15 ways to play castles

Make your family time extra playful! Create stained glass windows with chalk, plan a feast or take part in a catapult challenge with 15 family activities to enjoy at home or in your local outdoor space.

Castles are homes built by rich and powerful people. They were built with thick walls and drawbridges for safety - and colourful designs and statues to show off their owners’ importance.

These castles would be filled with life: servants cooking and cleaning, stone masons building and repairing, knights attacking and defending, and the castle owner ruling over them all.

Today you can find castles all over Scotland to explore and inspire. Is there a castle near where you live?

Here are 15 different ways to play with the past. Give them a go and let your creativity shine… you could even make up your very own castle fun!

Here are some playful activities to enjoy together

Steward says

Being the Castle Steward was a very important job – they were in charge of everyone working in the castle like the cook, the servants, and the people who looked after the horses.

Play the game Simon Says but swap it to ‘Steward Says…’

What orders would you give?

Hop jousting

Knights in medieval times sometimes took part in tournaments - jousting competitions.

Knights jousted by riding very fast towards their opponent and trying to knock them off their horse using a lance - a long weapon like a stick. It was very dangerous for the knights, but a very exciting day out for all the people who came to watch!

Since charging at your friends with a lance is a bit dangerous, why not try hop jousting instead?

1) Fold your arms and stand on one leg

2) On ‘3, 2, 1, go’, hop towards each other, keeping your arms folded and staying on one leg

3) Without actually touching them, try to make the other person wobble or giggle so much that they either unfold their arms or put their other foot on the ground

If you’ve a few people you can play it in heats to find out who the champion jouster is!

That job is history

Wondering what to do on a wet afternoon?

How about a game of ‘That Job is History’?

In this printable card game, you interview each other for real jobs that people used to do in castles long ago.

You need to use your imagination, quick-thinking and persuasion skills to convince the interviewer you’d be the best person for the job!

(Psst, you can also use the downloadable cards to make up your own game)

Here are some playful activities to enjoy outside

Chalk windows

Many castles have beautiful stained-glass windows. These windows are made of lots of small colourful pieces of glass joined together to create patterns and pictures.

Create your own stained-glass creation using tape and chalk: 

1) Find a big flat surface outside – smooth concrete or paving slabs work well

2) Use tape (masking tape works really well) to create a pattern or picture on the ground

3) Use chalk to colour in all the sections different colours

4) Remove the tape and admire your new stained-glass chalk drawing!

Nature's castles

Most Scottish castles are made of stone but let’s try building a castle out of some different materials.

Can you try to recreate your favourite castle using sand, mud or even sticks, stones and leaves?

You might like to show a friend or family member all the parts you like best.

Nature crown

Make yourself the king or queen of your garden or local greenspace by creating a nature crown.

1) Tape a card headband together to fit your head. You could use a cereal box or any other card or paper you have at home.

2) Look around for natural materials like leaves, flowers, twigs, shells or small stones and attach them to the headband with tape, glue or string.

3) Enjoy wearing your nature crown!

Top tip: Remember not to pick living plants unless you have permission and take care when picking up objects to make sure they’re not sharp.

Teeny tiny castles

Imagine you are tiny - a tiny ant-sized human.

Look around outside and find patch of ground (maybe in your garden or a park) where you think ant-sized you would enjoy living. This is going to be your ant-sized castle.

You can build yourself a mini-castle, or you can imagine one.

* What makes this patch of ground the perfect place for or a castle?

* Could you give your castle some special features to make the most of this location?

* Would you invite lots of people to party in your castle or keep it a secret spot just for you?

* What name would you give your castle?

Here are some activities to fire up the imagination and the senses

Fabulous feasting

Lords and ladies liked to have grand feasts in the great halls of their castles.

Why not imagine your own special feast and make it a party to remember?

* Create your dream guest list and a seating plan

* Decide on your decorations – is there a theme?

* Work out a menu with all your favourite foods

* Plan your outfit – hosts need to look their best!

* Choose your entertainment – will there be music, games, dancing, storytelling?

Can you turn all this planning into a real event?

Keys to the castle

Castles have lots of keys and lots of locks. Some are huge, heavy, and rusty, some are small, light, and delicate.

Have a look at the castle keys in the picture. What can you imagine them opening?

A stable door, a chest of jewels, the food store, the castle gate?

Choose a key and imagine turning it in its lock. What will you find inside?

Act out what’s inside and see if anyone can guess what you’ve discovered.


You can find castles in all sorts of places.

Next time you’re waiting for something or someone, look around you for objects that spell out C-A-S-T-L-E.

For example, if you were in the kitchen you might see Cooker, Apple, Sink, Tangerine, Light-switch, Egg!

If you want to make it more challenging, look for things that make the shape of the letters…

Try playing with friends or family - you can work as a group, play in pairs or race against each other.

Who can be the C-A-S-T-L-E champion and find a castle anywhere?

Calm castles

Castles could help people feel safe. Find somewhere where you feel safe and get comfortable.

Close your eyes and breathe in deeply through your nose, counting to 5. Breathe out through your mouth counting to 5. Repeat until you feel calm and relaxed.

With your eyes still closed, concentrate on the sounds you hear, what your skin feels and the smells which reach your nose.

Slowly open your eyes and look around. What can you see?

What makes this place your calm castle? Would a real castle be the same?

Here are some activities involving making things

Catapult challenge

A catapult was a big siege weapon used for attacking castles.

Make your own catapult and see how far you can throw things with it.

You can find step-by-step instructions by clicking the button below or you can press play and watch our Craft Knight showing you how to make a catapult.

Try using different materials you have at home to make your catapults. When an army went to attack a castle they usually took their siege weapons with them. But sometimes they would have to build them when they got there using whatever they could find. 

Challenge your family and friends: whose catapult can throw the furthest?

Castle builders

Castles are built with high walls, pointy portcullises and watery moats to keep enemies out and make their owners feel protected.

Many also had fancy stonework, colourful walls and windows, and impressive towers to show off how important the owners were.

Build your own castle den, outdoors or indoors, in a way that makes you feel protected and important.

You could try adding some castle features like:

* Crenellations (areas of stone that stick up in a repeating pattern, often at the top of a castle)
* A portcullis (spiky metal gate)
* A watery moat around the castle
* A drawbridge (perhaps over a dry ditch or a moat)
* A flag flying from the top of the castle
* Narrow windows to protect from incoming arrows

Make your mark

People who carve the stone to build castles are called stonemasons. To make sure they were paid for their work they would carve a symbol called a masons’ mark into each stone.

Try making your own masons’ marks:

* Using sand, soil or playdough and a stick (or the end of a paintbrush or spoon)

* By 'painting’ with water on an outdoor wall, fence or pavement using a paint brush - or drawing on it with chalk

* Using yoghurt and food colouring and the end of a paintbrush or spoon (careful, this one is messy!)

Keep an eye out for masons’ marks when you next visit a castle - you might spot some!

Jester fun

Jesters were the people who would entertain the King and Queen at their feasts. They would make everyone laugh by jokes and tricks. They wore bright colourful outfits which showed how fun and silly they were.

Have a go at being a jester:

* Make a jester hat

* Put on your hat and your brightest, most colourful, silliest outfit

* Have a go at entertaining everyone by telling jokes, doing an impression or trying to juggle

Tell some castle jokes:

* Which knight never lost a battle? Sir Viver!

* What kind of cheese would you find outside a castle? Moatzzarella!

* I love castles but hate bouncy castles. They always make me jump…

We hope you enjoyed playing castles! We'd love to see how you Play with the Past. Share your play with us on social media using #LearningWithHES or drop us an email at learning@hes.scot.