What it is: A game played outside on a playground, perfect for recess at school. (For me, it brings back all sorts of great memories of fourth grade.)

Best for: 6 to 8 players.

What you need: A good playground. The more things to climb on, the better. Even best if there are isolated toys at the playground that you can’t reach without touching the ground.

How to play: First, choose one player to be It (we’ll call her Monica). Monica stands on the playground with her eyes closed and counts to ten. While she’s counting, all of the other players run quietly to the playground equipment and climb on something so they’re no longer touching the ground.

After Monica reaches ten, she keeps her eyes closed but moves towards the playground equipment. The object of the game is for Monica to tag another player so Monica is no longer It. The other players try to avoid being tagged. Rules: Monica can’t open her eyes, and she can’t leave the ground. (So since Monica is walking around a playground with her eyes closed, make sure you play safely: no running for Monica, she should walk with her arms outstretched to avoid crashing into anything, and make sure you’re playing in a safe area.)

So it might seem like a kind of hard game for Monica, but there are some tricks she can use, and some other ways to get someone else to be It.

First, the other players aren’t prohibited from touching the ground, but if Monica catches someone else standing on the ground or even touching the ground, that person is It. If Monica suspects someone of touching the ground, she calls out “Monkey on the ground!” Say Timmy was touching the ground, trying to run from one piece of playground equipment to another. Timmy would be the new It, and Monica would open her eyes and join the other players.

If Monica calls out “Monkey on the ground!” but no one is touching the ground, all of the other players in unison have to call out, “Out of town!” to let Monica know that she’s still It â€“ and to give Monica a hint as to the players’ whereabouts. (Monica can even call out “Monkey on the ground!” even if she doesn’t suspect anyone’s on the ground, just to hear everyone’s voices for a hint.)

So Monica shouldn’t be at too much of a disadvantage, and should be able to tag someone else so they become it.

Though more rare, it’s possible that Monica could call “Monkey on the ground!” and more than one person is on the ground. In this case, either all of the people on the ground become It together, or they play rock-paper-scissors to decide who’s It.

Ways to cheat: When you play, you’ll want to watch out for these ways to cheat and make sure everyone’s playing honestly. First of all, Monica (or the person who’s It) can’t call out “Monkey on the ground!” too often, like every five seconds. That’s cheating.

Also, the players can’t be too good â€“ that is, they can’t all just climb up to the very top of the equipment and just stay there silently. They need to move around some, even touch the ground every once in a while. They can also call out and make noise to tease the person who’s It (and make it slightly easier).

Finally, there was always that one kid I played with who would wear dark sunglasses every time he was It. As if we didn’t know he was peeking…seriously. So no dark sunglasses for the person who’s It. 😉

Variations: This game is kind of like the pool game Marco Polo (watch for a post coming soon), but on a playground instead of in the pool. I like monkey on the ground better, though.


  1. speaking of marco polo have you ever played silent marco polo it’s real easy the person who is it goes under water with there eyes closed for ten sec and everyone moves to a different place. when the person who is it comes up there eyes are still closed. they move around the pool trying to find someone. the other players cannot move except up or down and be quiet as they do it. Holding your breath for as long as you can while the person moves over you and you slowly come up beside them takeing a slow silent breath so you wont be tagged great fun I played this game hundreds of times as a boy feel free to use this game I do not know it’s origin I have been playing it for forty five years. John Cross

      1. There is also another game called “Fish-out-of-Water” It is very much like silent Marco Polo besides that you can move around if not it. The “It” closes his eyes and moves around the boundaries, preferably in deep water so that the hiders can go underwater. Boundaries should be around 10-12ft wide and 10-12ft long.

        Where does fish out of water come into this? Lets say John thinks he is cornered against a wall and it is only time before he is it. Then he can silently get out of water and move to another part of the boundaries. When John is out of water the “It” can say “fish out of water.” Then John would be It because he is out of water.

        -No Peeking! No wearing dark goggles or no wearing goggles in general.

        -If there are two people out of water than the last one in is it, if the “It” says “fish out of water.”

        THANK YOU!!!

        1. Awesome, thanks for sharing! I might have to do a post on that game! Very well explained 🙂 Now that you mention it, I think I remember playing that as a kid. Thanks for sharing!

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