It’s all in the game – Playing Marbles

“It’s all in the game”: Fourth in the series on less cost, nontoxic, plastic-free kids games from the past – its about Playing Marbles this time!

In India more fondly called ‘Goli’, ‘Goti’, ‘Kanche’, it was an all boys game usually played outdoors – on streets, vacant grounds and even school premises! 

playing marbles

Thinking aback, “Goli’ was one game my brothers took me in without recommendations, persuasions or bargains despite me not fitting in their gender. Glad games don’t have genders. As for my brothers, I should admit they included me in many games they played within the tall walls of our home – sometimes to fill in the number, sometimes to avoid my silent outbursts later! Thanks to them! They used to play a game akin to cricket indoors and they hardly failed to line me in despite my sickeningly pathetic batting, bowling and fielding – I never improved there! In marbles, it was different- the glow and glitz of those glassy restless spherical balls kind of pleased and elated my spirits. Designs seemed to wriggle within and I was happy to let them loose on ground. When a marble broke, I was curious to know what was inside. I handled them pleasurably, lovingly, less carefully and much willingly.

They say Playing Marbles is similar to golf! I think its strangely connected to billiards – knocking a ball with another ball! In both games, they use stick(golf club/cue stick) and holes/pockets are many. In ‘goli’, a player strikes a series of marbles with one marble to make them all reach a single hole-with no accessories or tools! 

Teach your children Newton’s different ‘Laws of Motion’ playfully!

Advantages in playing marbles are many. Whether it be learning basic physics or basics of life per se – one’s action and probable reactions, focus, skill, reaching goal – this game applies to all!

Movement of marbles, force that we use, resulting collision that trigger more movement, external factors that affect movement including breeze, uneven surface and weight of the marble – yes, it’s more interesting to learn basic concepts of physics this way – force, friction, mass, surface and how these factors affect behavior of a marble. Inquisitive child’s mind will learn these concepts at ease playfully.

Therapeutic benefits:

  • Improves fine motor skills (involves coordination of small muscles in our hands and fingers to work together for tossing the marble) – Speed, direction and movement of a marble is dependent on player’s exertion of appropriate pressure on the marble that is tossed. Gradually, player learns to adeptly control his finger movements and tossing styles.
  • Develops concentration & focus
  • Gross motor skills (involves usage of large muscles of our body to perform a movement – in this game more specifically large muscles of arms and legs)
  • Improves eye-hand coordination
  • Enhances spatial awareness 
  • Visual processing skills – Understanding distance between his/her tossing position and gauging the force that needs to be exerted to strike opponent’s marble/s to make it all reach hole.
  • Socialization skills  – Players devise their rules and learn to agree for a fair play. It is this agreement of sorts which will help in learning negotiation skills, developing mutual understanding, trust, healthy competition and cooperation. When played in groups, kids learn the concept of equal opportunity and learn to wait and accept.

How to play?

Materials required:
Small glass marbles(about 1 cm in diameter) 2 – 5 marbles for each player

A Shallow (heel-sized) hole is dug in the ground (if playing indoors, create a small goal post)
A stick or a chalk to draw lines
A leveled ground helps in free movement of marbles

Number of Players:

Minimum two. More the number more interesting gets the game as more marbles come into play and made available for possession.

How to Play?

Different ways and styles for playing marbles are shared in “other links” and “video” down the page.

Unwritten ‘Agreement of Sorts’

In our mode of play, each player started his/her game bringing in two marbles initially into play. Players brought in more marbles in his/her subsequent turns – minimum and maximum number of marbles brought in per turn per player is decided in advance. A player starts his turn positioning his shooter marble from a predetermined line. Marble that is used to strike or shoot other marbles is called a shooter marble and some players had a special or lucky marble for this purpose.

Every time a marble lands in the hole, player gets an extra chance and his next flick is from the vantage position that his shooter marble has rolled to. If the shooter marble falls in the hole, player loses a turn, but gets to keep his shooter marble with him.

The start

All players toss in their shooter marble simultaneously from a predetermined distance. Player whose shooter marble lands first in the hole starts the game. 

Basic play

First player throws his two marbles near hole. If both lands in hole, then second player gets the chance. If one or both marbles remain outside, then first player gets to strike them. If he manages to flick these marbles to reach hole (with his shooter marble), he wins all marbles in the hole and continues game bringing more marbles into play. Else, he gets the one with which he hit(shooter marble) leaving the other one/two marbles per se on ground.

Second player starts his turn by throwing in his two marbles near hole and flicks his (shooter)marble to strike opponent’s marble/s gently to make them all reach hole. He wins all marbles that gets dropped into hole else gets the one with which he hit(shooter marble) leaving the rest on ground per se. Game continues till all marbles of all players are brought into play and won. Player who manages to drop maximum marbles in the hole is declared winner!

Number of marbles each player brings into the game and whether players get to keep all marbles won by them are decided by mutually agreed rules. At home, all marbles went to one common box at the end – possessions and ownership mattered only while playing -that’s what happens when you play with elder brothers – you gotta listen despite your crazy hunger to possess them all!

Techniques in tossing marble:

Complicated styles make the game more challenging and how you choose your tossing style is your choice.

Knuckle down-player holds his/her shooting marble in the crook or curve of his index finger while resting the knuckle on ground and shoots or flicks the marble with his thumb.


Flicking-player places his shooting marble between forefinger & thumb. Hold your forefinger back with the thumb exerting little pressure and then flip or snap the forefinger forward. This style of tossing is similar to flicking the striker on carrom board.


Indian style of playing involved holding your shooting marble in the forefinger/middle finger of left hand (right or left is dependent on the ease of player) and stretching the forefinger/middle finger backwards exerting pressure by forefinger of the other hand while resting the thumb of your left hand on the ground. Marble is held tight between the fingers before pressure is released. A comparatively difficult style that demands flexibility of both hands and it requires practice!


This post is longer than I intended. It was a little difficult recollecting the mode of playing but hope ‘ve not done injustice to memory and happy times! These old games don’t come with written rules which gives us the wand to make it twisted or simple as our mind fancies – leave it to your kids to design theirs but sure its worth a try! 

How to play marbles- links:

For younger kids there are options different:
click for Video


22 thoughts on “It’s all in the game – Playing Marbles

  1. Wow! When grown up analyses a game, physics, motor skills and all blah blah blah dominates.. Whereas while playing none of them mattered or were recognised consciously..

    It’s indeed brilliant to see the numerous benefits that were learnt effortlessly.. Wonderful write-up and thanks for the enlightenment! 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 🙂 thanks Aadhira!! I started realizing the other side of these games when I got involved with 2 institutions – one educational and the other developmental…. Saw in person how much physical movements mattered for a child’s overall growth, alertness, handwriting skills, confidence & general performance….n really felt how privileged I had been to have enjoyed all benefits unawaringly and wanted to share it all for today’s kids’sake!! Parents always want to know ‘why’ even if it’s a thought of sharing the benefits for them 🙂 benefits are written in consultation with a professional! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I too have realised the benefits of playing games making a difference in seemingly altogether parts of life.

        And I do regret the fact that today kids are having the hand eye coordination trained by Android with games in smartphones and lack the finer points of playing as well as socialising with kids of their age.

        Whenever possible, I make it a point to make the kids learn / play games. The joy seen from the kid is worth all the effort. And I’ve never bothered the why so far.. It is a pleasure to know and will continue to let the kids learn them too.. 🙂

        I really appreciate the efforts gone into making this post! It is reflecting in the post.. Special kudos to you! 👏 👏 👏 Keep sharing.. And hope few more kids gets benefited by them.. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Totally delighted to read that you’ve noticed the difference and that you make kids play! Just wonderful!! Don’t blame those who ask for why-its that which made me look further!! And thanks a ton Aadhira 🙂 🙂 …..sincerely hope more kids benefit 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

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