Adults often say that children ‘don’t play any more’, or that their games are a pale reflection of what they remember from their own childhood. But people have been saying this for well over a hundred years, and it is no more true now than it was then. As soon as they reach adulthood, most people lose the ability to recognise play when they see it, because they are confused by changes which have taken place. In fact, children’s lore is a fascinating mixture of the old and new – they will merrily recite a rhyme that is two hundred years old (thinking they have made it up), perform a clapping routine they have learnt from Youtube, and then play an age-old chasing game with characters changed to those of the latest blockbuster film, and then do a dance associated with the latest pop record.
Most games, rhymes, sayings, beliefs, which make up children’s lore are found more or less across the whole country (and many other parts of the English-speaking world), but folklorists in the past identified some strong regional differences, particularly in the verbal sphere, which still hold good – what do you call the basic chasing game (tag, tig, tick, he, it?), how do you choose who will be ‘it’ (eenie meenie, one potato, ip dip sky blue?), what do you say to announce a temporary truce (fainites, barley, kings, time out?), and so on.