Do You Remember Playing These Painful Recess Games?

Ah, recess. Time for laughter, games, and – ouch, bruises! From the fierce hand battles of Mercy to the scraped knees from intense rounds of Kickball, these games left a lasting impression. Let’s go back in time to relive some of the most memorable (and painful!) recess games!


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Facing another kid, you’d join hands and lace your fingers together and then try to force each other’s hands back. The way to win? Make the other person say “Mercy” by applying enough painful pressure to their fingers and wrists before they do the same to you.


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Kickball was a huge favorite at recess, but the emotional pain if you were picked last was rough. Kickball is similar to baseball but played with a rubber ball that is kicked instead of hit with a bat. It also definitely gave us our fair share of scraped knees and twisted ankles.

Wall Ball

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Players throw a rubber ball against a wall, and the ball can bounce only once before being caught by another player. Not too painful – but in some variations, players who miss the ball have to stand, hands on the wall, and let the players pelt them with the ball.

Crack the Whip

Kids holding hands running in a field
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Kids form a long chain, and then they try to crack the whip. A kid at one end of the chain runs forward until the kids at the other end ”crack.” Sort of. I mostly remember it as a lot of running, being yanked around and falling.

Four Square

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Played in a square grid, players bounce a ball back and forth among the squares, trying to eliminate other players by making them miss or hit the ball out of bounds. Games could get quite competitive; that ball came flying fast.


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A game where two players hit a ball attached to a rope, trying to wrap the rope around a pole in their direction. Who can forget the feeling of the ball smacking into your face when your best friend with the powerful arm got a good hit in?


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A natural addition to this list since it’s a game built on hitting people with the ball to get them out.

Red Rover

Players stand in two lines facing each other and call a player from the opposite line to run over and try to break through the linked arms. If they break through, they take one of the players back to their team. My wrists hurt thinking of this one.

Crashing on Slides

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I don’t think this had a name, but I remember sliding down the slide but staying sitting at the end on the flat part. Then another kid would slide down, bumping into you, trying to knock you off the end. This would continue with a line of kids, and when you got bumped off, you’d go get back in line to slide down again.

Bloody Knuckles

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Ah, yes, the fun game of punching someone else’s fist with your own fist. Ow.


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One person puts their hands on top of the other’s. The person on the bottom has to try and slap the person on top’s hands before they pull them away. A menacing game for younger siblings everywhere.

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About the Author

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Alissa is a resilience coach, cartoonist, and advocate for ‘connection, not perfection’. She’s dedicated to helping others find a sense of safety and belonging inside themselves so they can heal, connect, and build authentic, joyful lives.