A group of children playing tug of war.

How to Play Sly Fox with Your Younger Kids

The Sly Fox game, also known as Grandmother’s Footsteps, calls for stealth, patience, and the ability to stay very, very still. It can be played with as few as two players, or as many as ten. Younger kids especially love it, as the suspense of creeping towards their target without getting caught can land them in hysterics!

What you need to play the Sly Fox game:

Like most classic old playground games, Sly Fox doesn’t call for a great deal of equipment. If you have the space, you can play it almost anywhere.

  • A large open space
  • A wall or a line on the ground to be used as the home-base
  • A group of eager kids to play!

How to play Sly Fox:

  1. One player is chosen to be the Fox, and faces away from the rest of the players. You might want to ask the older kids to take turns to play the Fox to make it as fair a game as possible. 
  2. The other players sneak up gradually on the Fox and aim to touch their back before the Fox turns around to catch them. 
  3. Before the Fox can turn around, they must count to 10 under their breath or out loud as fast or slowly as they like. 
  4. When the Fox turns around all the other players must ‘freeze’ – staying completely still in whatever position they were in. 
  5. If the Fox spots a player moving, or falling over, that player must return to the starting point again. 
  6. Remember: it’s natural for kids to get the odd splodge of mud or grass stain on their clothes when they’re playing outdoors, but you don’t have to worry about it – Persil will take care of them.

This game is so popular with kids that versions of it, including Grandmother’s Footsteps, are played all over the world, from Statues in the US to Winnie the Pooh in Bulgaria, Annemaria Koekkoek in the Netherlands, and The Daruma Fell Over in Japan. There are often small variations, but the basic premise is the same.

If you’ve taught your kids how to play Sly Fox and they’re still full of energy for another game, you can always try another old playground classic. We have the rules and rhymes for three fun games you might remember from your own childhood to try here.

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