10 Ways Kids Entertained Themselves 30 Years Ago

10 Ways Kids Entertained Themselves 30 Years Ago

Kids these days have no clue how lucky they are… with so many toys, video games, TV shows they don’t even have to leave their rooms to have fun. When we were kids we had Saturday morning cartoons, not 24/7 networks devoted to them, so the rest of the week we had to come up with our own entertainment. We didn’t need Nintendo DSi to occupy our time… all we needed was our imaginations. We made up all kinds of games that were pretty fun and creative (although admittedly looking back some were a little dangerous). Here are 10 fun ways kids entertained themselves 30 years ago.


Kids didn’t need a baseball, gloves or any fancy equipment to enjoy their own version of America’s favorite pastime. Stickball usually involved a broom handle, a rubber spaldeen or tennis ball and make-shift bases like manhole covers.

Butts Up (aka Wall Ball)

It’s actually kind of obvious why no one really plays Butts Up anymore. Also called Fumble, Fireball, Wall Ball, or Red Bum, the game involves a tennis ball and a wall and a lot of aggression. If someone throws the ball and it hits the ground before it makes it to the wall or if someone fumbles the ball they get an out. Get four outs that spell “B-U-T-T” then you have to face the wall sticking your butt out until someone pegs you with the ball. Ouch.

Skully (aka Caps)

Skully, also known as skelly, skellzies, tops or caps, is a game that was especially popular in New York City from the 1950s through the 80s. A skully board, typically drawn on asphalt, consists of a large box with other boxes around the edges marked 1-12. In the center a 13 box is drawn with areas around it marked with skulls. Skully was played with bottle caps, but some kids weighed them down with clay or wax to get more distance. Starting off a player would flick their cap and try to land it in the box labeled 1. If successful they get to move on to 2, 3, 4 and so on. If a player misses their turn ends. However if a cap lands in a space around the 13th box they are trapped until another player hits their cap and frees them.

Mother May I

We can only imagine that Mother May I was invented as a conspiracy to teach kids manners. Children take turns asking the “mother” of the game if they can take so many steps forward, hoping to make it to the end of the race before the other children. The designated mother may say “Yes you may” or “No you may not but…” and make their own suggestions. Mother may suggest that you take giant steps, baby steps, frog leaps, crab walks or other moves… and of course you better do what mother says if you want to win.

Red Rover

It wasn’t uncommon during recess to hear “Red Rover, Red Rover send Jimmy right over” on the playground. Red Rover has a few less common nick names like Octopus Tag, Bullrush and Forcing the City Gates, depending on where you grew up. But the rules are the same… two teams line up holding hands and call a player from the other team over. That person then has to run through the line to try to break the chain. If they fail they join that team. If not, they can chose to bring a player back to their team. Sounds like good clean fun, but some schools have banned this activity due to “clotheslining” causing neck injuries.

Hot Hands (aka the Hand Slapping Game)

If you have an older sibling then you probably hate this game. One player puts their hands palm down hovering over another player’s hands so the hands are barely touching each other. The person whose hands are on the bottom has to try to slap the tops of the other players hands before they move them away. If the “slappee” can avoid being hit they switch places.

Four Square

Four Square was a great name because all you needed was chalk and at least 4 players. Four Squares were drawn on the ground and numbered and the object of the game is to move up to the highest ranking square. You move up by eliminating other players by getting them to hit the ball out of bounds on your serve. As each player is eliminated a new one can join the game at square 1.

Hot Lava (aka The Floor is Made of Lava)

Hot Lava is a game every kid seems to come to on their own as an excuse to jump all over their room. The idea is that the floor is made of lava so they have to run and jump from one piece of furniture to the next without touching the floor. It can also be played outside on a playground.

Red Light Green Light

Red Light Green Light is another “make it to the finish line” game that involves instruction. The person who is “it” yells out “Green Light” allowing players to move forward and “Red Light” forcing them to stop. Depending on who you play with you either have to skip a turn or start over if you’re caught moving during a “red light.”

Kick the Can

There’s probably dozens of variations or names, but kick the can is a classic kids game. A combination of tag, hide and go seek and capture the flag, kick the can has a player who is “it”, a jail and some kind of can or bucket. If a player is caught they have to go to “jail” but hope isn’t lost. If another player can make it to the can and knock it over everyone in jail is set free.

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More: Outdoors, Games

Ages: Parents

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