A new documentary on children’s games

by Bernie DeKoven on January 25, 2010

A recent article in the Contra Costa Times reports on a new documentary that was featured featured at the Alameda Film Festival last weekend. The documentary is the work of Dutch school teacher/film maker Jules Oosterwegel, who spent 15-year documenting children’s street games from around the world. The entire project reportedly shows of over 300 children’s games, including “Vietnamese variations of blind man’s buff, a Bolivian stone-tossing game much like jacks without the ball, and a Dutch clapping game familiar to youngsters the world over.”

Osterwegel explains about his project: “You try to find out the real idea of why children play and how they play, and every place it’s different. You have a lot of games that are universal, but the way children from the northern countries play is very different from children in tropical countries.”

There should be much more about this project on the Internet, but I could only find a disappointingly few references to what seems to be, according to my particular passions, a very significant contribution to global fun. Hopefully, I’ll have more to report on it soon.

Here, from the article, are descriptions of some of the games in the documentary:

From Vietnam:

Cuop Co

Needed: Four or more players, a red scarf and a piece of chalk with which to draw a circle in the center of the playground.

How to play: The object is to snag the red scarf from the circle without getting tagged. At a signal, the first pair of kids dashes in and tries to fake each other out, lunging and feinting until someone can grab the scarf and sprint back to their team without being tagged. Every few minutes another pair joins them, until someone successfully grabs the scarf and gets away.

From the Netherlands:

Muurball

Needed: Four or more players, a bouncy ball and a wall.

How to play: In this variation on wall ball, everyone lines up behind each other, with feet placed slightly apart. The child closest to the wall sends a low throw so the ball shoots straight back toward the players, who must jump over it. If the ball hits you, you’re out. If no one is hit, the second child in line moves to the front and starts the game again.

From Denmark

Tag Sat

Needed: Four players, an open field.
How to play: In this clever variation on tag, children play the role of target, tagger and bodyguards. The target and two bodyguards hold hands and spin around the field, as the tagger tries to capture his prey by running around them or reaching through their triangle.
From Zimbabwe:
Filling the Bottle
Needed: Two teams of three players, a soda bottle, a ball and a sandy play area.
How to play: The bottle is placed in the center of the play area and sand is heaped up around it to hold it steady. In this dodge ball-like game, one team races to fill the bottle with sand, while ducking and attempting to avoid — or catch –the ball that is thrown at them. If a bottle-filler is hit, he’s out, but if he catches it, he may throw it in any direction. The team wins a point each time the bottle is completely filled.

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