Canku Ota Logo

Canku Ota

Canku Ota Logo

(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


January 11, 2003 - Issue 78


pictograph divider


Childrens' Games - Part 1

by Lynne A Pennington
credits Photos from Canada's Digital Collection

From our ancestors to the present day children have been taught life skills, survival and social and physical development through games they learn.

Some games involve the thinking processes while others may concern eye and hand coordination. Although some of the dice games can be considered gambling it is more involving math.

Over the next few issues I will talk of many different games and include instructions on how to play them. Below is the list I will be going in this issue.

1. Stick Guessing game 2. Tops
3. The Buzzing Toy Game 4. Jackrabbits Hit
5. Corncob Darts    

Stick Guessing Game1. Stick Guessing Game





Materials needed:

Old Version - 39 peeled twigs, 18 inches in length
Present Version - 20 - inch dowels cut into 18 inch pieces = 2 per dowel

Number of people playing = 2

A. One player takes the sticks then behind his or her back divides the sticks in two bundles. Then the player brings the sticks in front of his or herself.
B. The other player guesses which bundle has an even number of sticks.


  • If the second player guesses incorrectly then the players interchange positions.
  • If the second player guesses correctly then she or he gets a point. Then the first player restarts the game but putting the sticks behind his or her back again and divides the sticks.
  • After three successful guesses she or he is allowed to obtain the game point.
  • If you want to play this game in groups what you would do is each team would sit in two lines across from each other. Then each player would pick a member of the opposite team to play against.

Scoring - 2 Teams

  • If the opponent is incorrect then the other team gets the point, however the losing team gets to make a guess at which bundle holds the even amount of sticks.
  • If the opponent is correct then that team gets the point and then the sticks are passed onto the next player on his or her team.

Tops2. Tops

Materials needed

Old version

  • 1 piece of branch about 3 inches in diameter
  • 1 piece of sinew about 3 feet long
A. The parent would carve the branch to look like a cone with one end pointed
B. The sinew would then be wrapped around the thicker part of the top.
C. The pointed end would then be placed on the hard surface of the ground
D. Then the end of the sinew would be pulled allowing the top to spin

New Version

  • 1 Wood thread spool
  • 3 inch wood dowel (one that would fit in the thread spool center hole)
  • 1 - 3 feet piece of carpet thread
A. Cut the spool in half and carve to bottom half into a cone. Do not put a point on the cone.
B. Take the dowel and carve one end to a point then insert it into the center hole of the spool
C. Wrap the carpet thread around the top of the spool.
D. Placed the pointed end on the hard surface of the ground.
E. Then the end of the thread and pulled the thread allowing the top to spin.

Ways to get points


You could gain points by how many spins the top did until it stopped.
Example: each two turns was a point

2. Make a square on the ground, if the top goes out of the square you lose. Each turn it is played equals one point
3. Using the same square try to knock out the other players tops

Sometimes in the winter time many tribes played this on the ice.

The Buzzing Toy game3. The Buzzing Toy Game

This toy/game has been said to be just for fun but I believe it taught science to the children.

Materials needed

Old Version

  • 1 antler button with two holes drilled in the center about 1/4" apart
  • 1 Piece of sinew or leather thong about 20 inches long
  • 2 small bones of a small bird - femur or tibia

New Version

  • 1 large two hole button or one disk 1/4" thick made from clay that is self hardening with two holes in the center 1/4"apart
  • 2 small sticks
  • 1 piece of leather thong, thick carpet thread or cord 20 inches long


A. Paint the button with your own designs
B. Thread the ends of the thong, thread or cord one end through each hole in the button then tie the two ends together.
C. Take the two small sticks and using a lark knot put each one on an end
D. Wind the thong, thread or cord in opposite directions until it is totally twisted.
E. To make it hum or buzz, pull the cords tight and then let them loose. The disk should spin, go up and down and hum or sing to you.

Jackrabbits Hit or Shuttlecock4. Jackrabbits Hit or Shuttlecock

This reminds me of a koosh ball because you can play with it like you do a koosh ball. It also has been associated with badminton only without a paddle. The paddle is your hand.

Materials needed

Old Version

  • 1 bundle of fresh cornhusks
  • 2 - 4 flexible feathers
  • 1 yard Sinew

New Version

  • 4 pieces of material cut in 6 inch lengths
  • 2 - 4 flexible feathers
  • 1 yard of colorful yarn or raffia

Instructions: for the Old Version

A. Take two of the green corn husks and form a cross
B. Fold another corn husk into a flat square and place it in the center of the cross.
C. Bring up the ends of the cross around the flatted square and pinch them together to form one bunch
D. Just lightly let the top of the bundle loose and insert the feathers.
E. Take the sinew and wrap it starting form the base to about " from the top securing the shaft of the feathers at the same time
F. Cut any corn husks around the top to even them out.


Two or more players can play this, each having their own jackrabbit. Using the palm of your hand hit the jackrabbit into the air.

The first one to hit it 10 times without missing wins the round.

As the players get better increase the winning number of hits.

If you make the jackrabbit out of corn husks I do not advise kicking it up into the air as you may tear it apart faster then hitting it with your hand.

Corncob Darts5. Corncob Darts

Until a child was old enough to handle a bow and arrows or a spear they would be taught this game to play to help teach them hunting and warfare skills.

When I was little my parents made me a modern version of this game with non-threatening lawn darts made out of sticks and a Dixie paper cup nailed to one end of a stick and a plastic hoop made from an old hula hoop that had a few cracks in it.

When I got older they bought the lawn game -Lawn Jarts which had metal points. These became outlawed in my state so my dad used plastic small ice cream bowls and screwed them onto the ends of the darts to make them non-threatening. We use to have family tournaments at family gatherings every summer.

Materials needed:

Old Version


  • 2-4 dried corncobs about 3 inches in length
  • 2-4 1/4" inch straight sticks cut into 6 inches long
  • 4-8 with shaft feathers
  • 1 yard of sinew


  • 1 bendable stick to form a hoop- enough to form a 12 inch in diameter hoop
  • 1 yard sinew to tie hoop together

New Version


  • 2-4 dried corncobs about 3 inches in length
  • 1 1/4" wood dowel cut into 6 inch long pieces
  • 4-8 with shaft feathers
  • 1 yard of colorful yarn


  • 1 12" plastic hoop or 12" Wood embroidery hoop
  • Enough yard to wind around the hoop to make it colorful



A. Take each 6 inch stick and cut one end to a point
B. Insert the pointed end into the soft center of the cob. Bring it down into the center of the cob slowly leaving 2 inches past the end of the cob.
C. Take two feathers and insert the shaft into the soft center one on each side of the stick. Wrap a piece of yarn around the shafts and the stick to the top of the stick. Then cut the yarn and glue the end to make it neat.
D. Make each dart the same way.

Now for the Hoop

A. Take your other yarn and wrap it around the plastic or embroidery hoop. Make sure to glue the end of the yarn

If you are going to make a hoop for a bendable stick

  • Bend the stick to form a 12" hoop
  • With your sinew or Carpet thread bind the hoop ends together to keep it form coming apart

For a substitute to make the hoop you can use 1/2" rope like the kind they use for boats. Sometimes you can get the rope in colors or in stripes. You can then attach the ends using a metal clamp.

Well this is the end of part one of the Children’ games....Have fun making them and playing them.

Here are some Books on Native American games.. Rent them from your local library.

North American Indian Games (Watts Library: Indians of the Americas)
Author(s): Madelyn Klein Anderson
Publisher: Franklin Watts, Incorporated
Released: September, 2000
ISBN: 0531164748

Handbook of American Indian Games
Author(s): Allan MacFarlan, Paulette Macfarlan
Publisher: Dover Pubns
Released: June, 1985
ISBN: 0486248372
American Indian Games: A True Book (True Book)
Author(s): Jay Miller
Publisher: Children's Press
Released: March, 1997
ISBN: 0516260928
More Than Moccasins: A Kid's Activity Guide to Traditional North American Indian Life
Author(s): Laurie Carlson
Publisher: Chicago Review Pr
Released: May, 1994
ISBN: 1556522134
North American Indians (Make It Work!)
Author(s): Andrew Haslam, Alexandra Parsons
Publisher: Unknown
Released: January, 2001
ISBN: 1587283018
Native American Games and Stories
Author(s): James Bruchac, Joseph Bruchac, Kayeri Akweks
Publisher: Fulcrum Pub
Released: September, 2000
ISBN: 1555919790

pictograph divider

Home PageFront PageArchivesOur AwardsAbout Us

Kid's PageColoring BookCool LinksGuest BookEmail Us


pictograph divider

  Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107.  

Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.

Canku Ota Logo   Canku Ota Logo

The "Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America" web site and its design is the

Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 of Paul C. Barry.

All Rights Reserved.

Thank You

Valid HTML 4.01!