Skip to content

International Games: How to Play the Classic Game of Kho Kho

Last time, the International Games series taught us how to play the classic British kids’ game Leapfrog, and today we’ll be rediscovering the classic Kho Kho. Playing Kho Kho is a great way for your children to stay active and build their confidence. Below you’ll find out how to play Kho Kho and discover the rich history behind the game. Kho Kho is all about building physical strength and stamina, so get ready for some ducking and diving.

The International Games blog series celebrates those classic games played around the world that have declined in popularity over the last 20 years. We’ll be rediscovering more games in the weeks to come, so make sure to check back often and keep playing!

What you need to start playing Kho Kho:

  • 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 game 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 the Kho Kho 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 great 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. Mastering how to play Kho Kho is a real workout for body and mind.

The History 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 Kho Kho 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 game rules 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 started hearing 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 Kho Kho game, 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 Surf excel Liquid and rinse with warm soapy water, then wash the garment with your favourite Surf excel detergent. Give us a shout if your kids try playing Kho Kho, and let us know what you think in the comments section below.