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How to Play the Kho Kho Game

Kho Kho is a traditional Indian game that will give your kids stamina and encourages teamwork. Click here for the Kho Kho game rules and background!

When it comes to games, the old classics are still the best. You know the sort – when all you really need is some outside space and a group of kids willing to muck in and run around. They’re simple, affordable, fun and great for child development. But many traditional games have been forgotten over the generations.

The Playground Games series of blog posts celebrates the best classic games from around the world and, while teaching your child about the fascinating and entertaining games played by children in other countries, we hope these game guides will give you some inspiration to try with your little one at home.

Here we learn how to play Kho Kho, a traditional Indian game which is all about building physical strength and stamina. Get ready for some ducking and diving.

What you need:

  • As much open space as you can find (traditionally 27 meters by 15 meters)
  • Two poles or sticks, these are to go at either end of the pitch and should be about shoulder height on your child
  • String or chalk (for marking out the perimeters of the play area)
  • Ideally, 12 children (but any number above six is fine)

Kho Kho rules:

  • Mark out the play area with chalk or string. Then draw a line down the middle, cutting the field in half length-ways. Put a pole, stick or sweater at each end of the central dividing line.
  • Split players into two equal teams, and then allocate one team as the chasers and one team as the defenders (let them know they’ll get to swap roles after seven minutes).
  • Chasers need to line up on the line down the middle, facing in alternate directions. They can only ‘chase’ on the side of the pitch they are facing and can only chase one at a time (see image one).
  • The defenders enter the field in groups of three and need to avoid being tagged by a chaser - they can run anywhere on the field, but they’re out if they get tagged.
  • The chaser at the pole starts and must try to tag one of the defenders on their side of the pitch, if a defender crosses the line to the other side, the chaser must tap the back of one of his teammates, who is sitting facing the other direction, and shout “Kho!” (See image three).
  • The teammate must then try to tag the defender and the standing chaser sits in the team mates place so only one chaser is chasing.
  • Chasers can swap with a teammate every time the defender moves into the opposite side of the pitch or the chaser can run round one of the poles to get to the other side of the pitch.
  • The aim for chasers is to tag-out the defenders the fastest. Whichever team gets the defenders out the quickest wins.

What’s so good about playing Kho Kho?

This game is not only very physical, with lots of running, diving and squatting; it’s also brilliant for encouraging teamwork. Kids have to watch carefully, work together, and learn how to recognise when a teammate should take over the pursuit. They also have to decide quickly which is the right player to take over, so there’s an element of strategy involved. It’s a real workout for body and mind.

Tales of the tradition of Kho Kho

Why not add a bit of drama and mystery when telling your kid about Kho Kho? The truth is, nobody knows exactly where and how the Kho Kho game was born, but it’s believed to have evolved in the state of Maharashtra, where it was played on chariots, called Rath.

In its ancient form, the game was known as Rathera. It gradually became a much loved game for kids, keeping them entertained for centuries, some rules of play were eventually formalised in the early 1900s, and in 1960 the first national Kho Kho Championship took place in Andhra Pradesh state. However, over the years, with modern games and different sorts of childhood activities taking over, it’s faded away. It’s time we heard shouts of “Kho!” all around the world.

Playing Kho Kho is well worth the messy clothes

If there isn’t a lot of mud and sand on your kids’ clothes at the end of a game of Kho Kho, they need to throw themselves into it better next time! If they’ve been playing on grass and their clothes are stained, the marks will come out if you rub the stain gently with Persil small & mighty, and rinse with warm soapy water, then wash the garment with Persil.