Hopscotch is a traditional children’s game in which one or more players hops over a series of squares drawn on the ground. A puck or game piece is thrown progressively across the squares and players have to hop their way across the hopscotch framework according to certain rules without losing balance or stepping on the lines of the framework. Requiring some dexterity and physical prowess, the game was popular among children in Singapore in the mid-twentieth century.
Records of the game have been found in China as early as 2357 BC. The puck was seen as representing the soul and the aim of the game was to reach heaven while gaining merits along the way. Avoiding the lines signified maintaining a life freed from uncertainty and ensuring the soul remained strong. Later references to the game named Scotch Hoppers locate it in Great Britain. It was probably brought to Malaya by the British.
Variants of the game include “aeroplane” and the “cross”. In Malaysia, the game is known as ting-ting or ketengteng. Another unusual variant is Chinese hopscotch – a square box with nine squares numbered one to three in the centre and with letters “A” to “C” on either side.
Setting up the game
First, the hopscotch framework is set up. The framework is made up of squares drawn on the ground with chalk or scratched onto sand or soil with a stick. The framework is usually drawn with eight numbered squares in a double T-shape, ending with a large semi-circle labelled “home”. Squares 1 to 3 and square 6 are single squares while squares 4 and 5 and squares 7 and 8 are double squares. Players then select game pieces or pucks to throw onto the squares. A puck could be a stone or any hard object with enough weight to be thrown and to land where aimed.
These days, the hopscotch framework is built into playgrounds and drawn in paint in school courtyards. Singapore students play the game during recess or before and after school. They use almost anything for pucks, ranging from their wallets to packets of tissue paper.
There are usually four to five players in a game. Although there is no limit to the number, beyond five, the game becomes too drawn out as players have to wait for each other to finish a round. To determine which player will begin the game, each player throws a puck on the framework. The one whose puck lands in the furthest square begins the game. Alternative methods may also be used to determine the first player.
Playing the game
The player throws the puck in numerical sequence. First, she throws it on the first square. Then she hops with one foot on the second square and then on to the third square. She lands on two feet on the fourth and fifth squares at the first T-junction, followed by one foot on square 6 and then two feet on squares 7 and 8. Turning around with a hop and landing on two feet on squares 7 and 8 again, the player hops back in the same direction. When she finally reaches square 2, while balancing on one foot, she attempts to pick her puck, after which she hops on square one and throws her puck on square 2. If the player misses her designated square, she misses a turn. If the player, while hopping, steps out of the designated square, she also misses a turn.
Otherwise, the player repeats the whole process, avoiding the square that her puck is on and picking it up only on the way back. The final step is to throw the puck into the semi-circle or rest space. She picks this up when she lands on squares 7 and 8, after she has turned around, and must attempt to pick it up by groping for it while her back is turned away from the rest space.
Upon finishing a round, players enter the next stage – owning houses. Standing at the baseline where square 1 is, a player throws her puck. Whichever square it lands on, the player can initial her name and claim as her house. If she fails to land on a square or lands on a line, she must try again. She is usually given three attempts to own a house. However, if her puck lands on the semi-circle, she will miss a turn. During the following round, the player can land with both feet on her house, but no other player can place a foot there. At the end of the game, whichever player owns the most number of houses is the winner.
Gabriel, Matilda. (1983, March 27). Games we used to play (NL13970). The Straits Times, p. 22
Hopscotch - Hop, throw and win a house (NL16540). (1989, May 23). The Straits Times, p. 4
How to play hopscotch (NL13677). (1982, December 4). The Straits Times, p. 13.
Hopscotch. Toys and Games. Virtual Museum of Canada. Retrieved September 14, 2010 from http://maf.mcq.org/jeux/jouets/vignettes/en/jd_mcq_marelle_153.php
Lim, Rosalind. (2006). Gateway to Asian games (pp.25 – 26). Singapore : Asiapac Books.
(Call no.: JSING 790.15095 GAT)
Menon, Nani. (2005). Permainan, lagu & puisi kanak-kanak (pp. 40 – 41). Bentong: PTS Professional.
(Call no.: 372.19 NAN)
The information in this article is valid as at 2010 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.