Lately I have been thinking a lot about the games I used to play as a child. Actually I have been thinking about these games for a long time. I have been sketching hopscotch grids on the sidewalk and looking longingly at the jump rope in the outside toy box since my oldest daughter took her first steps. It is not that I remember all these games fondly. I wasn't the most coordinated child: Always picked last for kickball, only average at jump rope, and I stayed miles away whenever a dodge ball game was being played. In fact some of the games that I've recently become interested in weren't really a part of my childhood at all. Marbles for example. Sure I had marbles, but the game wasn't terribly popular with the girls I hung out with so marbles were nothing more than pretty stones.
Perhaps it's the songs and rhymes that we chanted that I remember fondly. Or perhaps now that I actually possess the motor skills to play these games well I want to show off in front of my kids (I hope I'm not that shallow). Or maybe I just want to find something unplugged and offline to share with my kids in this increasingly high tech world. I'm not really sure, but I know that playing these games with my family makes me happy.
Recently I was thinking about a game that was popular with my friends in the the late 70s and early 80s called Chinese jacks? Does anyone else remember this game? I found this Youtube video for those of you who wish to see a game in action.
These are not the exact rules that we followed... but this is basically how the game of Chinese Jacks was played. Unfortunately you can't buy these little jacks at the store anymore... Sure they exist on Ebay... but at greatly inflated prices for little plastic rings. The cool thing about this game was that you could buy your playing pieces with pocket change... and you could design the jacks yourself by combining different colored rings to make your own special pattern.
In my research I found several games from different parts of Asia that are similar to this game.
The true game of "Chinese" jacks is called Catching Seven Pieces. It is played with seven one inch bean bags (0r rice bags) that you throw and catch in the same style as the game I loved as a kid. In fact the rules to this game are much closer to the game I played as a child than the video above. Here are the playing pieces that I made to try this game out.
I also found a game from Korea called Gonggi. Here are what the pieces for this game look like:
This game looks almost identical to the way we played Chinese Jacks, as well, and is a fun variation. I may have to pick up some of these fun playing pieces if I can find them at an Asian market.
The last game I found was Otedama from Japan. This game is played like the games above but with larger beanbags called ojami. Ojami were traditionally made with scraps of kimono fabric and stuffed with beans or rice. Apparently Otedama reached it's height of popularity during World War II and all but disappeared soon after. I've read many reasons for this popularity and why it died off. One source credits it's popularity during the war to the fact that during hard times it was a cheap toy to make. The same source also states that people used the beanbags to smuggle extra food to their kids in school in form of the beans in the bag. This seems unlikely to me because I'm not really sure that uncooked azuki beans would be a good source of food. This is, however, is the beauty of folklore... there is always an ounce of truth and an ounce of fiction. A more likely story, perhaps, is a that people cut the beanbags open to cook the beans and rice when times got hard... and as a result the game lost popularity when families were forced to eat the toys in order to survive. Whatever the reasons apparently it is making a comeback.
There are different levels of this game and some of them combine juggling with a more traditional jacks game.
I made a set of these for my girls to play with... and I plan on making more of these games up and giving them as gifts.
What games did you play on the playground as a child?
Do you share these games with your kids?
What games have you discovered with your kids?