Olli Olli Oxen Free! or Childhood Game Garland

These lovely cards have illustrations on both sides and I cannot wait to see them spinning in the breeze.


I’m not a soft gooey person. I never make that impression on people. I laugh extremely loud, I’m WAY too opinionated and my own children think I have an “allergy” to ill behaved kids. Though I can be very diplomatic when the need arises, I am overall, unabashedly my abrasive, sarcastic, free spirited, colorful, loud self.

So, I find it really odd that I’m completely attracted to whimsical, demure, sweet, idyllic childhood themes. It’s a strange fit. But I am, nonetheless, drawn to old photos of children playing long forgotten games. Pictures of families picnicking out of glass jugs and paper wrapped sandwiches. Girls riding bikes in dresses, wearing bouncy curls and lips as dark as berries.  As if I’m nostalgic for a time I never knew. Kick the Can and Olli Olli Oxen Free (which apparently means “All ye, all ye, outs in free,” as a way to restore hiding or “out” players back to the game) were long, long gone by the time I was on the playground. We were all about War Ball and bike stunts. The days of tree forts, white washed fences and and string wrapped school primers were part of my Grandmother’s childhood, not mine. But here I am, longing to see glimpses of it and be reminded that those times did, in fact, exist and wishing I could bequeath them to my own children.

As a mom, I find it so important to connect my kids with a past that they are so disconnected from by mere virtue of time and technology. They have not forsaken Great Gramma’s games, they’ve just never heard of them. We tell them stories about what we did when we were little to pass time. I tell about Rubik’s Cube, Atari and poppin’ wheelies on my bike. My Mom tells them about rollerskating and poodle skirts and what a hippie really is. My Gramma tells them about going to a country school, where everyone knew her Mama and all her siblings and cousins were there with her, and again, on Sunday for church.

But some games and antics are truisms of childhood. They supersede time and appeal to all generations. Playing catch, swimming, singing, play acting, reading and story telling, dominoes and cards. At least 5 generations of my family can claim these  (and I’ll bet dozens and dozens more generations that I don’t even know about). So games like Old Maid and Go Fish are sweet, innocent and appealing to that squishy, nostalgic part of me.

I want to incorporate some of this childish whimsy into my adult life. I don’t want to live in a nursery but I love finding opportunities to pull it all out and tap into that time when the color of my barrette was important. I have used Holidays and Birthdays as my opportunities over the last few years and I’ve really focused on handmade, homemade, meaningful and colorful when I decorate for get togethers. When I found these cards, of Old Maid, Go Fish, Slap Jack and Memory, I fell in love with their whimsical drawings and the rich colors. I just knew I had to make something for our family to hang up for parties, but it is just now coming to life. Here is the beginning of my Childhood Game Garland…

I purchased a 1/16 inch hole punch. I tried using a sharp crochet hook, but the plastic coating on the paper would not let the sharp hook pass through without considerable damage to the card. I measured 1/4 inch intervals all around and marked them with and ink pen. When I was done punching, I was ready to crochet.

I used cotton floss and a size 7 (1.65 mm) hook. Then single crocheted around the edge and improvised the next row to give it a delicate look.  The finished product looks like a picture frame to me.

Once I’ve made up a dozen of these, I’ll string them together and be so pleased to see them flutter and spin in the breeze.

11 comment on “Olli Olli Oxen Free! or Childhood Game Garland”

  1. eva,

    i came across a site showing how to use christmas,birthday (etc.)
    cards to make bookmarkers,with that idea in mind and your idea of crocheting cards,i’m going to put those 2 ideas together.i
    think my grandbabes and frieds will like rec.’ing them as a gift.
    thank-you for the idea! Eva

    1. Comment author madme,

      Sounds great!!!! I’m gonna do this with some photos too and see what I get… Feel free to head over to Facebook and share your creations Eva!

  2. Lori,

    I love this idea! I really want to add whimsy to my household decor , and garland is a great way to do this. I don’t like tchotchkes (in my house) because it just means I have more to dust (and I HATE to clean…) 🙂

    1. Comment author madme,

      I completely understand Lori! I’d rather be creating something than cleaning something. I would love to be able to afford a housekeeper to do the heavy stuff.

  3. Stormie,

    I grew up with those games and my sister and I practically lived outside during good weather playing. ollie Ollie oxen free was played too. I’m only 32, but I grew up in Europe and things have a different pace there.

    1. Comment author madme,

      Thank you Brooke! I can’t wait to finish the garland so folks can get the full idea. I really want to do it with a set of red Bicycle cards too and some black floss. That would be a fun Halloween decoration.

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