Ranking Recess

September 16, 2020

       From Hide and Seek to Heads Up Seven Up, our childhood recess games gave us a healthy sense of teamwork, competition and anxiety. Though all these games remind us of the nostalgic times of elementary school, they are certainly not equal. Here I will be ranking many of the activities that shaped our generation. 

       It was a simpler time. Back when the phrase “it’s just a game” made you feel angry or prideful depending on if you won or lost. Recess came and went, but each day there was a new game to be played. Embarrassment, pride, shyness, all tossed in the trash along with your art projects and spelling tests, by the time the next game rolled around.

       So here they are, some of the defining games of our childhood, definitively ranked, no suggestions welcome.

  1. DEAD LAST – Red Rover

       This game was not only terrifying, but at the same time, incredibly embarrassing. Close your eyes and try to remember the feeling of trying to break your classmate’s arm for the approval of your team. If you were unsuccessful, your team hated you. If you succeeded, the other team hated you. There is no way to win. According to many students, including Zoey Lohse, “I hated Red Rover so much!” Scrawny second graders slamming into each other and fighting through the arms of other scrawny second graders. Sounds fun.



       The amount of running in this game was only fun for future cross country kids and personal trainers. Similar to Red Rover, this game comes with an unhealthy dose of embarrassment. Imagine being the slowest kid and getting targeted for obvious reasons, then being too slow to catch anybody! It’s a vicious cycle. And the aggressive kids who would not just tag you, but hardcore shove you to the ground? Unnecessary and rude. Honestly, the only reason this game isn’t last is that you can find a tree to hide behind and stand still. 


  1. IT’S OKAY I GUESS – Ghosts in the Graveyard

       There are no major problems with this game other than you can only play at night. Being forced to run around a park or house in the dark? Terrifying. There are so many better games that are much more inclusive and more fun to play. If Ghosts in the Graveyard is suggested before any of the higher-ranked games on this list: it shouldn’t be. Honestly, this game is so low on the list because it’s boring, uneventful, and scary.


  1. MEH – Frogger 

       Why is sticking your tongue out at someone an insult until it’s part of a game? Kids are weird. It is incredibly awkward to stand in the middle of a circle of judgmental 4th graders and feel completely on the outside of a joke. And what’s worse is that people who get “out” are supposed to dramatically die, but they just fall down. Where’s the fun in that? And I know that there were kids who died on purpose when the frogger did not even look at them. Boring. This game is just meh. If you play it right, it’s boring and awkward for the person who is “it”, and the people playing are bored too! The only way to have fun is to be frogger. 


  1. I GUESS IT’S FINE – Hide and seek

       Hide and Seek is very similar to Ghosts in the Graveyard in the fact that I have no major issues with it, it’s just boring. At least with this game, you can sit alone. Hide and Seek gets boring very quickly. Most places have a limited number of good spots available and are easily found once they have been used. The placement of this game could easily depend on the greatness of the location you’re playing at. If you were one of the lazy people that asked for clues and gave up after two minutes, you are a majority of the reason this game is placed here at number 6. 


  1. TOP 5 HERE WE GO – Kickball

       Kickball is sitting comfortably at number 5 because while it is more fun and active than the previously mentioned games, it is altogether dependent on the players. If you are playing with overly competitive people who never let you play, and yell at you if you make a mistake, then your kickball experience is ruined. That said, the excitement of scoring a run and being congratulated by your teammates gives a sense of teamwork and fun. Again, I say the main problem with kickball is those overachievers. This is 3rd-grade recess, not the kickball Olympics.


  1. IT’S THE CHEATING FOR ME – Heads Up Seven Up

       Yes, you did cheat. Every single person who played this game looked down at the person’s feet, making it nearly impossible to enjoy the intended mysteriousness of the game. I get it, you want to be it, but it’s not that fun, there’s no need to cheat. Not only do people cheat, the people who are “it” only pick their friends. It’s a vicious cycle of cheaters. To those who never got chosen, I’m very sorry. I feel as though this game was also a quiet game that the teachers could make us play so they could get some rest from us annoying 5th graders. P.S, if you thought you had a “strategy” or something when playing this game, no you didn’t.



       Every single group of people you play 4-Square with has a different group of rules. Made up rules. Regular, old school 4-Square? Can’t be beaten. This was also a very easy game to play at recess that was active but wasn’t going to get you all dirty and tired. Honestly, 4-Square had a real shot at number one, but the evil made up rules and mini-games that “those” kids made up just so they could win. I give this game third place. Sorry, I don’t make the rules. (Unlike some people.) 



       I have only one complaint about this game and that is that when you get out, you have to sit out for the rest of the time. This game is one of the easiest ways to pass the time in a fun and interesting way. From summer camps to playgrounds most everyone knows how to play. There is also a slim to none chance for someone to cheat, which is a major benefit in the fairness spectrum. Overall Crocodile is a game that nearly everyone remembers from our childhood days and will stay with us forever.


  1. ABSOLUTELY ICONIC – The Parachute

       I know you’re thinking “What could top 4-Square and Crocodile?” I encourage you to dive deep into your elementary memories to envision The Parachute. Yes, the excitement in P.E when you come to see that beautiful, colorful tarp that holds so much joy. A couple of fond memories include tossing the Parachute up and ducking under it to make a dome, and putting dodgeballs in the middle to throw them into the air. There are absolutely no downsides to the Parachute. It is fair, easy and all around the best game from our childhood.

There you have it. Some of the defining games of our childhood ranked and put in their place. Some experts at familyeducation.com would even say “Games help teach your child about aspiration, success, and disappointment.” But as one of the former children who played these games at recess, I can confidently say we were teaching ourselves competition, cheating and how to hold a grudge.

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