Childhood games

Today, as I was preparing one of the rooms for incoming guests, I suddenly found myself almost sitting on the floor. For some reason, although I have done the same thing on numerous occasions, this time, this action brought back some vivid memories of childhood games played sitting on the floor in my grandfather’s house in Singapore. Why this was, I cannot fathom; but it made me think back of games which perhaps some of you might also be familiar with.

One of these games was ‘Five Stones’. A minimum of two players are required to play this game, and I can see in my mind’s eye, two or more girls sitting on the cool marble floor in my grandfather’s house. The ‘stones’ were not actual stones but small pyramids of cloth filled with tiny beans or similar. Our mothers made them for us if we were lucky; otherwise, one could buy them from local shops, often operated by Indians.

Batu seremban or five stones is a game originally played by girls [although] you can either play with five, seven or nine objects. The objective of the game is to throw one of the stones one at a time and sweeping another on the floor simultaneously catching the one you threw earlier on. This game continues to advance[d] stages where the game gets complicated. (Words and photo courtesy of

The object of ‘Five Stones’ was to go through a series of increasingly complex moves until they were all completed. A certain dexterity of hand and eye movements was required whereby the gaming player would throw one stone in the air, drop the rest on the floor, then pick them up again before catching the falling stone. This was the opening gambit and all movements were completed with the one hand.

As the game progressed, so did the complexity of the moves. One could be throwing two stones into the air instead, and swiping up the other three stones before catching the two which would still hopefully be in the air. If one was very good at the game, then it was easy to go on for a long time until most of the moves were completed. Theoretically, if one was dexterous enough, one could simply finish the game without having to stop at all for the other person to take her turn. How frustrating that would be! However, this never happened with anyone I played with.

Another game played on the floor was really a party game. A minimum of three bodies were needed for this game. We would all sit on the floor facing each other and someone would be appointed to begin making actions which the others would copy slavishly. This was not as easy as it sounds as inevitably someone in the group would falter or make the wrong moves to lots of laughter. The object of the game was to see how long the group could sustain the rounds without making any mistakes.

One of my favourite games was ‘Pick Up Sticks’, a well-loved game throughout the world. We had great fun trying to pull each of the thrown sticks from the pile without moving the rest. Another game very similar to ‘Five Stones’ included the use of a ping pong ball and sea shells, whereby the ball was thrown skyward, the shells were moved on the floor into varying patterns, and then the ball was caught again – without having bounced on the floor.

These simple games of childhood seem so far away now, and I wonder if kids still play them as consistently as we did. Everything is now so technologically advanced, and children would seem to prefer playing computer games either on their lonesome or with friends, cyber or otherwise. At Blenheim Lodge, we ourselves have succumbed to the modern age by eventually installing online booking on our website in February 2012, where before we did everything on the telephone, by snail mail, or email. A reflection indeed on how much the computer generation has taken us over!

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