Jumping rope is one of those activities that knows no age or gender limits, no bounds, no rules, no wrong nor right – just good times, good fun and a great way to get the blood pumping. A staple of city streets and school playgrounds alike, it is a simple activity on the surface, but can become as complex or competitive as one’s heart desires. Either way, it remains a beloved part of childhood, and it’s sing-song chants have provided the soundtrack to many a summer’s day in neighborhoods around the globe.
On the simple end of the spectrum is one person skipping or jumping through a rope, with one end held in each hand. To make things more complicated, twists are introduced, steps and turns completed, and faster moves incorporated. Additional people can even jump in on the fun. Activities may include two people each holding the end of a long jump rope while one or more participants jump in between. And, of course, we cannot forget the ever-so-famous “double-dutch” version (which, for the uninformed, consists of two ropes turned simultaneously in an egg-beater-like fashion.)
For centuries, humans have been jumping rope in all corners of the globe. The first concrete evidence appears in medieval European paintings of children jumping rope down cobblestone streets. For most of its history, rope jumping was a male-only activity, as women were discouraged from participating for a variety of dubious reasons – from the potential of “breaking blood vessels” to the assumption that it would be uncouth for a woman to do such a thing. As time wore on (and women became less willing to just stand around on the sidelines), jumping rope finally became an equal opportunity activity, one that females would prove themselves more than capable of, with nary a blood vessel reported broken.
Jumping rope is a fantastic source of cardiovascular exercise and is taught at the most basic levels of gym classes in elementary school. A great warm up before a sport, and a popular exercise among boxers, (both for endurance purposes and to strengthen their timing,) jump ropes earned a somewhat gritty reputation as a result of this association. Jump ropes, however, can certainly be fun-loving as well. A number of troupes and teams around the world showcase their talents in competitions, utilizing routines involving music and including any number of participants.
For the younger set, music has played an especially important role in jump rope activities. Rhymes like “Cin-der-ella, dressed in yell-a, went downstairs to kiss her fe-lla” were the rallying cry of the double-dutch crowd, where chanting acted as a way to keep things perfectly in sync. Even the classic taunt “Liar, liar, pants on fire…” owes its origins to jumping rope.
This classic childhood game has even spawned a wide variety of gadgetry, from the simple jump rope with the fancy handle to the popular 80s toy invention, “Skip It,” made by Tiger Electronics. Just slide the loop around your ankle and swing it around a jump and the counter keeps (semi-accurate) track of how many jumps you have made.
Whether as a solo or group activity, whether its purpose was recreational play or strenuous exercise, jumping rope is something that has always been a part of our collective culture. And, it’s for the betterment of society that kids put down the joysticks once in a while, and continue to fill the neighborhood streets with the musical sounds of jumping rope.
If you have a bit of jump rope experience in your past, even just a fond memory of jumping with friends on a hot summer day, we welcome all of your recollections in our comments section.