Few wonders of nature captivate a child quite as much as the insect world, and don’t think that this magnetic attraction didn’t catch the attention of toy manufacturers. Beating the big boys to the punch was the Schaper Company, who practically cornered the market on bug-based games.
In 1949, the fine folks at Schaper managed to thwart mothers everywhere by successfully bringing bugs into the house. They accomplished this with their first big hit Cootie, a game in which one constructed the infamous girl-plaguing bug out of several parts. Immortality achieved, they nevertheless brought fortune to bear with their 1960 follow-up, Ants In the Pants, a game that hoped to prosper on its idiomatic humor more so than its literal implications. As with Cootie, Ants in the Pants enjoyed immediate and lasting success with the preschool crowd, many of whom have since grown, started families of their own, and ushered old ants into new pants.
Ants in the Pants first made its way into homes in 1967. Taking the time-tested virtues of Tiddlywinks, Schaper Games made it accessible to kids by mixing the insect variable into the equation and producing a two to four person success. The creepy-crawly stars of the game were sixteen large ants (two inches long being a formidable ant by any standard) in colors of red, yellow, blue, and green. Made of supple plastic, all one had to do was lightly push down onto an ant’s bendable backside to make them spring into the air. The game revolved around a freestanding pair of plastic pants, in true Dr. Seussian fashion, “with nobody inside them.” The goal, simple but elusive, was to flip all four of a player’s ants into the pants before anyone else.
The game has long since left Schaper, making a stop with Milton Bradley and currently residing with Hasbro. Although Ants in the Pants seems deceptively simple, it remains a popular fixture on game shelves throughout the country, proving that as long as there are pants, people will fill them with ants.
If you’ve played a few rounds of Ants in the Pants back in the day, we welcome your recollections in our comments section.