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Red Rover: A Traditional Favorite Outdoor Game

Classic Pastime Has Been Banned on Some Playgrounds

By

Red Rover is a traditional playground game, but it does require supervision.

Most grandparents will remember playing Red Rover when they were kids.

Photo © Andersen Ross / Getty Images
Introduction

There's hardly an oldster alive who doesn't remember playing Red Rover, but it has fallen out of favor in some areas because of the risk of injury. Since it requires at least ten or so kids to play, it is most popular as a neighborhood or playground game. If you introduce this traditional game to the kids, supervise them carefully!

Ages

Red Rover is appropriate for school age children.

Equipment Needed

No equipment is needed.

Where to Play

Any good-sized open area will do.

How to Play

Divide the group of kids into two teams. The kids then form two lines holding hands and facing each other. The lines should be 30-50 feet apart. The team chosen to go first calls for a runner from the other line, saying, “Red Rover, Red Rover, let Thomas come over!” Thomas then takes off running and tries to break through the other line. If he breaks through, he chooses one of the kids that he broke through to take back to his team. If he doesn’t break through, he has to stay with the other team. The game ends when everyone is in one line. The game is fun because of the suspense of wondering when your name will be called and wondering whether the runner from the other team will choose you as the weak spot to try to break through. It’s not a highly competitive game as everyone ends up on the winning team; however, Red Rover has been banned on some playgrounds as too rough. Obviously the game works best if the kids are close to the same age. Three practices should definitely be banned. The first is double-linking by holding each other’s wrists or arms. Hands only can be joined. The second is raising the arms high to “clothesline” the runner. The third is thrusting the joined hands outward so that the runner encounters the equivalent of an outthrust fist.

If this explanation isn't clear to you, watch this video about Red Rover.

Variations

In one of the variations of this game, the player who breaks through a line may choose any player from that team. In a less common variation, the player who breaks through joins the opposing team.

See More Classic Kids Outdoor Games

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