Jill Still Playing Jacks And Hopscotch Endures

The Age

Wednesday May 18, 2005


PARENTS who worry that computers are stifling their child's imagination can rest assured - today's children are just as creative as their grandparents were in the playground.

While Xbox, iPods and Gameboys may be on every child's wish list, games that were popular in the 1950s remain a staple in playgrounds across Australia, according to author and historian June Factor.

Simple, inexpensive games such as skipping, hopscotch, marbles and jacks continue to entertain children, she said.

Dr Factor has co-edited a collection of essays by American academic Dorothy Howard, a pioneering researcher who recorded how Australian children played in the 1950s.

"Whenever she came across children . . . whether in the street or the park, in the hotel lobby or in the school playgrounds, she would stop to talk and listen and watch," Dr Factor said.

Most of the games Dr Howard observed in the 1950s are still played today, sometimes with slight variations. While children now play with coloured jacks bought from a shop, in the 1950s they often used sheep knucklebones. "It's a very enduring tradition," Dr Factor said.

She bemoaned that parental concern about child safety had led to more children being kept at home out of harm's way. Dr Factor said children needed to play without too many restrictions, because it was an important part of their development.

"Children's playgrounds should be declared national treasures," she said. "They should always be protected from endless regulation so that children are free to play."

Children's games were a "living and endlessly changing tradition" - "It's a metaphor for life. It gives you a mirror into human development."

Teacher Kerri Crofts often sees her students at Collingwood College playing the games she enjoyed as a child. Ms Crofts even has a hopscotch board on the floor of her classroom. "They still love skipping . . . some kids bring jacks," she said.

The book, Child's Play: Dorothy Howard and the Folklore of Australian Children, launched yesterday and co-edited by Professor Kate Darian Smith of Melbourne University, will become part of Museum Victoria's Australian Children's Folklore Collection.

It includes more than 10,000 records listing children's games, rhymes, jokes and superstitions.

Rhymes still used today

Mary had a little lamb

She left it in the closet

And when she went to let it out

It left a small deposit

Roses are red

Violets are blue

Onions stink

And so do you

Father Christmas lost his whiskers

How many did he lose?

Boy scout

You're out

Sausage dog

Busy street

Motor car


How rhymes change

Then Eeny meeny minie mo

Catch a nigger by the toe

Now Eeny meeny minie mo

Catch a tiger by the toe

© 2005 The Age

Back to News Index | Back to Home

News Archive














System maintenance in progress.
Some features are disabled during this process and will be enabled again later.