Ball games 

Ball games have been played for thousands of years and many of the traditional games are still played today.  However, some of those that were extremely popular just a few generations ago are now barely played at allWhen hearing people’s play memories ball games were a common theme. 

Two Ball 

This game was played regularly in playgrounds, traditionally with small tennis ball sized rubber balls and required a wall and often a hard floor to bounce the balls off. It was often played alone, predominantly by girls and consisted of a variety of routines of bouncing the ball whilst chanting or reciting a rhyme. 

 June Barnett, recalls two ball fondly in her oral history. June played this at a reminiscence day held by PlayWorks and shared the game with her granddaughter. 

Check out this video below we've found on YouTube, Its from 1957 - see if you can copy her 'Two Ball' Rhyme (Hint it might be written out below) 

As well as throwing the ball along to a rhyme, there were different throw types, each had a name as follows: 

Upsies Throw the ball into the air
Dropsies Throw the ball against the wall, let it drop onto the floor to bounce up then catching it 
Dashums Throw the ball so it would first bounce on the floor, then up to the wall before coming back to the player to catch 
Underleg Throw the ball against the wall under your leg
Spinners move where you would spin around after throwing the ball at the wall before catching  

Unlike some of the other games listed here we aren’t aware of any children that still play 2 ball today.

Two-Ball Rhymes:

1,2,3 and over, 

4,5,6 and over 

6,7,8 and over 

9 and over catch the ball 

1,2,3 and under (put ball under leg) 

1.2.3 and dropsy (let the ball bounce) 

(same again with one hand only) 


Under, over, chocolate soldier, 

Over, under, drop 


Plainsy, clapsy, 

Around the world and backsy 

First your heel 

And then your toe 

Then your knee 

And back you go 

Stocking Ball 

Another game we don’t see today. Taught to us by Ethel Swann, ‘stocking ball’ was played by placing a small rubber ball or similar inside a stocking or tight leg. The ball could be tied in, so it didn’t fling out. The player stands with their back against a wall, holding the end of the stocking in one hand before flailing it around bouncing the ball behind them to their left and right and between their legsoften in time to rhymes similar to those sang whilst skipping or playing two ball. Stocking Ball was popular in the 1950’s. See if you can spot it in the video below....


‘Donkey’ involves bouncing balls off a wall in turn. The first player throws the ball, so it first bounces off the floor then off the wall. The next player would have to catch this before it bounced again. A player who failed to catch would then be on “D” and would pass to the next player. You would go through the letters of D-O-N-K-E-Y at each miss until someone reached the end. 

‘Spot’ is a similar game played regularly in Nottingham, instead of throwing a football it would be kicked again a wall, each player had to hit the wall with their first touch, in turn. If the ball missed, they would be on ‘S’ spelling out the word S-P-O-T.  

Cup and Ball  

Cup-and-ball has been a popular game in England since the early 19th century. It is played across the world, usually with a wooden cup and ball. The aim of the game is to catch the ball in the cup – which can often be trickier than it looks. In Japan it is known as ‘Kendama which is now also played across the world.



A street game, also known as ‘Kerbsy’ or Bounce usually played by two players using a football sized ballEach player would stand on one kerb and take it in turns to throw the ball at the other kerb. If the kerb is hit correctly the ball should bounce back towards them – scoring a point. If it misses the other player would catch it and have their turn. Again, variations on throws and catches could lead to infinite options. 

Check out this video on Youtube for a heartwarming clip about 'Kerby' even if the guy in the video believes it to be native to Scotland aha... 

Dodge ball 

A very popular game today, Dodgeball is played at many of the Toy Libraries play sessions and the Adventure Playgrounds. Local variations again are common. The Nottingham version we are familiar with involves several balls, of medium size (not too hard is best). 

2 teams play on opposing sides of a court with a halfway line marked out. Each team stays on their own side of the court.  

To start the ball or balls are place on the halfway line. After a countdown the players race to collect the balls. 

The balls are thrown at opposing players and if they hit (usually below the waist) they are out. If the ball bounces before hitting it is not valid shot 

If the player catches the ball when it hits them, they get a choice a) the thrower must be out or b) they can choose a player who is out from their team to rejoin the game. 

The winner is the team that remains in the game, having knocked out all the opposing players either by hitting with the ball or catching out. 

A variation on this involves all the players, apart from the one that in ‘on’, standing inside a marked-out circle, with the person that is on, on the outside. This person then throws the ball, aiming to hit the players below the knee with it. When players are hit, they go outside the circle and join in with throwing the ball at the rest of the players. The winner is the last person to stay in the circle. The game can be made more exciting by reducing the size of the circle and introducing more and more balls! This version was very popular at Tennyson Street Playcentre in the early 1990’s. 

Piggy in the middle 

Lots of variations are still commonly played today, the ‘pig’ would be the person in the middle without the ball. The other players throw the ball to each other. If the pig gets the ball they swap places with the person who last threw the ball.