.
    I was also kind of geeky (still am I guess) so my friends and I would do fake performances, sing and act out TV shows and movies.
    As I got a little older we’d do scary stuff like Bloody Mary and anything having to do with ghosts or witches and dares.

    One time my friends told me this witch lived in the bushes near my grandmother’s house. It was one of those houses that had tall plants growing on the median near the street and tall trees in the yard, so to walk on the sidewalk you had to pass through this dark canopy of plants and trees. We all took turns daring each other to walk through the sidewalk canopy at night. As I walked through on my turn, I turned to look at the bushes I couldn’t stop myself, and I saw an old, small woman with white hair crouching low near the bushes and I screamed my head off running away. It took me years before I would pass in front of that house again. I guess it was the power of suggestion and my imagination that made me see the witch or…?

  21. There weren’t many kids my age in my neighborhood when I was a child, most were younger. I played with a few. We got my aluminum bat, a few tennis balls, and had a pitcher, batter, & receiver. We’d try to hit the ball as far as possible and we measure distance by properties. Anything beyond two properties was far for us.

  22. Chimatli,

    “Bloody Mary”!!!!

    Turn off the restroom light and say “Bloody Mary” on to the restroom mirror five times.
    Ohhhhh….., no-thank you.

    That was scary then. But, still wouldn’t do it. Just in case.

  23. Hector, i think the green fruit you are refering to is what we kids on George called “sapos”, they were pretty much inedible and stunk when they rotted,so they were best used as projectiles.
    Mike, i recall jumping my bike over a homemade ramp at a high rate of speed and crashing. In fact, i still carry the scar of the nasty laceration on my arm from that crash 25 years later.
    Anyone remember going to gates st elem. and lining up the benches to jump over them? I recall the best jumpers or leapers would clear 7 to 8 benches.
    I’m trying to remember this “game” where if you said a certain word, some kids would slug you on the arm and say something like “jinx-jinx something”

  24. Just thought of two more tonight:
    “Calling” cars where you are the first to see a fancy car and claim it.
    Second is “hot hands” which I totally suck at.

  25. XicanoSerg, those fruits you describe as “Sapo’s” were known to us as “Sapotes”. It was a beautiful tree with beautiful looking fruit, but as you say they were very pungent and had a strange (to us), taste. We did eat them though and the old Mexicano’s loved them as I believe they are native to Mexico. The same thing with Guayaba’s, a pretty looking fruit but one that has a strong taste. We did eat the hell out of those pinapple guavas though, those little gray fruit tasted so good when ripe.

    Chimatli, as kids of about 11 or 12 we started playing those kissing games with the girls like spin the bottle, post office, and one that was popular in the neighborhood called “guess the cigarette I’m thinking of and you get a kiss”, it was pretty one sided though as the pretty girl was the only one that could confirm the right guess, and the kiss was usually rewarded to the couple of guys she had eyes for, Pall Mall? no, Lucky Strike? no, Chesterfield? no, Kents? Ok you get a kiss!

    Also at about the same age we wide eyed boys would play tetherball against the girls (who were usually much more physically mature than us boys at that age), and if we won we would get to cop a feel of chi chi,but only for a second or two of course@@@!
    There was a girl from Happy Valley we called Silly Sally who had some big boobs for a 12 year old but she was also a champ tetherball player who could kick all the boys ass’s, and damn quick too, with what always seemed just a couple of hits that would send that tetherball around and around at amazing speed. Also, Silly Sally was a KO puncher and vicious street fighter who could kick almost all the boys ass’s in a fight. Even if one of us boy’s did beat her in tetherball the chance for a cheap thrill was scary because Silly Sally would be mad dogging us while we squeezed a chi chi for a second, any longer and she would Sunday punch us!
    I bet Silly Sally ended up a roller derby star.

  26. Let us not forget to mention that as chicanos from the barrio, we were not so isolated that we didn’t have the opportunity to play a lot of the “mainstream” childhood games(especially board games) in the seventies and eighties. We’d often played a huge variety of board games at school(especially during rainy days,)our local libraries, and at home. They included the following: MouseTrap, Mr. Mouth, “You sunk My Battleship”,Chinese Checkers,Monopoly,Chutes and Ladders,and Candyland. Other mainstream toys that found our grasps were G.I Joes(Ken and Barbie for girls),Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars, which we would never buy the accessories for but would make our own trails,tunnels and roads in giant piles of dirt or sand. Other toys included Quiz Whiz,BulletMan,Star Wars Action figures,remote control cars and planes,Simon(the electric game with lights,) the primitive electric versions of baseball,football and basketball that consisted of nothing but red blips of light. We would also occupy our time with trading cards of every sport, sometimes they would have cards for events(“man on the moon”)tv shows(happy days,charlie’s angels) and who could forget Wacky Packages?(Now currently being sold again.) Comic books were also accessible at all the mom and pop stores at 25-50 cents a copy. Lastly, who could forget Mexican games like Loteria and spinning that driedel looking top for money that offered commands such as “toma todo”?

  27. Let us not forget that we, as Chicanos, are not so isolated that we didn’t have the opportunity to play a lot of “mainstream” board games and toys as kids at school(especially during rainy days,),Boys Clubs, local libraries and home)in the seventies and eighties. They include: Mouse Trap,Mr.Mouth,”You Sank my Battleship,”Chutes and Ladders,Candyland,Monopoly,Connect Four,GI Joe,Bullet Man,Star Wars figures,Quiz Whiz,the primitive early electric versions of Baseball,Football and Basketball which consisted of red blips of light,Hot wheels and Matchbox cars which we would never buy the accessories for but would build our own trails,tunnels,bridges and roads on giant mounds of dirt and sand,Chinese Checkers and Simon,the multicolored electronic game. We would also occupy our time with trading cards of all sports,movies and t.v. shows and who could forget Wacky Packages stickers or early version of Marvel Super Hero Stickers? Also, I remember the Mexican games of Loteria and winning money spinning the driedel like top that read “Toma Todo” on one of its sides.

  28. Tree climbing, roller skating (I have scarred knees to prove it), a last tag game that lasted the whole summer, paper dolls—anything I could make with newspaper & magazines (kites, hats, fashion, origami, diaramas, paper mache, giant confetti), I liked to play office and organize things :), sword fighting, gun fights, war, jacks, hop scotch, making perfume out of flowers and water in recycled bottles, concentration with playing cards, old maid, pretend we were going on a trip in a broken down car–take turns driving, we all brought lunch.

  29. XicanoSerg and don quixote–you’re absolutely right, those green fruits were sapos or sapotes. I’d forgotten the name. In fact, my parents hometown in Jalisco is supposedly named for them: Zapotlan del Rey… allegedly that’s true.

    Another game we played was walking on the railroad tracks behind our neighborhood and going to a place we called “Hobo Junction.” As you can probably tell by the name, there were a lot of hobos there. Strangely, I never saw one with a polka dot knapsack.

  30. Bolita was our game . Growing up in the 60’s we had to make up games in our nieghborhood in Boyle hieghts. There was six to eight players sometimes ten players. The game would always take place at the home of the Lemos’s . They had a gate that went around the house , the front of the home had a lawn area but , there was no grass it was hard dirt and a tree near the front gate. There was three feet of space that went around home back to the front. Ok the object was to roll a tennis ball into one of the holes, we had made in front of the house , of course big enough for it to roll in . So if there was six players then we had six holes . Lets say my hole was #4 then someone rolled the ball and at times it would roll around until it fell in someones hole . The object was if it did not fall in your hole then you ran with the other kids around the house to the safety tree . While every ran the the person who’s hole had the ball rolled in went to get it and chase the rest of the kids and throw the tennis ball at who ever it would hit , most of the time it would not hit any one cause by then they would be around the corner of the house , so you have to chase them down to get a good shot at them . It was open season with the tennis ball, if no one got hit then you roll the ball again and ran back the opposite direction. If you bonk by the ball then you had to stop and get it from where ever it was laying and chase everyone else back to the beginning. There was two ways to play the game one you just ran around all afternoon not getting bonk or we would do it by elimenation , if you got hit then you were out of the game . SO there you have it , like it was just yesterday , man that was fun.

  31. Hhahahah remember when me an Jessica would get those big yellow buckets and fill them up with water then did canon balls from in side the buckets hahahahah i remember you use to play yugio with arelio hahah

  32. Slip n’ Slide, Water Wiggle, those rockets that you filled with water and then pumped it and then the rocket would “launch”, my water guns, water ballons, bb gun, klick klacks, my spy kit in the suitcase, water ballons, hide and seek, my bike with the Mattel “VARROOOM” for simulated engine noise, or before that I got that some baseball cards and a clothespin would do.

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