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5 Traditional African Children’s Games to Play During Self-Isolation

Pembury Tours - Blog - Traditional African Children's Games



If you’ve been self-isolating or social distancing with your little ones at home for a while, you might be running out of inspiration as to how to keep them occupied and busy!

Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. As part of our “Experience Africa from Home” platform, we have a whole section dedicated to the little ones  – African-inspired movies to watch, books to read and classic family games with a twist. But, we’ve built on that by putting together a series of traditional African children’s games for you to try at home. Some adaption may be required, but creative, now’s the time!

Here are 5 traditional African children’s games you can play at home during self-isolation.

1. Ampe – Ghana 

Ampe is a traditional African children’s game in Ghana that has been passed down from generation to generation. It is a simple yet active game, full of clapping and jumping. It is great for groups but can be played with just 2 players.

How to play:

  1. The group chooses a leader. The other players stand in a semi-circle facing the leader.
  2. The leader and the player at one end of the semi-circle face each other. They clap hands and jump. They jump again, this time placing one foot forward.
  3. If they put the same foot forward, the leader is out and the player takes the leader’s place. If they each put a different foot forward, the leader remains.
  4. The same or new leader then repeats this process with the next player in the semi-circle, and so the game continues.
Ampe - Ghana

2. Mbube Mbube – South Africa

Mbube Mbube, pronounced “Mboo-bay Mboo-bay” is a South African children’s game. “Mhube” is the Zulu word for lion. The aim of the game is to help the blindfolded ‘lion’ locate and capture an ‘impala’ (a southern African buck).  This game is great when you have 6 or more players. It is fun, sensory and imaginative!
How to play:
  1. The players form a large circle.
  2. Two players are chosen to be the lion and the impala.
  3. The ‘lion’ and the ‘impala’ are blindfolded and spun around.
  4. Staying in the circle, the lion moves around hunting for the impala. The impala can move too.
  5. The children who have formed the circle begin calling out to the lion, “Mbube, mbube”. As the
    lion gets closer to the impala, the chanting gets louder and faster. However, if the lion moves away
    the chanting gets softer and slower.
  6. If the lion doesn’t catch the impala within one or two minutes, a new lion must be chosen.
  7. If the impala is caught by the lion then another child is chosen to be the impala.
Mbube Mbube – South Africa

3. Kudoda – Zimbabwe

Kudoda is a simple traditional African children’s game popular in Zimbabwe. This game, though simple, is wonderfully effective in help develop hand-eye coordination and improve rudimentary counting.

How to play:

  1. Players sit in a circle with a bowl of pebbles or marbles in the centre.
  2. The first player throws one pebble in the air. That player then tries to pick up as many pebbles as possible before catching the tossed pebble.
  3. Each player then takes a turn until all the pebbles have been collected.
  4. The player with the most pebbles wins!
Kudoda - Zimbabwe

4. Nyama-Nyama-Nyama – Kenya

“Nyama” means meat in Swahili, Kenya’s official language. The original purpose of the game is to teach children which meats are eaten and which aren’t in Kenya.  The game has to be played by at least 3 people.

How to play:

  1. One player is chosen as the leader.
  2. The game starts with the leader shouting “Nyama, nyama, nyama”.
  3. The other players jump and repeat after the leader.
  4. The leader then mentions names of animals. If the meat of the animal is one eaten in Kenya*, the other plays jump and shout “nyama”. If the leader mentions the name of an animal whose meat is not eaten, the children mustn’t react. If a player does jump, they’re eliminated from the game.
  5. The game progresses until one play is left standing and they become the winner.

*If you’re playing it at home, make sure you clarify with the little ones that they call out on animals you would eat at home.

5. Mamba

Mamba is a traditional African children’s game played throughout the continent. It gets its name from the African snake. This game is better played with lots of players, it adds to the fun!

How to play:

  1. Mark out an area for the game and set boundaries. Everyone must stay within the boundaries during the game, or they have to sit out for the rest of the round. We recommend shifting the living room furniture to the walls to create enough space.
  2. One player is chosen to be the mamba.
  3. The mamba runs around the marked area trying to catch the other players.
  4. When a player is caught, they become part of the snake’s body by holding onto the mamba’s shoulders or waist.
  5. Only the first player can catch other people. However, the ‘body’ can help by not allowing players to get past (players cannot pass through the mamba’s body).
  6. The game continues until one player is left, that player is the winner.

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