Skip to content

International Games: How to Play the Classic Vietnamese Folk Game of Empty Box

When it comes to playtime, simple, old-fashioned folk games are often the best choice. There’s so much on offer now to keep kids entertained and busy, but there’s nothing to rival letting them grab some friends and play a game. Many of the simplest games with excellent benefits for children have somehow been lost over the generations. It’s time to bring back a few favourites and learn how to play some new ones from around the world.

The International 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 a long-lost Vietnamese children’s game called Empty Box, which is all about timing, coordination and healthy competition.

What you need to play this Vietnamese game:

  • Some open space, as much as you can find
  • Three or more players
  • A small empty box or can
  • Chalk

How to play Empty Box:

  • Place the box or can on the ground.
  • Draw a large circle around it in chalk, about a meter in circumference.
  • One player stands next to the box/can inside the circle (make sure they are at least a foot away from the box, so they don’t get hit by the shoes!). The other players then stand around the circle, about three meters away.
  • The players standing outside the circle each remove one of their shoes. They then throw their shoes into the circle in an attempt to hit the empty can; they really need to focus on their aim here. And the person in the circle needs to make sure they dodge the shoes!
  • When everyone has thrown their shoe into the circle, all players rush in to try to retrieve their shoes. The person inside the circle must try to tag the other players as they grab their shoes.
  • If the child standing in the circle tags one of the players they then swap places and the game is repeated.
  • To be on the very safe side, you could get them to throw rolled-up socks instead of shoes.

What’s so good about the Vietnamese game Empty Box?

This is one of the best traditional folk games for encouraging hand and eye coordination. Kids will love the competitive element, and they will never get tired of throwing their shoes or socks into the circle, or of trying to catch each other out. It’s a classic Vietnamese game, still played in the provinces but less popular these days in urban areas.

Have you brought Empty Box or other Vietnamese folk games to a street near you? Tell us what you think. And can you recommend any classic folk games from your own childhood that are good for coordination?