Hungarian Games for Children

Category: Culture & Society

Hungarian Games for Children

Hungarian children games are steeped in the tradition of story-telling. Games played in groups are often combined with folk songs that reflect Hungarian history. Other games resemble those played in the U.S., such as hopscotch. However, the Hungarian take on this schoolyard game is singular in its complexity.

Hungarian Hopscotch

  • Techniques in Hungarian hopscotch are changed to make the game more challenging for players. In the traditional hopscotch game played in the U.S., a stone is thrown into a square before a player progresses on the hopscotch board. When a player reaches the square with the stone, she picks it up and throws it ahead to another square, or outside the board. Modified Hungarian hopscotch make the player balance the stone on her finger or head. The stone can also be kicked instead of picked up and thrown. A Hungarian hopscotch board either resembles the traditional board, with eight squares, or uses a snail shape. The snail shape is a continuous coiled board with squares becoming progressively smaller as they approach the center of the coil. The player begins at the first square on the outermost circle of the shape, then jumps on one leg toward the center.


  • Many Hungarian folk games for children are combined with folk songs and dance. Forfeits is an increasing-decreasing game played with a large group. The children sing and create a moving circle by holding hands and moving in the same direction. A leader counts out, or calls out, moves. In Forfeits, a child who is leading the circle during their turn and makes a mistake, such as moving the wrong direction or tripping, forfeits his turn and falls out of the circle. The child is allowed back into the circle at the end of the game for the last round.

Walking Around the Castle

  • Walking Around the Castle is another increasing-decreasing circle game. The leader calls out the moves as the children "walk around the castle" singing. The beginning of the song translates into "Chain, chain, turning chain." Each child receives a turn at the end of the song when a child's name is added to the lyrics, for example "Tommy should turn outwards, Tommy's chain." This child leads the chain around the castle, reversing the direction of the circle. This game does not forfeit players for making mistakes. The game continues until each child has had a turn and their community of players is reunited.

Poetry and Song Games

  • Many other Hungarian games for children involve traditional folk songs and poetry. The poems often recall events in Hungarian history. Most notably the Hungarian struggle with the Ottoman Empire. Other poems are used to scare away unwanted animals, such as wolves or crop-eating birds. These poems and songs often accompany games with dancing. The language and rules of each game change with each generation of children, but many of the poetry associated with the games stays the same.

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