How to Play Four Square

four square playground

Overview – What is Four Square?

Four square is a ball game enjoyed around the world in recess and physical-education settings. Using a simple square court divided into four equal quadrants, this game allows growing children to build vital gross-motor skills while developing body awareness and agility.

It also enables individuals to spend a healthy period of time outside amid fresh air and sunshine, thereby reducing unhealthy levels of screen time.

Even better, four square is inexpensive since all you need is a bouncy ball, some chalk, and a hard surface on which to play.

As the name implies, the game supports four players at a time, but it is also great for taking turns since other participants can wait in line to replace players who strike out.

For this reason, four square is a popular choice for keeping large groups of children occupied while still allowing them the freedom to move around and get outdoor exercise.

It is a simple and cost-effective game for neighborhood parks, school playgrounds, parking lots, and even basketball courts. If you have ever wondered how to play four square, the following guide is all you need to learn how to become a master player and have a whole lot of fun along the way.

What are the Benefits of Playing Four Square?

children playing four square game
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Image Via Flickr | Steven Depolo

Four square is an inexpensive game with quick setup and minimal equipment. Children in elementary and grade school can easily learn the rules, and the short game rounds allow entire classes of children to taking turns participating in clusters of four at a time.

With its level playing field of four equal quadrants, the game is a good method for teaching early strategy and sportsmanship as well as logical deduction and understanding boundaries or rules.

And because each player must interact with at least three other people, it is also a clever way to build social skills and hone great interpersonal communication.

Physical benefits of four square include consistent practice with manual dexterity and quick reflexes. The game combines elements of hand-eye coordination with muscle conditioning in a manner similar to tennis (without the specialized skills training required).

Because the game balances physical fitness with mental confidence, it is a perennial choice among youth camps and planned after-school activities.

Excellent players often go on to compete in tournaments and competitions such as the Four Square World Championships.

How to Play Four Square – Preparing for the Game

To play classic four square, all you need is a bouncy ball of any variety (such as a volleyball or soccer ball), sidewalk chalk, and a hard playing surface (such as asphalt, concrete, or wood).

Start by drawing a large square on the hard surface. The sides of the square should be around eight feet wide for children (or at least 10 ft. wide for adolescents and adults).

If you do not have chalk or prefer to play on a basketball court, you can also use masking tape to make the square since it is easy to remove.

After making the large square, divide it into four equal squares known as “quadrants.” Once you have divided up your big square this way, number each of the smaller quadrants with the numerals 1 to 4.

As you can see, the Four Square court takes less than one minute to set up. Once you select four players, you are ready to play.

Four Square court diagram
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How to Play Four Square – Game Rules

The object Four Square is to eliminate other players to obtain the highest position on the game court. This position is called the server, and the server always stands in quadrant four.

The server bounces the ball to the first player, and then players bounce the ball back and forth among each other within the four equal squares.

In the game, players get eliminated if the ball bounces in their quadrants more than once before they can bounce it into another person’s square.

Once eliminated, the player either rotates positions (to the lowest quadrant) or goes to the end of the line (if other participants are waiting to play).

Although the game can vary slightly based on regional location, commonly accepted rules include the following:

  • Each player stands in one of the four equal squares (also known as quadrants).
  • The player in quadrant four (known as the server or King/Queen) serves the ball by bouncing the ball once and then striking it toward one of the other squares.
  • The receiving player strikes the ball to another player’s square (who must hit it before it bounces a second time). This is called the one-bounce rule.
  • Players must hit the ball using an underhand strike
  • If a player fails to hit the ball before it bounces more than once in his or her quadrant, the player is “out.” The player either rotates to the lowest-ranked square or goes to the end of the line if others are waiting in line to play.
  • Other reasons for a player striking “out” include hitting a ball out of bounds, hitting the ball inside one’s own quadrant instead of serving it to another player, hitting the ball overhand or prohibited body part, catching and holding the ball, or hitting a ball served to another player.

How to Play Four Square – Boundary Rules

Another important feature about four square is the rule regarding boundaries. It is important to explain this concept early to avoid unnecessary drama that takes fun out of the game. In Four Square, the “court” refers to the entire large outer square.

The quadrants are the four smaller squares inside the big square or “court.”

The Four Square court has two sets of lines: outside lines and inside lines. Outside lines are all of the outermost edges of the entire court (the whole big square).

Think of the outside lines as the full perimeter of the court. Inside lines are the lines that divide the individual quadrants inside the court. Think of these as the lines that cross at the center.

Outside lines and inside lines dictate boundaries rules as follows:

Outside lines are in-bounds.

This means that if a player bounces a ball and it lands on any exterior line, it is still in play. The reason is that the outside lines belong to all players (since they are the outermost edges that comprise the whole court).

However, if the ball bounces outside of the court’s outermost edges, it is out of bounds and the player is also “out.”

Inside lines are out-of-bounds.

This means that if a player bounces a ball onto any interior line, then that player is “out.” You should also note that this rule refers to ALL inside lines, not just the lines that border that player’s square. The reason is that there is no way of knowing which line which inside line “belongs” to which player.

For example, an inside line that borders quadrant one can also border quadrant three, and so on. Therefore, if a ball touches an inside line, the player who hit the ball onto the line is “out.”

Four Square Variations

Although standard four square rules have remained relatively unchanged since the 1950s, there are quite a few interesting variations. These are best suited for participants who have been playing the game for a while and want to perk things up a bit.

Airball Four Square Variation

In this variation, both feet must leave the ground any time a player touches the ball. All other rules remain the same.

Around the World Four Square Variation

The variation gives each player one wildcard opportunity to shout out “around the world.” This pauses the usual rules until each player bounces the ball to the right until all four players have passed it. After that, game play resumes to normal.

Cherry Bomb Four Square Variation

This variation gives players one opportunity to surprise another player by using a spike or jump spike to bounce the ball. The player must shout “cherry bomb” before completing the spike.

Fairy Bomb Four Square Variation

The fairy bomb variation means that each player has the chance to softly bounce a ball into someone’s square near the very center of the court. This means that the receiving player would need to run quicker than normal to avoid missing the ball.

Overhanded Four Square Variation

Normal rules prohibit overhand bounces. But with the overhanded variation, players can use both overhanded and underhanded strikes on the ball.

How to Play Four Square FAQs

What is the object of four square?

The object of the game four square is to move up to the position of server and to hold that position for as long as possible.

Where does the server stand in four square?

The server always stands in quadrant four.

What is the ranking of each square in four square?

In four square, quadrants rank in ascending order. One is the lowest and four is the highest (the server or king always stands in quadrant four). You can also rank the squares using letters (A, B, C, D)

What are server privileges in four square?

The server or king starts the game by serving the ball to another player. A server might also mediate any arguments about rules among players (since the server position assumes a degree of ability or expertise).

Players can resolve disputes about the server through a vote among the other three players or a quick compromise of “rock, paper, scissors.” And if the server strikes “out” during the game, he or she must move to the lowest-ranked square or go to the end of the line if others are waiting to play.

What is a sideline in four square?

Four square supports four players at a time. If there are more than four participants interesting in playing, the remaining individuals wait in line until a player is “out.” Many groups mark this area with a sideline. Those waiting in line must wait behind the sideline to avoid interfering with the ongoing game.

What is a server’s box?

Within the server’s quadrant, you can draw a small server’s box in the outermost corner. A server’s box is about 20 inches on each side. The server stands in this service box until after the first serve (at which point the server is free to move around in the quadrant just like the other players move around in their own quadrants).

Since the “server’s box” might be too far away for younger players to serve, most games reserve this concept for four square players who are older adolescents or adults.

How do you win four square?

Four square consists of short rounds that can end at any time. This makes the game ideal for recess and similar settings. The game structure also makes it easy to determine the winner. To win four square, you must be the last player standing in the highest numbered box.

The Bottom Line on How to Play Four Square

If you have been looking for ways to get physical and lessen attachment to digital or electronic devices, four square fits the bill. The game features elements similar to tennis without the required equipment or training. Simply grab a few friends and begin working on your serve. Once individuals know how to play four square, all they need is a ball and a makeshift court for hours of endless fun.

four square playground
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