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What to Know About Hopscotch

Reviewed by Dany Paul Baby, MD on May 04, 2022

Hopscotch is a classic outdoor game that has entertained children for countless generations. It’s a very flexible game that’s great for both your mental and physical health

What Is Hopscotch?

Hopscotch is a simple game that can be played by anyone in most outdoor places. It encourages physical activity, creativity, and social skills. The game is played by people around the world. 

It’s one of many traditional childhood games that are meant to be played outside like hide-and-seek and scavenger hunts. Games like this are crucial in the modern world because they limit screen time and encourage engagement with the natural world. 

Hopscotch Origins

No one is certain of the exact origins of this game but there are a number of theories. One possibility is that the game was developed in England as footwork training for soldiers, but it’s likely much older than this. 

Another theory is that it was developed in ancient Rome to train their soldiers. The story is that they would design courses that were one hundred feet long and hop them dressed in full armor. This would apparently improve their agility and endurance. 

On the other hand, it may have always been a children’s game. The one thing we do know is that it first appears in written English 300 years ago, so it had to have existed for at least this long. At this time it was called scotch-hop or scotch-hopper. 

The game is ancient enough to have gained worldwide acclaim. It’s known by a different name in most countries including: 

  • Pon in Cuba
  • Campana or mondo in Italy
  • Tengteng in Malaysia
  • Hinkelen in the Netherlands   

Who Can Play Hopscotch

There’s no real hopscotch age range. As soon as kids are old enough to understand the rules, they’re old enough to play. 

The basic recommendation is to have kids try the game when they’re as young as three years old. Most kids will be walking, jumping, and talking by this point. They should also be able to understand the simple rules, which especially with a demonstration from an older kid or adult. 

There’s no upper limit on when you should stop playing hopscotch. Some of the benefits of the game can help you no matter how old you are. 

What Do You Need to Play Hopscotch?

Hopscotch is a very versatile game.  You don’t need many supplies to play it. You don’t even need many people. You can play the game by yourself or with hordes of people. There’s no limit to how many people can play. 

The two main material requirements are the board and a marker. 

The most common way to make the board is with sidewalk chalk, but anything that forms an outline will work. You can draw the board with a stick in sand or dirt. You can outline the course with sticks on grass or asphalt. 

Finding a marker is even easier. Anything that’s small enough to fit in your hand and is safe to throw is a good marker for hopscotch. You could use a rock, a coin, or any nearby small item.  

How to Play Hopscotch

Hopscotch has been around for so long that many different variations of the game exist. The following steps are a description of one traditional way to play the game. 

First, you have to set up your board. The steps for this are as follows: 

  • Draw or create a square that’s approximately one foot by one foot — or any size that you wish — and label it “1”. The bigger the square the easier it is to play. 
  • Immediately above this first square create two more. Draw them so their bottom sides touch the top of the first square and their inner sides are touching each other. The end result looks a bit like an inverted pyramid of three squares. Label these squares “2” and “3”.
  • Draw another single square on top of the second and third squares. Label this “4”. Two more squares will go on top of this one labeled “5” and “6”. Repeat this pattern once more and end on a single square labeled “10”. 

Once your board is ready, get your marker and play can begin. The steps are as follows: 

  • The player going first tosses the marker into the square labeled “1”. It needs to land within the square or the toss doesn’t count. 
  • Then begin hopping down the board — but you have to skip the square with the marker in it. You can only land with one foot in the single squares and have to land with one foot in each square on the doubled squares. 
  • Hop all the way down to the ten then turn around and hop back.
  • Pick up the marker when you reach it but skip that square again. 
  • When you get back to the beginning, toss the marker into the square labeled “2” and repeat the entire process.
  • Keep going down the board, tossing the marker to “3” then “4” and so on until you mess up and lose your turn or complete the board and win. 
  • The next player starts their turn once the first player’s turn has finished. 

The ways to mess up and lose your turn are as follows: 

  • Losing your balance and falling out of the square
  • Stepping wrong, like landing outside of the square or using two feet in a one-foot square
  • Stepping into the square that had or has the marker
  • Missing your toss with the marker

The game is very flexible, so don’t feel compelled to stick to these rules. You can make up any number of variations on your own. Have fun with it and be creative. 

Is Hopscotch Exercise?

Hopscotch is a great exercise. It takes strength, flexibility, and balance to make your way back and forth across the course. Exercise is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle and is crucial for your child’s growth and development.

One of the best benefits of hopscotch is the outdoor physical activity that it provides. Playing can help your child prevent obesity and other weight-related health issues. 

What Are the Benefits of Hopscotch?

There are even more benefits to hopscotch besides the inherent physical activity. These include improvements to your: 

  • Body control and dexterity, from balancing and moving down the course
  • Gross motor skills, including running, jumping, and hopping
  • Gluteal strength
  • Leg flexibility, from all of the rotational, forward-back, and sideways motions
  • Counting skills
  • Coordination
  • Ability to understand and follow directions
  • Ability to wait your turn

Hopscotch has even more benefits that are associated with all forms of outdoor play. These include improvements to your: 

  • Social skills
  • Imaginative abilities
  • Appreciation for the outdoors

Show Sources

SOURCES: 

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia: “The Benefits of Outdoor Play: Why It Matters.”

First 5 LA: “Hopscotch and its Worldwide Attraction.” 

Horizon Education Centers: “Who’s Up for Hopscotch? Benefits of this Time-Tested Game.” 

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