Hopscotch is a game you’ve probably forgotten about as an adult – the word alone that brings back long-forgotten memories of jumping on a hot pavement or barefoot in the dirt with your childhood friends. It doesn’t matter if you grew up in New York City, Ghana, Europe, or India – we all seem to have played this game.
Not everyone plays this game the same way, but all the variations follow one simple rule – the player tosses a marker into spaces marked on the ground and then hops through it to retrieve the object without touching any lines.
Although we’ve all seen it, played it, and enjoyed it, most of us have no idea of the intriguing facts about Hopscotch. Believe it or not, Hopscotch is a game that has been played by children everywhere around the world for thousands of years!
Whether you call it “potsy,” “laylay,” or “kith-kith,” this playground game has a fascinating history that takes us way back to the ancient world.
Ready to learn more about this interesting game everyone seems to have played? Read on.
1. Hopscotch-like games date back 3,000 years ago to Ancient Rome!
In fact, it was invented to train Roman foot soldiers to improve their footwork. Sounds similar to that of modern football players who do tire-run exercises that increase their strength and stamina?
2. Roman practice courts spanned over 100 feet in length!
Soldiers would perform Hopscotch-like running courses in these courts to improve endurance and agility for war. Can you imagine Roman soldiers in full battle gear hopping up and down a 100-foot long line of squares as a part of their training?
3. Children are children!
Roman children copied these soldier drills in their play, and it didn’t take much time for “Hopscotch” to spread throughout all Europe. Within a millennium or so, Hopscotch was popular as a children’s game.
4. Hopscotch was initially inverted and called “Scotch-hop.”
The first recorded reference of the game dates back to 1677, where the Poor Robin’s Almanack series documents a game by the name of ‘Scotch-hoppers.”
5. Making sense of the name.
We can all make sense of the “hop” in Hopscotch, but what does “scotch” have anything to do with this game? “Scotch” was actually the Middle English word for a scratch or cut. Since children hop through lines scratched on the ground, the game is, indeed, suitably named – “Hopscotch.”
6. In 1828, Webster’s dictionary referred to the game as ‘Scotch-hopper’.
It was defined as ’a play in which boys hop over scotches and lines in the ground.’ However, we all know that it is the girls who are the best at this hop-skip game!
7. Kids in New York City know this game by the name ‘Potsy.’
The game closely resembles Hopscotch, but they usually use a flattened soft can drink for a maker.
8. Yes, there is a world record for the fastest game of Hopscotch.
Holding hundreds of records under his belt, Furman seems to love to do the unthinkable and unimaginable – such as running a marathon with a bottle of milk on his head or hopping through a children’s game! Kids, do you think you can challenge Mr. Furman’s world record?
9. One of the world’s longest Hopscotch games measured a whopping 21,125 feet.
It was created by a group of Ridge High School teens and graduates on July 27, 2019. These kids were a part of Legwork For Lungs, a high school nonprofit organization that increases lung support and awareness through fundraising. They cleverly named their Hopscotch mission the “Leap for Lungs.”
10. Over 600 people played Hopscotch simultaneously.
It was done by “Move Over Sheffield” in Sheffield, the United Kingdom, on May 20, 2019. It was a grand event to raise awareness about the importance of physical activity. Wouldn’t you have liked to be part of the team?
11. Almost every country in the world plays Hopscotch!
The rules are very similar to each other, but they go by a myriad of different names such as kunte belle, laylay, pico, paandi, potsy, or peever!
12. People in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland like to call this game “Himmel und Holle,” which interestingly means “Heaven and Hell.”
Heaven is the last square, and the second to last square is hell. As so the name suggests and the game goes, you should never touch the square called hell. That seems quite intense!
13. If you were from Iran, you would call the game “Laylay” and play with an even number of squares.
On top of that, you would use a flat stone to use as a marker and kick it along with your toes while hopping through!
14. In London, people usually write “LONDON” on top of the Hopscotch grid.
This is to reference the Great North Road that ended in London.
15. Australian kids seem to like to play it tough.
In Australia, the game is played in several stages. After completing the traditional stage, you would go through the court again by jumping into the squares with both feet simultaneously. In the final stage, called “Sizzles,” you would have to jump in the middle of each square – this time, with your feet crossed! Did you step on a line? You’re going to start again from level 1!
16. However, the French have come up with a tougher one.
The French version of Hopscotch is called Escargot, which means a snail. As the names suggest, the Hopscotch court is spiral-shaped. The player has to reach the center of the spiral and retrace his steps back to the start to play this game.
17. Children in Scotland know this game as “peevers.”
Peever is actually the name of the marker or stone that is thrown. So, in this case, the game’s name comes from the marker instead of the court. It’s understandable – we know of many game names such as basketball, football, and baseball that all derived from the ball and not the field!
18. If you go to India, children might not understand what “Hopscotch” is, but they’ll be more than happy to play a game of “Langdi Paani” or “Kith-Kith” with you!
In India, children will tell you that you can’t throw the marker into any square you want but that it’s important to toss the marker into the correct squares in an established sequence.
19. Some believe the game originated in China; there is a game that resembles the Hopscotch grids in many ways.
However, unlike the playground kids, everything in the game symbolized something in life for the Chinese. The drawn lines portrayed all the obstacles in life, the final square represented heaven, and the tossed marker symbolized the player’s soul. Scary? The point of the game was to reach heaven while gaining merits along the way and staying free from uncertainty.
20. Strange beliefs.
Some people believe the Hopscotch pattern was inherited from the labyrinth, a motif found as far back as the iron age. Youth were required to walk during an initiation ceremony.
21. Hopscotch in Covid times.
During the tough times of Covid19 and lockdown in 2020, someone from Edinburg started drawing a Hopscotch grid and put out some chalks along with a sign asking passersby to take chalk and add some squares. As a result, nearly 1,400 squares over a length of 400 meters were drawn through Edinburg Street.
In addition, these warm-hearted Scots took up the opportunity to draw smiles and leave kind messages for each other and the nation’s health workers.
Regrettably, with the surge of modern technology, the age-long historical games we grew up playing have become unfamiliar to many modern kids. Surrounded by video games and movies, children today miss out on the sheer childish pleasures found in a game like Hopscotch.
A fun way to exercise physical agility and mental alertness, Hopscotch is a game that people like you will continually encourage among children for years to come. So now, the next time you watch a game of Hopscotch, you will surely remember the intriguing facts behind this game!