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A History

Text courtesy of Dagonell The Juggler and Hopscotch

Hopscotch began in ancient Britain during the early Roman Empire. The original hopscotch courts were over 100 feet long and used for military training exercises. Roman foot-soldiers ran the course in full armor and field packs to improve their footwork, much the same way modern football players run through rows of truck tires today.

Roman children drew their own smaller courts in imitation of the soldiers, added a scoring system and "Hopscotch" spread throughout Europe. The word "London" is often written at the top of hopscotch courts to make the court reminiscent of the Great North Road, a 400 mile Roman road from Glasgow to London frequently used by the Roman military.

Other LandsPlaying Strategy

The game is called "Marelles" in France, "Templehupfen" in Germany, "Hinkelbaan" in the Netherlands, "Ekaria Dukaria" in India, "Pico" in Vietnam and "Rayuela" in Argentina. The English term "Hopscotch" comes from "hop" meaning "to jump" and "escocher", an Old French word meaning "to cut". The latter word is also where we get the term "scratch", as well as "scotch a rumor" (or scratch it out) and "butterscotch", a hard candy that's made in large sheets and then "scotched" or cut into small pieces.

Each player has a marker, usually a common stone. The first player tosses his marker into the first square. The marker must land completely within the designated square without touching a line or bouncing out. If not, or if the marker lands in the wrong square, the player forfeits his turn.

If the marker toss is successful, the player hops through the court beginning at square one. Side by side squares are straddled, with the left foot landing in the left square and the right foot in the right square. Single squares must be hopped into on one foot. For the first single square, either foot may be used. Subsequent single squares must alternate feet. Squares marked "Safe" (or "Home"/"Neutral"/"Rest"/etc.) or "London" are neutral squares and may be hopped through in any manner without penalty.

When the player reaches the end of the court, he turns around and hops back through the court, hopping through the squares in reverse order and stopping to pick up his marker on the way back. Upon successfully completing the sequence, the player continues his turn by tossing his marker into square two and continuing in a similar fashion.

If, while hopping through the court in either direction, the player steps on a line, misses a square, or loses his balance and falls, his turn ends. He does not get credit for completing the current sequence and must start that sequence again on his next turn. First player to complete one course for every numbered square on the court wins.


VARIATION: The square with the marker in it may not be used until the marker has been picked up on the return trip.
VARIATION: After each player has completed one sequence successfully, he throws his marker onto the court and initials whichever numbered square it lands in. That square becomes a neutral square for that player only and the other players must either avoid it or pay a forfeit. If the marker lands on a line, or an already initialed square, the player does not get to initial it and must complete another sequence before trying again. Each player may only initial one square per game.
ENGLISH VARIATION (Also used with circle and spiral courts): The player holds his marker between his feet and hops from square to square without letting go of the marker or stepping on the lines.

The Hopscotch Emporium for all you hopscotching needs

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November 1, 2005
by Susan Whiteman.