Games that entertained Ghanaian children in the 1970s, 80s & 90s
Going down memory lane in Ghana, there were some intriguing games children played and enjoyed in the past which are almost phased out to be replaced with modern video games and the internet.
The ‘High jump’, ‘pilolo’, ‘chaskele’, ‘counters ball’, ‘sway’, ‘hopscotch’, ‘ampe’, ‘stay’ and many others were the games that kept children busy and active emotionally, mentally, and physically, in class and at home.
The evolution of technology has changed the way children play today.
Many children are glued to their parents’ phones, and some even have iPads that expose them to all kinds of content, the good, the bad, and the ugly. ICT tools used today, confine children indoors playing PS5 games or independently fidgeting with mobile phones, typically with less or no supervision from parents.
The contemporary practices stood in sharp contrast with the games of yesteryear, particularly in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s. Games of the past brought children into the open air to fraternize, bond, and learn different communal virtues.
Back in the day, these Ghanaian childhood games served as a means of inculcating social values in children.
This is a very cruel but interesting game. It can be played amongst two or more players. Players are required to say the word, “Zanzama” before sitting down.
If Player A sits without saying “zanzama”, Player B is entitled to give Player A a heavy knock on the head for not saying the word.
The game was played with a spinning top called an “Alikoto.” The “alikoto” was made by fixing battery caps onto the top cover of pens. It required that players spinned the “Alikoto” to try to turn the spinning “alikoto” flat on its head by hitting its bottom with the side of their palm.
Whoever failed to turn the “alikoto” on its head will be hit with it on the hand by the other player(s) who successfully did it.
This game requires bottle tops (used as footballers), a tiny round object (used as the ball) and goalposts made from pieces of paper.
Before the invention of PES and EA Sports’ FIFA games, children used to play these games.
This was a very interesting game. It involved an object like a stick (which was mostly used) and the number of sticks to use was dependent on the number of players.
A non-participant hides the sticks while the participants have their eyes closed or not in the same location. When the non-participant shouts out “pi-lo-lo”, the participants then run from their hideout to search for the hidden item.
A finishing point was indicated and that was where the players who found the hidden items sent the discovered stick to be declared winners. This required smartness, keen observation, and skill to detect where the item was hidden.
The first person that sees it secretly runs to the finish point before alerting the others. It was no easy task making the find. It was then recorded as they reached the finish point.
This was an exciting game that involved the use of sticks cut to look like guns and used to shoot at opponents.
Players are given time to hide at a place where they can’t be caught.
It’s based on being smart and making sure you are not caught and shot by your opponents.
A heap of sand and a pointed object is required to play this game.
The aim is for players to get the pointed object to stick into the sand from various positions. A player who fails to get the pointed object to stick into the sand will be hit on the hand with the object by the other players who successfully did.
Throwing Rubber Bands
Rubber bands were a prized possession for a lot of kids.
The more rubber bands you owned showed that you are a master of the game. The game requires players to throw rubber bands on the floor from a distance.
For instance, when Player A throws the rubber band and it falls on any of the ones previously thrown by other players, Player A wins and collects all the other bands on which his/her’s fell.
This game is played by spotting car number plates with repeated numbers. When a player spots a number plate with a repeated number he announces the number with the word, “Kalo”.
For instance, if a player sees a number plate with the number “3311-11” he/she can announce “3,3 “kalo”.
The first person to announce the repeated number then gets the opportunity to hit the other player(s) that number of times.
This game is regarded as “Ghana’s cricket”. It involves a flattened can (mostly milk cans), sticks used as bats, and a rimless car tyre.
The aim of the game is for a player to successfully toss the flattened object into the hole in the tyre, while the players with the sticks have to prevent that from happening.
Tumatu ( hopscotch)
This game is regarded as the Ghanaian version of hopscotch. It requires players to jump a lot.
Basically, you need to put your opponent in a position that forces them to make and hopefully fail at near-impossible jumps by, more or less, buying spaces on a drawn-out grid.
“Ampe” is a simple game and is mostly played by girls, but guys do join sometimes just to have fun.
The game can be played by two or more people and it involves one jumping, clapping, and at the same time thrusting one foot forward after you have jumped and landed on the ground. It originated in Ghana but is now played in other African countries.
African Cloths Parachutes
This game is played by tying the ends of an African cloth around your waist and holding the other ends above your head.
Feeling the wind beneath the Parachutes we made from our mothers’ traditional clothes as we ran was definitely one of the highlights of our days.
At first, we dug twelve holes in the ground (two rows with six holes in each row) and then use palm kennels to play this game. But now, “Oware” is carved out of wood and can be taken along wherever one wants to go.
“Ludu” is a board game for a minimum of two persons and a maximum of four. If there are four players playing this game, they all race the four tokens on board from start to finish according to the rolls of a single dice at a time.
This is a traditional game that involves a group of people squatting or sitting on the bare ground and forming a circle, then one person goes around with a stone with the aim of dropping it at the back of those squatting. This triggers another action from which winners emerged to be followed by jubilations.
Police and thief
As the name suggests, the game involved a group of boys who divide themselves into police and thieves. The thieves go to hide, and the police go in search of them.
Beautiful games. They definitely made our childhood beautiful.. Good old days.