Our Favorite Childhood Hand Games

When I first got wind that we were doing a film series called “Roshambo”, I have to admit, I had no idea what that word meant. But as soon as I found out that it was another term for the “rock, paper, scissors” game, I was immediately brought back to childhood days spent on the playground or in the school lunchroom, and all of the hand games we used to play. Different variations of hand games are played all over the world, and it’s so interesting to think that children on opposite ends of the earth have spent time playing such similar games without even knowing it. With this week’s premiere of our third and final film in the Roshambo series, Roshambo: Paper-Scissors,  I wanted to journey back in time to the hand games we’ve all played as a kid.


Rock, paper, scissors

Also called “Rock-Paper-Scissors”, this game is often used as a choosing method, much like drawing straws or flipping a coin. In our Roshambo film series, Sheila and Chris use the game as a way to determine their fate. I love the whole idea behind this game – it’s kind of like a circle of life. Rock beats scissors, scissors beat paper, and paper covers rock. No one item is strongest or weakest. I’ve probably played this game to determine things like who will be “it” in tag, or who will have to push the other person on the swings. I haven’t played it in years, but I’m thinking I might want to use it with my friends to decide who gets to pick where we go for dinner!

Thumb War


A mini wrestling match using just the thumbs of two players, this game has never been one of my fortes. I have pretty small hands, so my thumbs are so easily pinnable — but that’s never stopped me from playing! If I felt like I was about to lose, the version I used to play would allow me to shout “cherry bomb!” and drop my non-playing hand over the two involved hands, ending the game. Did you guys have anything similar to that, or was that just local to where I grew up?

Miss Mary Mack

Miss Mary Mack

A true hand-clapping game, Miss Mary Mack might possibly be the most common hand game in the English-speaking world! In this game, two people sit or stand opposite one another, clapping their hands together in a rhyming song. Unlike Roshambo or thumb wars, Miss Mary Mack is not a game where anyone wins or loses. It’s played simply for the joy of playing – and that’s what I love about it most.

Cat’s Cradle

Jacob's Ladder

In this game, two people create string figures using just a loop or string and one another’s hands. The figures, their order, and their names vary – as well as the name of the game in general – but different versions of cat’s cradle are played all over the world! I was always fascinated by this game. I would stand there in awe as two of my childhood friends would create figure after figure without skipping a beat. I would try, but as soon as it got to the “part with the pinkies” (as I called it), forget it! I’d never know what to do. There’s actually a world record held for this game. Jane Muir and Robyn Lawrick completed 22,700 cat’s cradles in 21 hours in August of 1976. Can you imagine playing a game for 21 hours straight?!

My friends and I also used to play a game called “Miss Sue”, which was similar to Miss Mary Mack, but a little faster and a bit more complicated. I brought up the name to some people here at home office, and no one had ever heard of it! Maybe it’s local to where I grew up on Long Island. What hand games did you play as a kid?

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Rock, paper, scissors was my favorite!



I played Ms. Sue here in Cali :) But just like you, when I mention it, I get some funny looks.


We totally used to do Ms. Sue when I was at third grade, at recess! I also live in Cali!

Eeee, all the memories, I used to adore all of these games!

xo, Juliette Laura


Don’t forget one of the greatest Lemonade!


who is this left chic? she looks like me! haha I’m amazed. I have a twin out there in the world.

I was obsessed with cat’s cradle haha!


Say say little playmate and cicicinanana and This train goes. All hand games. Patty-cake like


Cats cradle for sure!!!




last week in sports class (im a ninth grader) there was a lot of rain so we couldnt play soccer so i found a couple of jump ropes and we jumped… we even tried using two ropes at once. (the only person that could jump with two ropes was my teacher and a friend of mine, the only thing is that he is a boy.

Thank you for sharing this article