My son's school had its annual Spring Picnic on Wednesday night. After we had some hot dogs and checked out the book fair my son asked if he could head out to the schoolyard and we said 'sure.'

We figured he would head to the swings, or the playground where a ton of other kids were already playing, but instead he just kind of started running into the middle of the schoolyard until he got to an abandoned yellow ball.

He picked up the ball and made his way into an empty octagon near the parking lot and started bouncing the ball. Within maybe 30 seconds a handful of kids had joined him and after about two minutes the whole thing was packed full of kids.

It turns out the octagon is called a "gaga pit" where kids plays a game called Gaga ball.

Gaga Ball is a game played with a dodgeball or similar ball. Everyone spreads out until someone bounces the ball three times and says 'GA-GA-BALLLL.' The game begins when someone slaps at the ball, which stays on the ground for the entire game.

If anyone gets hit in the knees or below, they are out. The ball cannot be dribbled or advanced toward an opponent, unless you bounce it off the wall to yourself in that direction. The last one standing is the winner.

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Dave Overlund

I really enjoyed watching my son play against his peers, which varied in age from 6 to 10 or 11. Everyone seemed to be on an equal plane because of the rules and the tight quarters of the pit.

Gaga ball's creation is a bit of a mystery. One origin story revolves around Israeli counselors working in Jewish summer camps in the Northwest United States back in the 1950's.

The New York Times (via Wikipedia) has a great quote as to why the game is so popular amongst kids:

"They are teaching it to their parents and not vice versa. It's not like baseball or football or tennis, where they have to emulate someone else. Kids own it."

I know of two Gaga Ball pits in the area- one at St. Francis Xavier school in Sartell and the other at Municipal Park in Sauk Rapids.

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