Before arcades and video game consoles came into our lives, many of us spent our school 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 a bit nostalgic, relive them with your friends or introduce them to your kids so they too can appreciate the games of yesteryears!
1. Paper Ball
Paper balls (available on partywholesale) 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. 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 berrycherrygift) 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.
3. Country Eraser
Country Eraser was the 21st-century successor to Kuti Kuti. Using erasers with country flags (available from Reflect) 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 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.
4. Five Stones
Five stones (available from littletotswithlove) is often one of the first games that come to mind when people talk about traditional 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 game for people of all ages to improve their dexterity and sharpen their reflexes.
Five stones is a pretty complicated game to play, so watch the above video to learn how exactly it 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 SELAN.sg) together to make a long rope. Zero-point 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 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 goli 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. 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.
Although a great game, hopscotch can get confusing so here’s a video that should make the rules a little clearer:
There are many ways to set up your hopscotch grid. Try drawing your own with sidewalk chalk (available on fullpowernew) 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 home666decoration.sg) or buy a hopscotch rug (available from Superseller) which can also double up as an adorable piece of home decor.
Chapteh (available on Moshi Moshi) is a traditional game in Singapore 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!
9. Pick-Up Sticks
Pick-up sticks (available from Babyhome.sg) 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).
10. 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. Relive some childhood memories by playing these classic card games with your childhood friends!
Congkak (or mancala) is a pretty intense game of logic that requires two players, 98 marbles or ‘seeds’, and a congkak board (available on SLSTOYS). 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 schoolkid in Singapore in the 2000s, odds were 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.
Skipping is also a really great cardio workout, so it’s definitely something worth revisiting for your home workout routine.
13. Block Catching
The ultimate traditional game in Singapore doesn’t require any equipment at all. Catching was one of our favourite games to play during recess in 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. Running up stairs, hiding behind pillars and screaming their way down corridors… they always had a great time, much to the fond exasperation of the neighbours.
Flashback to the past with these Singapore traditional games!
There’s something nostalgic about looking back at all the traditional games we played while growing up in Singapore. These 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 traditional games for a change!
Already a pro at these Singapore traditional games? Engage in some friendly competition with your friends over some of the best card games for adults or the best board games! Also, check out our National Day Sale for great online deals and sales this holiday!
This article was updated on 18 June 2020. Additional research done by Reeve Tham.
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