Our family has embarked on virtual travels to various countries and regions. To explore these countries and their cultures, we have followed along with the festivals, cooked and eaten traditional foods, learned of traditional handicrafts with hands on exploration, along with many activities to immerse ourselves. Chronicled here are some of these activities.

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Monday, February 2, 2015

How to Play Ampe: A Children's Game from Ghana

Photo Credit: Terrie Schweitzer (CC)

Can you think of your favorite childhood game? In Ghana, without a doubt it's Ampe, especially for girls. I've read it described as kind of like rock, paper, scissors with feet - but it's also a jumping and clapping game that feels like a dance. Sounds fun, doesn't it?

Ampe is a traditional children's game, played mostly by young girls in Ghana, but older girls play as well (and some boys too). Kids play it all the time, at home, at school during break times, when out and about. It can be played with two individuals or with two teams. Basically, players jump up at the same time, clap, and thrust one foot forward as they land. The patterns of legs determine the winner. It's a fun game that keeps kids active, and requires being able to anticipate your opponent, making snap decisions and having quick reflexes.


Before you read the rules, take a quick look at this video to get a feel for the rythm of it. 

How to Play


With two individuals:


Choose which player is the leader. The leader and the other player jump up at the same time and clap twice - on the second clap, as they land they thrust on foot forward. If the leader and the other player have the same foot forward, "bend" (both of the right feet or both of the left feet), the leader wins a point. If opposing feet are thrust, "straight" then the other player becomes leader. Players keep score until one has a certain amount to be announced winner. 


As a group:

Choose which player is leader. The same game play as with individuals, but this time the leader makes her or his way along the line of other kids (in a line up, or circled around her). A point is scored every time the leader is successful, and points are tallied after she makes her way through the group. Another person becomes leader and tallies her/his points. Everyone takes a turn as a leader, and the one with the most scored points wins.


As 2 teams:


Each team should have equal numbers. One team chooses how it will win points - whether if feet land "bend"  or "straight" (see individual game play). The second team wins points the opposite way.


Teams line up facing each other. One person from the first team jumps & claps with a person of the second team. The person who wins a point moves onto the next person in the opposing team. This continues until all players on one team have been beaten. When this happens, the winning team gets to choose a player from the opposing team to be ejected from the game. Once a team has ejected all the players from an opposing team, they've succeeded in winning. 


History

It's more of a schoolyard game these days, but traditionally it was a competitive sport between ampe groups from several villages. The origin of the game is unknown, and I can't find when it's believed to have started. I did watch an interview of a 100 year old woman who recounts being in a competitive ampe group when she was in her mid to late teens. Crowds of spectators would watch the tournaments, which could last as long as two or three days. It was either an event on its own or part of a ceremony.

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The girls were full of giggles playing this - but refused to allow me to photograph them :) It certainly brought out their competitive sides! 

Find more games from West Africa here.

Find more posts exploring culture, geography and history with kids at

6 comments:

  1. And I was so looking forward to the photos of your daughters playing......
    I'm just waiting for the day my guys suddenly turn round and say 'no more photos mummy!' I shall be broken hearted!

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    1. It's so hard - they basically never want their photo taken now (Pea for some years actually). And I just want to photograph everything they do - I guess I can see how this could get annoying :)

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    2. I have the same problem. My weekly post some are so hard to do withoUT them, too.

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    3. It certainly makes writing a family blog a little more challenging!

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  2. Oops, I think I pinned this and then forgot to comment. I remember going down to Mexico for mission trips and learning some of their local games, which was always interesting to see the slight differences between ours and theirs. I've got to show this to my kids because they'd love it.

    And I too wonder when they'll say no more photos.

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    Replies
    1. I think your active kids will love this game!
      Around age 12 is when for both girls I start getting more photos of their hands - up covering their faces - then anything else...

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