Before arcades and video game consoles came into our lives, many of us spent our childhood days playing traditional games with friends and family. Traditional games in Singapore may be a thing of the past now but they’re still really fun! If you’re feeling nostalgic, relive them with your friends or introduce them to your kids so they too can appreciate old-school games of yesteryears!
Best traditional games in Singapore
1. Paper ball
Paper balls (available on sohandlee) are an iconic feature of Singaporean childhoods — you could buy them for cheap at the school bookshop and it provided hours of entertainment. Inflating a paper ball is also really easy – simply blow into the opening and watch it puff up like magic.
When it comes to games with a paper ball, you’re limited only by your creativity. Try a simple game of catch with friends or challenge each other to see who can keep their paper ball up in the air for the longest!
Bonus: Paper balls also make great decorations for a nostalgia-filled 90’s-themed birthday party!
2. Bestman bubble balloons
Bestman Balloons (available on Shopee Supermarket) are another gem of the past that 80s and 90s kids would remember fondly. We were able to get Bestman balloons in large boxes for a mere dollar! Simply squeeze the mixture of plastic from the tube onto the tiny plastic straw and blow from the other end. After you’ve achieved your ideal size, gently pinch it off the straw and seal it up. Try this traditional childhood game with your friends and see who can make the biggest bubble!
3. Kuti kuti
These little plastic tokens don’t look like much but they’re at the heart of one of the most beloved traditional games in Singapore. Kuti kuti (available on Shopee Supermarket) is a childhood game that involves two players flipping their plastic tokens until they draw close together. Once the pieces are close enough, players will attempt to flip their token on top of their opponent’s. The first player to succeed gets to keep both pieces and is declared the winner of Kuti kuti.
4. Country eraser
Country Eraser was the 21st-century successor to Kuti Kuti. Using Country Flag Erasers (available on Shopee Supermarket) players would try to flip their respective erasers on top of each other’s. The winner would get to keep both erasers at the end of each round!
Part of the fun of this traditional game in Singapore was amassing a huge collection of erasers with flags from the different countries and even trading them with friends to complete the set. They also worked really well as actual erasers which was often the fate of unwanted duplicates in your collection. Psst for added nostalgia, add staples under your country eraser for an edge against the competition.
If you’re a 90s or 80s kid, you probably had one of these wooden tops at home growing up. This spinning top toy was used for a game of Gasing – a traditional game in Singapore that dates back to the good ol’ kampong days. Few of us have mastered it though – as this game requires you to keep it spinning for as long as possible. To make the challenge even harder, you can even mark out a parameter for the Wooden Top (available on Treeyear Toys Official Shop) to spin in. The one whose wooden top spins out of the borders loses! If you find a wooden top at home, be sure to try your hand at it to see how you fare in this childhood game in Singapore!
6. Five Stones
Five stones (available on MTRADE) is often one of the first games that come to mind when people talk about traditional kampong games in Singapore. It started out as a game for little girls who used actual stones but it’s since evolved to become the version we know today. Aside from being fun, it’s also a great childhood game for people of all ages in Singapore to improve their dexterity and sharpen their reflexes.
Five stones is pretty complicated to play, so watch the above video to learn how exactly this traditional game in Singapore works.
Putting together the rope for zero-point is a bit of a labour of love. Start by tying a series of Rubber Bands (available from jcpartywares) together to make a long rope. Zero-point is a childhood game in Singapore that works almost like a reverse limbo — starting from around ankle-height, players have to cross over the rope while trying to avoid touching it. With each round, the height of the rubber band rope increases, upping the difficulty level. It’s a great game for practising your high jump skills!
Goli is traditionally played with Glass Marbles (available from redbean.sg) and there are many different ways to play the game. The most popular version of this traditional kampong game in Singapore involves either placing all the players’ marbles in a circle drawn on the ground or lining the marbles up in a row. The players would then stand at an agreed distance from where the marbles were placed.
Each player would hold a marble in reserve to serve as their ‘striker’. Players would then use the ‘striker’ to try and knock as many marbles as possible out of the circle. The player who knocks the most marbles is declared the winner!
Hopscotch isn’t just a traditional game in Singapore, it’s a classic played by kids all over the world. As an easily accessible childhood game, setting up a game of hopscotch doesn’t take much! All you need is a set of nine numbered squares and small tokens to ‘reserve’ the squares. Much like its name implies, hopscotch involves hopping from one square to another while doing your best to balance and avoid stepping on the grid lines.
There are many ways to set up your hopscotch grid. Try drawing your own with chalk or make one out of Painters’ Tape (available on MillionParcel)! If you want to introduce hopscotch to your kids, set up a semi-permanent grid at home with these cute Hopscotch Floor Stickers (available from sakulastore.sg) or buy a Hopscotch Rug (available from imoqi.sg) which can also double up as an adorable piece of home decor.
Chapteh (available on Shopee Supermarket) is a traditional game in Singapore since kampong days that’s good for improving dexterity, balance and aim. The chapteh itself, is a rubber disc topped with brightly-coloured feathers. While there are many variations of playing with a chapteh, the main objective is to keep it in the air for as long as possible.
Players would often use the heel of their foot to kick the chapteh in the air. Challenge your friends to see who can keep it in the air the longest or secure the most kicks. You can also take things up a notch by standing in a circle and kicking the chapteh to each other. Whoever fumbles first loses!
11. Pick-up sticks
Pick-up sticks (available from Shopee Supermarket) sounds like a strange name for a game but it was one of everyone’s favourite traditional games in Singapore. Gather all the sticks in a bundle and then let them fall naturally onto the floor or table. Players then take turns to remove sticks from the pile one at a time without touching or moving any of the other sticks. This is a game that requires creative thinking, intense concentration and a steady hand — almost like a messier version of Jenga (available on The Mind Cafe Official Store). Fan of games like pick-up sticks? Read our guide to the best board games money can buy.
Congkak (or mancala) is a pretty intense kampong game of logic in Singapore that requires two players, 98 marbles or ‘seeds’, and a Congkak Board (available on boardgameshouse.sg). The congkak board has fourteen holes (or ‘houses’) with seven on each side and a larger hole (‘storehouse’) at either end. The objective of the game is to either empty (or ‘burn’) out all the marbles from your opponents’ houses or acquire all of their marbles onto your side of the board.
If you were a school kid in Singapore in the 2000s, odds are you spent a lot of time during recess playing with a Skipping Rope (available on Rigorer Singapore Official Store). Speed skipping was the easiest game to play, competing to see who could skip the most in a given time frame. But kids would also try more complicated skipping tricks like jump rope crosses.
14. Block Catching
The ultimate traditional game in Singapore doesn’t require any equipment at all. Catching was one of our favourite childhood games to play during recess and after school. The objective was simple – someone would be the catcher and their job was to try and catch the other players. Whoever got caught would then be the next catcher.
Block catching took things to the next level where all the kids in the neighbourhood would engage in a massive game of catching at their block. Running upstairs, hiding behind pillars and screaming their way down corridors — they always had a great time, much to the fond exasperation of the neighbours.
15. Cat’s cradle
When morning assemblies or fire drills at the parade square got too boring, Cat’s Cradle was a game we played to kill time. If you need a refresher, Cat’s Cradle is the game where you make different string patterns and figures by passing the string from one to another. There are specific loops you have to make to achieve the different patterns, which are named Diamond, Manger, Two Crowns, and more! All you needed was a long string like this Cat’s Cradle String (available on SeaShellPlace), which made this traditional childhood game in Singapore easy to play at any time!
Best traditional card and board games in Singapore
16. Old school card games
If you grew up in Singapore, you’d definitely have played some traditional kids’ card games. Long before we even knew how to play poker or blackjack, we would spend hours with our friends whiling away time with Old-School Card Games (available on FunAndStuff). No one wanted to be the Old Maid or the Donkey while Snap and Happy Family always had the potential to erupt into chaos. Miss the good old days of chilling with your buddies while dabbling with older card games? Relive some childhood memories by playing these best card games for adults with your friends!
17. Airplane chess
Airplane chess, or fei xing qi, is a classic Chinese board game that many kids in Singapore grew up playing. The goal of this traditional game is simple – to land all your planes in their home destinations! You can have between two to four players, and each player starts by rolling the dice. The first player to roll a five or a six gets to be the first to step out of the hangar. Subsequently, you take turns to roll the dice and move your pieces to their destinations. All you need is a Airplane Chess Paper Board Game (available on sintattoys) to relive this childhood game in Singapore!
Relive your childhood with these traditional games in Singapore
For a visual walk down memory lane, check out our take on these popular childhood games in Singapore.
There’s something nostalgic about looking back at all the traditional games in Singapore that we played while growing up. These old-school games take us back to a simpler era when life seemed to move at a slower pace and all we really cared about was having a good time with our buddies. The next time you’re hosting a game night with your friends, try whipping out these childhood games in Singapore for a change! Stomachs rumbling from participating in these games? Try these tasty local snacks in Singapore or hit up the best chicken rice stalls!
This article was updated on 30 June 2022. Additional research done by Liang Shi Nan.