Books Mentioning Hopscotch:
The first books mentioning the game are the Book of Games, by Willughby, and the Poor Robin’s Almanac. Both were published in the 17th century and refer to the game as “Scotch-Hoppers,” where a “Scotch” just means the line which separates the numbered boxes. Fast-forwarding to more recent times, we find numerous references to hopscotch in popular culture, from bands to films staking their claim to fame by borrowing from the popular pastime.
Enough History, I Want to Play!
Wherever the game begun, or whoever invented it first, one thing remains: it is fun because it is simple. You don’t need any particular equipment to play hopscotch, and it’s easy to draw the course on pretty much any ground surface, whether it’s asphalt, sand or other.
The course is made of numbered boxes, usually from one to ten, the first three of which are drawn on top of each other. Square four and five are drawn side by side, so if your stone lands on any number other than those two you can use both feet. It then goes on, with square six and nine drawn on their own, and seven and eight standing side by side. The last square is usually curved and the player can rest with both feet (like the side by side squares).
After setting up a course, all you need is a stone, coin or similar object to set you off on your hopping frenzy. The player throws the object, usually a small stone, in order to land in one of the numbered squares, though without hitting the lines which make up the squares (the “scotch”). Once the stone lands, the player skips the number the stone is on, while bouncing across the course, reaching the base (pot or cat’s cradle) then doing the course backwards while skipping the same number. As mentioned, the player can use both feet on squares standing side-by-side (i.e. four and five) as long as there is no stone there.
Those are your standard hopscotch course and rules, though designs vary quite a bit depending on country. Below we’ll have a look at a few variations from around the world, some of which have different rules and courses. There are all manners of courses, from square to spiral ones.
As mentioned the game is a bit different around the globe, and variations are plenty, from the French version which features a spiral instead of the usual set up, to Ekhat-Dukhat in India which only has two squares.
The New York version of the game is Potsie, which comes from pot or the home base which a player gets too (if he doesn’t fall off). The New York term for hopscotch, which is played pretty much the same as the English one, dates back to the late 19th century.
The French version might be a bit harder to play if you are used to English hopscotch. The course is a spiral, much like a snail’s shell, and players need to hop to the centre and back. A player can also pick out a square of choice and can land on this square with both feet; this is because there aren’t any squares side-by-side.
Hopscotch in German-speaking countries is called “Heaven and Hell” and has different rules; players need to kick the stone from square to square when advancing, and cannot stop at the “Hell” square which is the second-to-last in the game.
In Cyprus and Greece, they play Ayaktasi (try saying that with a mouthful) which is similar to how the Australians play hopscotch. The player throws a stone into a square in the usual way, but the game is played in stages and only ends once the stone has landed on all possible squares.
Record Breaking Hops
As an incentive to keep kids fit, BUPA ran a hopscotching event involving 358 people who merrily played the game for 10 minutes running, setting a new world record. This was part of a scheme between Tower Hamlet’s council and BUPA to reduce children obesity.
Dan O’Brien, a former decathlete who won an Olympic medal after dominating the sport at world level, managed to set another record for the world’s fastest game of hopscotch, which took place in New York’s Chelsea Piers. The whole game took exactly one minute and twenty-one seconds, and it stood until Ashrita Furman broke it in 2010.
Ashrita Furman holds the record for the fastest hopscotch game, which took just over a minute to complete. He also holds the record for most hopscotch games played in a 24-hour period, totalling 434 in all which would be enough to give me cramps for a year! To top all that, he also holds the world record for most hopscotch games played in one hour, which is currently totalling 33. Furman holds several other Guinness records so the feats are hardly surprising, yet it is still nice to see hopscotch so frequently mentioned in the record books.
As of October 2011, children support groups from Canada completed the world’s longest game of hopscotch, which featured a course slightly over 18,000 feet long. The groups which took part in the event were Step Up 4 Change, Right to Play and Free the Children, all of which are based at the University of Guelph in Ontario.
So as a game which is played by many kids across the globe, which features a number of world records and which’s history is shrouded in mystery, it is hard to dismiss hopscotch as just “a kid’s game.”