Kids Around the World: Games Children Play in Asia

Looking for new games to play with your kids? Check out these games children play in Asia to get some ideas …

Four children in matching button-up shirts with brightly colored geoemetric patterns are playing a game where they walk on halved coconut shells, which are attached to ropes that they are holding with their hands.
A popular game in Indonesia involves racing on coconut shells to a finish line.

I imagine we’ve all spent more time at home this year than usual. If you’re a parent of young kids like I am, that has probably meant countless hours of games like hide-and-seek; tag; and duck, duck, goose. After a while, my kids and I started to crave something different!

It’s always fun to find creative ways to play and keep kids entertained with games and activities that require minimal props or equipment. So, I started to wonder: What kind of games do kids play in other parts of the world?

In Asia, children in Compassion’s programs can’t afford the equipment required to play common local sports like cricket, soccer, badminton, volleyball and hockey. Instead, they’ve found their own ways to have fun and stay entertained. Some children collect natural objects like rocks, bamboo branches or leaves and use their imaginations to shape them into toys. Other children have game equipment that was handmade by their parents or grandparents and passed down.

Games are also an important part of Compassion’s holistic child development model. They encourage children to have fun and be active, as well as teach life skills like teamwork, communication, self-confidence and respect. The games children play at Compassion child development centers across Asia vary from country to country.

So let’s look at a few of them.

In Bangladesh, Children Play …

Chenti benti: All you need for this game is two sticks, one about 6-7 inches long and the other about a foot long. Make a hole in the ground about 2 inches deep and place the shorter above the hole so that it hangs over the edge. Then hit the shorter stick with the longer stick as hard as you can! The person to flip the stick the farthest wins.

A group of young children in the Philippines stands in a semi-circle watching a boy swinging a stick at a smaller stick, playing the game chenti-benti
Children in Bangladesh play chenti benti.

Golla choot: This game is best played with 10-15 children. Three players make a chain holding hands. One person is the anchor in the chain and must keep one foot in a circle at all times. The chain tries to catch the other children without letting go of each other and without the anchor’s foot leaving the circle. Each time they catch another child, the child is added to the chain until only one child remains.

Seven children stand in a line outdoors in Bangladesh. They are holding hands. One boy stands in a circle drawn from white chalk. The children are playing the game golla choot
Children forming a chain during a game of golla choot.

In the Philippines, Children Play …

Tumbang preso: The name of this game literally means “knock the prisoner down,” and you only need an empty tin can and sandals to play. One person is “it” and stands up the tin can. The other players stand behind a line and throw their sandals to try to knock down the can. Then, they have to run in to get their sandals back. The person who is “it” first has to stand up the tin can before trying to tag someone to become the next “it” before they can get back to safety behind the line.

Children in Thailand throw flip-flops at a tin can, playing the game tumbang preso
Children in the Philippines playing tumbang preso.

Patintero: This traditional game is considered the most popular in the Philippines. It is played on a rectangular grid that is divided into four or six parts, depending on the number of players. The goal is for the offensive team to cross the length of the rectangle and back without getting tagged by the defensive team. Usually, each tagger on the defensive team is assigned a crosswise line. They can tag runners at any time, including those already past them, as long as both of their feet stay on the lines. If someone is tagged, the teams change position.

A group of children in Compassion's program is playing the game patinero, with one boy straddling two boxes drawn with chalk and holding his hands out in a T. Most children are wearing blue T-shirts and are barefoot.
A child in Compassion’s program in the Philippines is on defense in a game of patintero.

HOW TO PLAY PATINTERO: Step-by-step rules and a video from Compassion Explorer Magazine.

In Thailand, Children Play …

Boe-thor: A typical game that young Karen children play is a reflection of their tribe’s hunter-gatherer traditions. It involves making a “gun” out of pieces of bamboo and “bullets” out of wet paper. Children pretend like they are adults hunting in the forest and aim to hit tree or leaf targets from different distances.

Children in Thailand load their bamboo shoots with wet paper, getting ready to play boe-thor.
Wannapong, a boy in Compassion’s program in Thailand, gets ready to play boe-thor.

Wheel running: Another traditional Karen game uses old tires and bamboo sticks. Children use the sticks to push their tire to roll in front of them, moving from point A to B and back again to point A. If their tire falls over, they have to start back at the beginning. Whoever finishes with their tire still rolling wins.

A boy wearing a red and white shirt, shorts and sandals uses bamboo poles to hold up the wheel of a car tire while running outside. Another boy is running after him with his own tire and bamboo poles.
Friends in Compassion’s program in Bangladesh run in a wheel-running race outside their center classroom.

Daw-tou-luu: This is a traditional game to play during Hmong’s new year festival. Men in every Hmong home carve their own daw-tou-luu, which is a lightweight, wooden top of about 1-2 inches in diameter and 5 inches long. A rope is coiled around its axis. Each child holds their daw-tou-luu with one hand and holds a stick tied to the rope with their other hand. The top is thrown and the stick is pulled to uncoil the rope and make the top spin rapidly. Two players play at a time, with the aim to both keep their top spinning longer and to try to knock down the other player’s top. The first daw-tou-luu to drop loses.

A boy wearing a blue jacket and black pants hurls a spinning top on the dirt ground outside.
Pannawit, a student in Compassion’s program, hurls his daw-tou-luu with all his strength.

In Indonesia, Children Play …

Bola bekel: This traditional Indonesian game is similar to jacks and can be played with three to five players. You need a ball, which is called a bekel ball, and six small seashells. First, put all the seashells and the bekel ball in the palm of one hand. Throw the ball up and spill the seashells. While the ball is in the air, pick up one seashell. The ball can only bounce once while picking up the shells.

Three girls sit on a clean concrete floor in front of a blue wall. They are playing the game of bola bekel. Two are holding yellow balls in their hands. There are six small seashells on the floor between them.
Compassion beneficiaries in Indonesia enjoy playing bola bekel.

Boi-boi: You need at least four players divided into two teams to play this game, which is similar to bowling. One team tries stack a collection of coconut shells into a tower, while the other time tries to hit and knock down the tower with a ball. The throwing team also tries to hit the players on the building team. If a player is hit by the ball, they have to stop building the tower until the next turn.

A group of children in Thailand is playing a game. They're wearing colorful clothing. One is holding a ball. A stack of coconut half-shells is seen on the grass in front of them. A colorful building is behind them.
Compassion beneficiaries in Indonesia play boi-boi.

Teaching While Playing

Playing traditional games from other countries is a great way to teach children about different cultures.

Start by telling them about the country, show them where it is on a map, and look at pictures of the landscape, clothing and food. Then, play a game from that country together. Your children may even combine aspects of games from other countries with some of their own favorites to create new games!

Reporting and photos of games children play in Asia by: Vera Aurima in Indonesia, Edwin Estioko in the Philippines, J .Sangma in Bangladesh and Piyamary Shinoda in Thailand.

1 Comment |Add a comment

  1. Sandi June 12, 2021

    It is so refreshing to see that even though their surroundings and lives are so different from ours, and their situations can be so difficult and challenging, kids are still kids the world over. Cultural differences or not, many of these games sound similar to things we play here. They may have to spend hours collecting water, and cook bare necessities over an open pit fire, but they still run around shooting spitballs and spinning tops. It makes me smile. Children are so precious!

Add a Comment

Read the ground rules for comments.