Children have an abundance of crazy ideas, least of all when it comes to inventing new games. Whether it’s new takes on the classic game of hide-and-seek or clogging the slide at recess, these unique games made childhood for us.
#1 Upgrading Armor
We were inadvertent LARP'ers. My friend lived on a mini-farm (they had chickens, llamas, and goats) and his mom would make up Ziploc bags of Monopoly money and hide them all over the place. We would go out and fight imaginary bad guys and find the bags of money so we could upgrade our gear. I was the cleric, so I started with a staff which I upgraded to "silver" (duct tape on the ends) then later to metal (we hammered Mountain Dew cans as metal end pieces).
We made suits of armor out of cardboard boxes, which we upgraded similarly. The best was the road by his house. It was the river and whenever a car would go by, it would represent some Sahags (water monsters) jumping out. So, we would come flying out of the bushes and start swinging our homemade weaponry like crazy people. It was the early ‘90s in the middle of nowhere.
#2 Second Floor
I played a game called "Elevator." Someone would go into the furnace room, shut the door, and they were in the elevator. The rest of us would rearrange the family room and bring in different props to demonstrate that we were on a different floor. We changed outfits, accents, etc. My friends and I played this for a good year.
#3 The Game of Chores
I used to play Cinderella and my mom would make me scrub the floors and dust. I’d get annoyed if she wasn’t mean enough. However, once I was done with the chores, she always played the fairy godmother too and let me put on one of my fancy dresses to dance in. My favorite part was she would “forget” the magic words, so when I reminded her the last word was “boo,” she would act startled. She’s a good mom.
#4 The Slug Wars
My sister and I created this random game when we were younger called “The Slug Wars.” Basically, two combatants got backwards into a sleeping bag, this way, their feet were hanging out of the head hole. Then… you blindly battled one another until someone was deemed the winner. Ah, that was the best of times.
#5 Jewelry Heist
My cousin and I were convinced that his neighbour’s house has diamonds in the garden. We found a bunch of shiny diamond-shaped things in their yard scattered in random places. We used to dig up the dirt hoping no one would notice to find more of these diamonds. I think we found 10 and we split them in half. We would come back again and again looking for them.
Of course, we made a promise not to tell any other kids or our parents about them. But, one day my mom found one of my “diamonds” in the pocket of my trousers and asked me if she should throw it. I was shocked! Why would she throw away an expensive diamond? Turns out, they were glass teardrop pieces of an old chandelier they threw away. I was so disappointed because we even planned to buy a Lamborghini with the money.
#6 Win or Lose
We would take dad's can full of rocks and tape it shut. Then, we all faced the same way as a designated person threw the can way out in the open pasture at night. All players set out to find it and if you picked it up and made it back to the "finish line," it was a point. The rocks were audible if shaken. If you were able to tackle the runner before he crossed the line, you’d get no points and a re-throw. The first to five wins or first to break a bone loses.
#7 In a Flash
My friends and I pretty much made up a game called Camera Tag. It was basically hide-and-seek but it would have to be in the dark and you had to have a camera. If you spotted someone, you’d have to take a picture of them with the flash on. If that person was in the picture, they get caught and they were then out.
#8 My Horses!
Whenever we were on a road trip, or on any sort of drive, my family would try and spot horses before anyone else did. You had to shout “My hoses!” and count them. It was a running tally, but no one ever really kept score once the trip finished. Whoever had the most was the winner. There was a way to get back in the game, however. If you drove past a graveyard or church cemetery, you could yell “Bury your horses!” and everyone who had horses would go back to zero except the one who spotted the cemetery.
It was a cutthroat game and if someone had a lot of horses then the whole family would be on high alert looking for cemeteries. It was a fun way to pass the time. I’ve unconsciously played the game in friends’ cars because I’m so conditioned at this point. I got my friends playing it and I’ll keep the tradition alive.
#9 Over Their Heads
It's not what it sounds like, but my cousin and I used to play the "underwear" game. We would go into her laundry room, which was in the basement with ample room, and both of us would grab someone's used underwear from the hamper. Then we'd fight each other trying to get the underwear over the other's head. Obviously, it was disgusting and had to stop when someone caught us playing it.
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#10 A Child’s Curse
My cousin and I used to play "Witches." We basically made a million poems about wishing harm on everyone we hate and would run around in the forest cursing those people. We also did more wholesome stuff, like picking up twigs and leaves to put in our potion pots. The potions were also usually to curse people, though.
#11 Big Part of Childhood
"The Bomb Game" was a big part of my childhood. We threw a ball around and if you got hit, you had to lie on the ground for five seconds before returning to the game. Me, my sister and our cousins would play this against our uncles and I'm pretty sure if we actually kept score, we would see that we kicked their butts. Eventually, all the uncles and my dad joined in and the youngest uncle joined the "kids’" team. He told us he "played ‘The Bomb Game’ in high school" and we wanted him on our team anyway because he was more like the biggest kid. It eventually became a family tradition.
#12 Slide Traffic Jam
We didn't really have a name for it, but when we were on the playground for recess in elementary school, we would play this game where one of us would go about halfway down the tube slide and someone else would slide down as fast as they could and try to dislodge the first dude. Usually, the second person would fail.
Then another would come down and try to dislodge the first two guys. Then another, until Big Mikey would come down and we would all fly out the bottom of the slide like a freshly unclogged pipe. This was because Big Mikey was five times bigger than any of the other third graders. I think we actually called it "Clog the Pipe", which sounds pretty weird now that I'm recalling it as an adult.
#13 Kids Are Tough
I’m reminded of a time when I worked in a very rural area as a park ranger. I came across a group of the local kids who played in the park and they were battered and bruised. Obviously concerned, I asked them if they were alright and what happened. They had been playing Dodge Rock. I asked what that was and it was dodgeball, but with rocks. Kids are tough.
#14 Ready, Set, Go
I didn't realize the brilliance of this until I was much older, but growing up, my dad would trick me into helping him do yard work. He achieved this by turning everything into a competition. He’d say things like, "Let's see who can rake their half of the yard the best," or "Let's see who can pick up the most leaves and sticks.” I’d sometimes get, "Let's see how fast you can clean off all these parts to the grill." Props to him, though — I ate it up.
#15 Watch Those Wheels
I played a "stick in the wheels" game. The kid on the bike thought up the game, so he got to stay on the bike. We had to chase him and if we could throw a stick in his wheels, we "got" him. Well, I got him good. He face-planted and got really angry. "Why would you throw a stick in my wheels? I hate you!" Hey, man. It was your idea.
#16 Hopping Around
In the second grade, a friend and I would spend recess with the ends of our t-shirts pulled over our knees, hopping around on our hands and feet. We’d also occasionally roll down the grassy hill. The creatures we transformed into were dubbed "slugs" for some reason, I don’t know why. We were fairly strange kids.
#17 Office Building
My little brother and I played "Office Building." There were different characters with different roles, costumes, and accents (e.g. an executive who always wore a trench coat, a janitor, a receptionist, some middle manager with a bad accent whose signature piece of clothing was an old, misshapen felt hat). There was tons of intrigue, like people getting framed for workplace theft. There wasn’t a lot of actual work.
#18 Fun for Hours
My grandma had a bunch of huge, novelty-size balls of yarn when I was growing up. My grandma would unravel the yarn balls and stick one of our toys in the center. She’d then yarn the ball back up nice and tight and toss them into the backyard. The idea was we had to get the toy out of the center, but we weren't allowed to use our hands to do it. Our hands would be tied behind our backs so we didn't cheat.
We'd be out there for hours hurling our tiny bodies at these giant yarn balls trying to unravel them and get to that sweet, sweet toy in the middle. Sometimes we'd succeed, sometimes we wouldn't, and when we didn't, grandma would walk outside shaking her head in mock disappointment. She’d then grab whatever loose end there was and unravel the whole yarn ball with one clean yank.
#19 Come Find Me
I remember playing this game as a kid that was called “Spotlight.” It was basically hide-and-seek, but with a few key differences. All of the players would don dark clothing or some kind of camouflage, hide in the forest at night and then wait to be sought out by the person who was "it". It was honestly tons of fun.
#20 Explosive Potions
My sister and I used to make potions with stuff we found in the bathroom. It was usually my mom's long-forgotten shampoos and lotions. But one time, we found a container of hair bleach and activator and added that. We then left it sealed in the conditioner bottle and it exploded, so my mom put an end to all that.
#21 Screaming Toes
I’m a camp counselor and we play a game called “Screaming Toes” with our kids. We get in a circle and pick someone in the group’s toes to stare at. Someone counts to three and on three you look at the person whose toes you were staring at. If that person was looking at your toes too, you both scream and you’re both out. The kids love it.
#22 Copy Cat Sibling
Me and my sister would play a game called “Color Copy” where one of us would draw a picture and the other would follow along on their paper. They’d inevitably both be terrible pictures, but surprisingly close! It’s almost akin to those wine and painting things where 13 women indulge in a few bottles of wine and all paint the same tree.
#23 The Dark Man Cometh
When I was eight, me, my brother, and my best friend played "The Dark Man Game." It was hide-and-seek in my parents' basement with the lights out. The person looking for the other two wore a glow-in-the-dark Skeletor mask, so the two people hiding could see him, but he couldn't see us. It got really intense at times, trying to find your way in the dark and trying to be as quiet as possible. Also, my parents' basement was unfinished, so occasionally you'd bump into a nail, etc., which made it extra dangerous.
#24 Get Down, Sir
My friends and I used to play a game called “Get Down, Mr. President” every now and then. Basically, what would happen is that one of us would start the game by placing our hand to our ear (like we were part of secret service). The last one to realize it was “Mr. President” and we would then all dogpile him.
#25 Living Room Hut
Island of the Blue Dolphins, which was inspired by the book. I'd build a little hut in the living room and collect abalone from the beach (they were shoes) and fight off packs of wild dogs played by stuffed animals. I'd make sure to spend a good portion of the day staring wistfully out towards the sea and weep for my long lost brother and my people. My actual brother would try to play with me but I'd be like, "No! You can’t! You’re gone!"
#26 Lining Up
In gym class, we were occasionally allowed to play this game called "Line Tag." Essentially, everyone would have to stay and move along the gym floor basketball lines and the one or two people who were “it” would have to run along the lines to tag people. If you were tagged, you had to sit down on the line where you were tagged, becoming a roadblock for other people. I loved that game.
#27 Holy Cow
My family lives in Wisconsin and we played a game called "Cows My Side." You only scored points if you were the first to shout, "Cows my side!" and the cows were on your side. If they were on the other side of the vehicle, you could block the other players from scoring by saying, "Cows your side!" Cemeteries got rid of the cows of everyone on that side of the vehicle. You would also lose all of your cows if you claimed cows early, but they turned out to be horses or some other livestock.
#28 Epic Lego Politics
I used to make tiny spaceships out of Lego and give their captains elaborate backstories. For a couple of years, I had a friend that did this too, and our politics and storyline were epic. It was too bad my family had to move back to St. Louis. I wonder whatever happened to that kid. We lost touch, as 12-year-olds do.
#29 Viva La Shampoo
I played "Shake Shake Shampoo." It was like a game of tag but instead of being "it' after getting tagged, you're immobilized and have to wait until the “it” person gets to immobilize everyone. When the last free person gets tagged, everyone shouts, "Viva!" while raising their hand. The last person to shout it becomes it. It’s called “Shake Shake Shampoo” because you have to shake your hips and run your hand through your hair as if you're shampooing it when you get tagged. Being the first one to get tagged sucks because you'll have to shake your hips until the end.
#30 Exciting and Tragic
My cousin had an awesome collection of baby dolls, and her family had an old (circa 1970) RV permanently parked next to their house. We pretended that we were pregnant (pillows stuffed in shirts, etc.), and would eventually “give birth” to the baby dolls. However, we were also at the age where we thought teenagers were the coolest of cool, so the backstory was always that we were runaway pregnant teenagers who had nowhere to live other than this broken-down old RV. We thought the storyline was exciting and tragic.
#31 Bringing Them Down
Whenever I had sleepovers at my house, we would play a game at night that was a mix of hide-and-seek and reverse tag. One person would hide in the yard and the other kids would go out with flashlights and try to find them. Once you found him, you had to tag him. If the kid hiding couldn’t be found or he made it inside the garage, he won. It used to be that he had to physically be brought down and held to the ground, but we had to stop playing like that when one kid ended up with a broken nose.
#32 A Simpler Time
There was a game my friend and I used to play all the time when we had sleepovers with each other. For some reason, this game always had a different name for it each time we hung out. Honestly, the best name was probably "Turn All The Lights Off In The Basement And Throw Stuff At Each Other." It was a simpler time.
#33 Pilot of the Wall
My friends and I had a brick wall in the playground and we used to pretend we were all spies in an airplane while sitting on this brick wall. We'd execute “manoeuvres,” which were actually just us all leaning side to side. I'd also sit “at the front” (the leftmost seat on the wall) and pretend to be the pilot. There would be enemy spies and moles who would double-cross us and invariably we would have to either jump out the airplane or do a crash landing. It was awesome.
#34 Creepy Christmas
A few days before Christmas, my siblings and I would always play a game where we would all take turns being “presents.” This involved crawling under the Christmas tree and curling into a ball, as if we were wrapped up toys. One of us would take the role of the child running in to open the presents, but when they get to the tree, we would all spring up and try to tag them. If they were tagged then they would become a “toy” and the one who tagged them would become the child. It’s super creepy now that I think about it and also not very creative. I still wonder what the point was.
#35 King… King
My brother and I invented a game we called “King King.” The "King" walked in a big circle as slow and regally as possible with our parents’ old comforter draped over their shoulders. The other person stood in the center of this circle and waited for the signal. At some point in walking around, the King would say "King… King". The second "King" was the signal. The King then began running and the person in the center must tackle them.
#36 Calling the Shots
I remember playing "hospital" in kindergarten. Basically, one kid would lay on a bed and everyone else would try to "heal" their injuries with makeshift cures (I remember throwing marbles over the stomach would cure stomach aches) before they "passed away.” The kid pretending to be a patient decided when that would happen, which often led to arguments because we didn't want the game to end that soon.
#37 Name of the Game
By far the dumbest game me and my brother ever came up with growing up was “Oxygen.” One of us would lay on the ground with a beanbag chair draped over our face and body and the other person would jump off the bed onto the beanbag chair and smother the other person’s face. The idea was to see how long you could go without breathing. When you got to the point you couldn’t breathe, you would yell out “Oxygen! Oxygen!” Hence the name o’ the game.
#38 Covering the Bases
I wish I could remember what the game was called, but usually it had to do with having an area of about three or five neighbors' yards as bases. We then had to sprint and make it to the middle one before a car would pass by depending on which way they were coming. You had to practically face plant into the middle yard in time so the car wouldn't see you. That was the gist of it. Most of the time it was played when it was getting dark out. I miss those days.
#39 Bucking Bronco
My siblings and I called it “Bucking Bronco.” Two of us would gang up on the third and tackle them to the ground, belly down. While pinned down, one would sit on the back of the downed sibling, facing backwards, grab the downed sibling’s feet, thumbs available to tickle the bottom of the feet. We all are very ticklish. Now that you’re sitting on the other with their feet in your hands, start tickling and see how long you can hold on, much like a bucking bronco.
#40 Our Own Game
My cousin and I used to play this board game called Heroes Quest. It was a fun game, but somewhere down the line, we stopped playing the game with the official rules and kind of made up our own game. It was a blast we would sit there for hours and hours just role-playing using this board game. I still think back on how much fun we had doing that.
#41 Sneaking Around
My sister and I came up with one we liked to call “Walk Around the Whole House...At Night.” Basically, we'd wake each other up in the dead of night and sneak around the house without waking people up. Then, we’d go straight back to bed. We had to walk around each room clockwise and around every table. We were weird kids.
#42 Hiding Furbies
We played “Hide the Furbies.” We had a bunch of fast food Furby toys and divided them up evenly between two teams. One team got the basement, the other team got the living room. Both teams would hide their Furbies and then the teams would switch rooms. Whichever team found all the Furbies in their room first won.
#43 Dumbest Game Ever
I don’t think my friend and I had a name for it. But when I was nine or so, I was taking karate and after our kids' class was done, our parents would have theirs. So, we’d be bored most of the time. To combat this, we put on our sparring gear and set down some mats and used the really big kicking pads and charged at each other. He’d scream, “Flabber Monkeys” and I’d scream, “Lodden Lails.” It was easily the dumbest and most fun idiotic game I’ve ever played.
#44 Shots, Shots, Shots
When my brother and I were kids, we used to play a game where we'd shoot root beer and see who could do it faster. I guess we must have seen people doing it on TV or something. We'd have our bottles of root beer, glasses, and then we'd pound the shot. The first one to slam the glass back down on the table was the winner. Whoever had the most wins by the time the bottles were empty was the champion!
#45 Rubber Band Man
My brothers and I would set up all of our action figures around the kitchen and sit in the middle of the floor. We would each grab a ruler and a bunch of rubber bands and stretch the bands over the length of the ruler to create little makeshift rubber band shooters. We would take turns seeing who could hit the most action figures, and the winner would get a dollar from each other player. I miss being entertained for hours by simple games like that.
#46 Power Line Baseball
My sister and I used to play a game of "baseball" by taking an empty two-litre pop bottle and whacking a small pebble with it. We’d essentially try to hit the rock over the power lines in front of our house. Since there were three power lines, whichever line you hit it over determined how many bases or a home run it would be.
#47 Lots of Crashes
I used to play tag on BMX bikes with my friends. We had a bunch of bike trails and jumps in the woods behind my house. There were lots of crashes. If you got off your bike during the game for any reason other than a legit fall, you became the chaser. One safe space from the chaser was on the other side of a big ditch jump. Only one person ever made it.
#48 At Your Inconvenience
Whenever we had to wait, my friends and I played “What Would You Put in an Inconvenience Store?" to make conversation. Things like back pain medication only on the top and bottom shelves, the gas station would be by appointment only, items are listed in the currency of their country of origin, or tires are only sold in packs of three.
#49 Alone in the Snow
When the snow in our driveway was plowed, it would create a huge snow mound that would be kind of closed off in a corner on the yard. My sister and I would pretend we were abandoned by our parents as six and nine-year-old children. My older sister would take on a more motherly role and would even have to fight off wolves attempting to infiltrate our snow mound created by digging through the snow mound from one side to the other. Sometimes we took fruit out there and pretended we had just harvested them.
#50 Bathroom Bouncy Balls
I used to have loads of bouncy balls. I would play a game where I would sit under the sink in the bathroom and tip all the balls on the floor. I wouldn’t be allowed to move and had to grab the balls closest to me and roll them to hit the other balls around until I could reach them all. The game ended when I either had all the balls, or my mom started shouting for me to get out of the bathroom.