Course:KIN366/ConceptLibrary/Culturally Appropriate Games

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Movement Experiences for Children
KIN 366
Instructor: Dr.Shannon S.D. Bredin
Office Hours:
Class Schedule:
Important Course Pages
Lecture Notes
Course Discussion

Culturally appropriate games are sports and play activities based on specific cultural elements which make them unique, affordable, and accessible in the circumstance. Conversely, many cultural games are variations of traditional games from other cultures which often share similar rules, principles, and movement patterns. These games generally fit with the environment, such as special weather, cultures of regions, and unique humanity (Akbari et al., 2009). Children’s games also serve as a tool for teaching cultural history, differences, and values, and it appears to be valuable to introduce a variety of cultural games in school settings. Children’s play has been recognized as one of the major agents in development and learning (Hyun, 1998), and as a result, more research is required in this field to explore the influence it has on movement pattern development.

Cultural differences

Each culture has its own interpretation on children’s play which in turn influences the types of activities and movement patterns experienced in developing children. For example, North-American and European cultures are more likely to promote team oriented games such as hockey, lacrosse, soccer, and basketball (Yamada, 2002). Asian, African, and South-American cultures are more likely to encourage individual sports such as swimming, gymnastics, and track and field events (Yamada, 2002).

These differences are not only a predictor of which sports children will likely excel in, but more importantly, limiting their options can have detrimental effects on their motor pattern development. Every child will undergo developmental changes which will either help them succeed in a desired sport, or serve as a limiter for that sport (Lloyd et al., 2014). With this idea in mind, potential talent and skill may never be brought to light if a child is not introduced to a wide array of activities. The goal should be to promote as many cultural sports and activities as possible and to allow the child to decide on what they enjoy, and this may be the most effective strategy for optimal movement pattern development.

Popular Sports by Culture

Lacrosse in Canada

Many cultural games are variations which adopt foundations of other cultural games. Canada’s national sport Lacrosse, for example, was first invented in the 1850s in Montreal which adopted the Aboriginal people’s game called “Baggataway” (“Lacrosse in Canada,” 2014). Baggataway originates from a violent native tribal game which was often played to settle inter-tribal disputes and toughen young warriors for combat (“Lacrosse in Canada,” 2014). Games would consist of 100-1000 players, and could last for several days. The ritual component of Baggataway events were similar to those associated with war; players and supporters would hold pre-game ceremonies, sacrifices, and decorate their bodies with tribal patterns. Due to its dangerous nature, Lacrosse was constantly being banned from sport organizations throughout the late 1800s-1900s (“Lacrosse in Canada,” 2014). Lacrosse’s deep root in Canadian history serves an important role in celebrating aboriginal culture today, and more effort is needed in educating children on the historical backgrounds of the sport.

Football in Brazil

Football is the most popular sport in Brazil and has a significant influence on Brazilian culture. During the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, the men’s gold medal hockey game brought the entire nation together to cheer on their home team. Likewise, the World Cup brings Brazilians together to support, celebrate, and embrace the sport. Brazilian culture is recognized as lively, energetic, and animated, and it reflects onto their playing style in Football. Brazilians are typically not as big and strong as many Europeans, and they rely on their skilful, creative, and fast-paced style to outplay opponents (“Football in Brazil,” 2014), (Moura et al., 2013).

Cricket in India

Cricket is the most popular sport in India with a rich historical background dating back to the 1700s (“Cricket in India,” 2014). Although the sport is not traditionally popular in Canadian culture anymore, the sport is widely celebrated in Australian, New Zealand, and South African culture.

Rugby in New Zealand

Rugby is the unofficial national sport in New Zealand and is an essential part of their culture. The was first introduced to New Zealand in the 1870s adopted principles of Australian Rules Football (“Rugby union in New Zealand,” 2014). The All Blacks represent New Zealand’s top dominating team, and are well recognized for performing their ceremonial dance, the Haka, at the start of their match (“Rugby union in New Zealand,” 2014).

Variations in traditional games by culture


In Western culture, the game of Tag has a variation called “Freeze Tag.” In Mexican culture, there is a similar version of the game called “Itzel Cruz” meaning “Sun and Ice,” and in Australian culture, the game is called “Stuck in the Mud” (“Tag,” 2014). In all variations, the rules and concept of the game remain the same.

Rock, Paper, Scissors

The earliest recorded game of Rock, Paper, Scissors was in China and became a well-known traditional game in many different cultures which adopted various representations of hand signals. For example, in Japanese culture, the game is referred to as Frog, Slug, Snake, and in Western culture, the game is referred to as Bear, Hunter, Ninja (“Rock paper scissors,” 2014). Variations in these games can be attributed to the geographical location, animals, objects, and other elements specific to the culture it comes from. For example, the name difference between “Freeze Tag” and “Stuck in the Mud” may be due to fact that snow and colder climate is generally more recognized in Western culture.

Relation to fundamental motor skills

Culturally appropriate games show a significant impact on improving the fundamental motor skills among children, leading to improve gross motor skill level, specific skills, locomotion, manipulative skills, perceptual-motor development, and cognition (Abdullah et al., 2013 & Akbari et al., 2009 & Pasand et al., 2014) As the fundamental motor skills help children acquire skills to form complex skills and movement patterns (Akbari et al., 2009), children can possibly maintain their involvement in physical or recreational activities in adulthood (Pasand et al., 2014).

Environmental Aspects

Built Environment

Environmental factors also influence the types of games seen among cultures. Children can improve their motor acquisition through interaction with the environment conditions, like built environment, including facilities for games and public resources (Fahimi et al., 2013 & Akbari et al., 2009) Accessibility and proximity to public resources positively related to the level of physical activities of children (Sallis et al., 2012). The level of cultural activities will be greatly influenced by the availability of facilities, places to introduce cultural activities, and materials to support the cultural program. In addition to these, low street connectivity, the number of community centres, transportation facilities in the area can reduce the level of participation in any sorts of games or sports (Sallis et al., 2012).

Natural Environment

Natural environment might influence the cultural games, such as special weather, forest, and river. For example, snow during the winter season allows opportunities for children in these regions to experience a wide range of winter activities such as skating, skiing, and bobsledding. Snowball fights and snowman building are traditional outdoor activities which are specific to regions that experience moderate to heavy snowfall during the winter season. On the other hands, kayaking, originally developed by Inuit, Yup’ik, and Aleut (“Kayak,” 2015) can be a popular activity in the area along the river.

Social Aspects

Effect of Media

Many children are involved in passive television viewing and use of other media that are replacing their active lifestyle and reducing time to be involved in any cultural games (Pasand et al., 2014 & Fahimi et al., 2013) In contrast, any types of media can be used as a tool to make children perceive other cultural activities interesting and attractive by offering a variety of educational programs and international sports programs.

Social Determinants

Different culture has a different perspective on the gender difference. In terms of gender, some cultures have serious discrimination and stereotypes of women. Therefore, a lot of women in the world have been restricted to be involved in physical activities or games due to unique social norms in the particular culture. In this regard, the culture that general population know may not represent the whole picture of the specific culture. In addition to this, economic inequality should be considered because a number of cultural games include facilities or equipment. In that sense, the culture in the same country may be shaped in different ways, according to people’s ability to afford to play the game.

Psychological Aspects

The effectiveness of culturally appropriate games is positively related to physical activity, possibly due to cultural familiarity (Abdullah et al., 2013 & Pasand et al., 2014). The approach of cultural games is not a type of sports, but a ‘play. Play is one of the most effective ways of teaching the critical value of physical development in the provided environment (Pasand et al., 2014). Based on the positive attitude toward physical activity, children’s self-efficacy increases and makes them overcome fear to physical activity (Pasand et al., 2014). Also, children tend to be more inclusive and to have a better understanding of globalization.


With the Winter Olympic Games becoming much more exposed and popularized, many cultures are beginning to engage in a variety of winter activities such as curling, cross-country skiing, and snowboarding. For example, the Jamaicans competed in the Bobsleigh event at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi. Many cultures are beginning to embrace other cultural activities from all over the world which is helping to promote all sports in general to a new generation.

Practical application and advice for coaches and educators

As more and more cultures adopt sports and activities of other cultures, more windows of opportunities are being opened to children to engage in a variety of games. Children’s play is an essential part of movement pattern development, especially in gross motor development (Abdullah et al, 2013). A diversity of games and sports allows for a wider range of movement patterns to be experienced by children and may be beneficial in improving their skills and exposing their talents (Lloyd et al., 2014).

An instructional program in the school setting is likely to be more effective environment to introduce a variety of cultural activities to children, compared to a free lay program (Akbari et al., 2009). In response to this, cultural competence will help coaches have a better understanding of culturally appropriate games and sports. If necessary, site visits, surveys, researches, and interviews in regards to the particular games can help physical educators be familiar with cultural differences and expected conflicts in class. They are also encouraged to implement and promote a range of cultural activities and new movement experience.

Before the start of any cultural activities, coaches should be aware of culturally appropriate participation and rules. Also, it is highly recommended to ask students to be open minded to enjoy the games (Southey., 2014). Games are known to be effective in developing children’s motor, cognitive, social, mental, and emotional development (Fahimi et al., 2013 & Demiral., 2011). As with these features, a meaningful and easy cultural game can enable children to express themselves and to be involved in physical activity at the same time. At the end of activity, coaches can encourage children to learn the value of the cultural game and share their experience of another culture. (Southey., 2014)


Although this is an ideal approach, environmental, socioeconomic, and other barriers may limit the types of cultural activities children may get to experience. A lot of cultural games and sports are developed based on the unique characteristic of the culture or country, such as weather. For example, many countries with a tropical climate may have to invest more fundings to introduce any winter sports, like skating or hockey. It is still encouraged for coaches and physical education teachers to educate children of the wide range of cultural activities in the best way possible. This can be achieved through the use of videos, modified games, and guest speakers such as athletes. The main goal should be to allow the child to see their potential options and to prevent from restricting opportunities.

Due to industrialization and active urban planning, there is less secure place where people can gather and enjoy their cultural or traditional outdoor games. Some could be replaced to the indoor activities, but not every activity can be reserved.

As many countries understand the concept of multiculturalism in recent years, it is quite ambiguous to use the word ‘culturally appropriate’ games. Understanding the concept of culturally appropriate games can foster to develop the culturally inclusive games and their rules.


Abdullah, B., Amri, S., Yee, K., & Samah, B. (2013). The Impact of Traditional Games on the Gross Motor Skill Development of an Early Childhood. The Social Sciences, 8(6), 590-595.

Akbari, H., Abdoli, B., Shafizadeh, M., Khalaji, H., Hajihosseini, S., & Ziaee, V. (2009). The Effect of Traditional Games in Fundamental Motor Skill Development in 7-9 Year Old Boys. Iran J Pediatr, 19(2), 123-129.

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Moura, F. et al. 2013. A spectral analysis of team dynamics and tactics in Brazilian football. Retrieved from

Pasand, F., Ahmadian, M., Alsaadi, M., & Bahramian, M. (2014). Impact of Traditional Exercises on Perceptual-Motor Development In Elementary School Girl Students. Indian Journal of Fundamental and Applied Life Sciences, 4(S3), 1297-1302.

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Rugby union in New Zealand. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved March 3, 2014, from

Sallis, J., Floyd, M., Rodrı´guez, D., & Saelens, B. (2012). Role of Built Environments in Physical Activity, Obesity, and Cardiovascular Disease. Circulation, 729-737.

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Yamada, H. 2002. Different Games, Different Rules: Why Americans and Japanese Misunderstand Each Other. Oxford University Press. Retrieved from