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


It’s all in the game – ‘Skipping’

‘It’s all in the game’ series continues and this time its about ‘skipping’. Skipping may not be a game per se but what’s in a name or term for a child? Anything that involves loads of fun and energy is interesting and irresistible!

Click here to read earlier parts of “It’s all in the game”

Kids have always amazed me – their curiosity, readiness to explore, utter inability to wait, will to win and will to forgive … some skills there certainly I would like to relearn and retain now! They’re quite competent in maneuvering small and large screens expertly – that’s absolutely admirable but in the process they shouldn’t go unawares of the ways of maneuvering physical body!

It’s my association and experience with kids and adolescents at two different institutions in the recent past that changed my perception on activities, games and their varying impacts on human body, mind and cognitive skills and this series is a result of the same! 

Kids start by imitating and learn by exploring -whether it be handling gadgets, playing games or exploring nature ………….it all starts with us! So let’s start


Skipping is a simple activity but it plainly exhibits one’s power to fight against gravity and kids literally love this anti-gravity movement. 

I remember those school days(of ’80’s) when girls smuggled in their skipping ropes to school just to enjoy the fun at break hours. Some of them had more than a pair at home and they brought it all to share(with pride no doubt)! They jumped, not just for the feel and fun, but to challenge everyone to beat scores. It may be a solo performance or a group activity – jumping the rope together emphasized understanding and unity between friends! Ability to keep count and count speedily were matters of some concern but what mattered most was – fun, entertainment and happiness!

For us jumping the rope and skipping the rope meant the same and we did it either ways as per will. (Personally, I bettered at jumping then but now I prefer skipping-I keep losing breath while jumping now!)

skipping sceneAs a child, this game had made me reach my ‘highs’ and ‘feel light’. I was surprised when I found my friends had failed to introduce these activities to kids. It wasn’t intentional -it’s just that they forgot! These games are less charming now! Besides, just like me, they too were unaware of the positives! They were trying hard and spending more to keep their kids engaged! I gifted skipping rope and introduced different games. Those happy faces make me happy in turn and …yes, I too have my bit of fun and energizing exhaustion with them! Kids love anything fun, they get bored easily and gotta give vent to their energy! 

And now we get to the benefits of Skipping. This is for all those who value ‘knowledge’ – I appreciate that and here we go! I’m not a professional and ‘ve sought professional help to give a fair picture.

skipping benefits2.jpg

* Prerequisites for skipping – a child should be able to stand, walk, hop & jump with good balance.  Any child with these prerequisites (above 3-4 years of age) can be encouraged to do skipping.

Precaution:  It is advised that children with heart problem should be allowed to do this activity only under doctor’s advice and therapeutic supervision.

Therapeutic benefits and precautions have been compiled under guidance of Mrs.Nirmala Solanky Venkateswaran, Occupational Therapist, who has been serving kids and adults for over 55 years. She needs no introduction to those who have read the earlier parts of ‘It’s all in the game‘.

Besides fun, skipping helps in burning calories too – it’s a good stay fit exercise. So don’t hesitate…. gear up and get your skipping rope today – not just for kids!! 

Options in skipping are aplenty and you may check the youtube link here:
Different types of skipping on youtube 
and for more options please click here


It’s all in the game – ‘Five Stones’

Click here to read earlier parts of “It’s all in the game”

This is second in the series ‘It’s all in the game’ and its all about ‘Five Stones’ – a game which was played widely amidst kids some decades ago when there were no electronic gadgets of interest! This game demanded quick eye-hand coordination and good sense of timing. It was quite a challenge! Many a times I messed it up but it was all fun nevertheless…. I used to watch my friends in awe as they quite deftly stole the show with rapid eye-hand movements.

It wasn’t a monitor or machine memory that decided winning chances and it certainly wasn’t about winning or losing all the time….. it was about giving and taking too(friend loses a chance to give you one) – it was learning and understanding one’s abilities… accepting & entertaining relationships!

Learning one’s own body and learning to manipulate its movements are skills that can be imparted through games. Not every kid is interested in regular sports, yoga or dance but every child loves to play and movement games can be total fun and challenge. When played in groups, they are more fun and entertaining. These movement games need energy in lots and kids have the same in loads! Kids get bored easily and these zero-cost games can keep our kids engaged. 

five stones2.jpg

Five small stones are all that’s required to play this game. When it comes to playing with stones, some of us are quite concerned about kids and their safety. If apprehensive, prepare your own small bags of rice, sand or saga seeds (for model check the video on youtube-How to make your five stones – cloth bags). You can fill in the mini pouch with anything you feel perfect – its your creativity and the game is all yours! To know how to play the game, click on link at the end of this blog.

I have added in the advantages of playing ‘five stones’ for those who would like to know why ‘five stones’ now? I did seek professional help to give a fair picture here. Kindly share in your thoughts on these games to help me pen more!

Why play ‘five stones’ – the benefits

  • Tossing the stones  
    • Gross motor development (involves usage of large muscles of our body to perform a movement – in this game more specifically large muscles of arms)
    • Visual processing skills (locating the stone – air & ground)
    • Eye-hand coordination
    • Improves Concentration
  • Picking stones from ground & seizing the tossed stone in mid air (both tasks at the same time)
    • Fine motor development (involves coordination of small muscles in our hands and fingers to work together for precise movements)
    • Enhances reflexes (reflex is an action that is performed as a response to a stimulus and without conscious thought)
    • Spatial awareness
    • Eye-Hand coordination
    • Focus & Goal orientation
    • Control & Multi-tasking
  • Taking turns & following game rules
    • Improves Socialization
    • Abstract thinking
    • Memory
    • Alertness
    • Discipline
  • Helps the child 
    • improve sitting tolerance
    • learn sequencing
    • in personality development
      • enhances self-confidence
      • learns to win & lose

This game is suitable for kids aged 5 and above. Therapeutic benefits are compiled under the guidance of Mrs.Nirmala Solanky Venkateswaran, Occupational Therapist experienced in the field for over 55 years. She needs no introduction to those who have read the first part of It’s all in the game‘. Her dedication has been an inspiration to me and she is the one who has been a strong supporter in penning my thoughts on old games and activities. 

I found these videos on youtube, click the link for view:
How to play five stones 
How to make your five stones – cloth bags

click to read further   How to play Five  stones?

How to play ‘five stones’

five stones2


Click here to read the first part & benefits of playing Five stones

How to play?

Materials required:  5 stones of similar size or 5 small triangular cloth bags filled with sand/rice/saga seeds.

Number of players : Min. 2.       Age – 5 years & above.

Method of play:
As with all traditional games, there are no formal or written rules and the steps and rules differ from place to place. The steps narrated below may serve as a guide to frame your own rules. If you find it difficult to follow the steps, please check the video link below.

There are 8 steps to complete the game and the player who completes all 8 steps in minimal attempts becomes the winner.  If a player misses any of the steps, next player takes the turn. Once all players complete their first turn, second round starts and the players continue their turn from where they left in the first turn. 

To start a turn, the player throws all 5 stones in air and tries to catch as many stones as possible on the back of the same hand.  Stones that are caught(on the back of the hand) are then thrown up again from back of the hand and the player catches as many stones as possible in the palm of the same hand. If no stone is caught, the player loses turn. Player who catches the stones starts his turn.

Step 1

  • Throw all 5 stones on ground.
  • Pick one stone. While tossing in the air pick one stone from ground and catch the tossed stone before it falls to ground (all in the same hand). Now you will have 2 stones in hand.
  • Toss one of the caught stones into air and pick another stone from ground. Now, you will have 3 stones in hand.
  • Repeat the steps till you have all 5 stones in your hand.

Step 2

  • Throw all 5 stones on ground.
  • Pick one stone. While tossing it up in air, pick 2 stones from ground and catch the tossed stone.
  • Toss one of the stones in hand and pick remaining 2 stones from ground.
  • You will have all the 5 stones in your hand at the end of step 2.

Step 3

  • Throw all 5 stones on ground.
  • Pick one stone. While tossing it in air, pick 3 stones from the ground and catch the tossed stone as well.
  • Complete the toss for picking the remaining stone on ground.

Step 4

  • Throw all 5 stones on ground.
  • Pick one stone. While tossing it in air pick all 4 stones on ground and catch the tossed stone as well.

Step 5

  • While throwing one stone in air, place four stones on the ground.
  • Toss one stone up again and catch it while picking all four stones on the ground.

Step 6

  • Throw all 5 stones on ground.
  • Pick 2 stones and while tossing one stone in air, exchange the stone in hand with another one in the ground.(remember to keep aside the stone you exchange)
  • Repeat the step for remaining 3 stones.

Step 7

  • Throw all five stones on ground.
  • Pick two stones and while throwing both stones in air, pick one from ground and catch the two falling stones one in each hand.
  • Repeat for all 3 stones.

Step 8

  • Throw all five stones on the ground.
  • The opponent selects a stone to be tossed in air.
  • Player picks the selected stone without disturbing other stones, throws it in air and picks up remaining stones on the ground in one clean sweep.

I found these videos on how to play Five stones on youtube, click the link for view:
How to play five stones 
How to make your five stones and play

The steps, methods & strategies differ from place to place. Players choose and create their own steps and agree upon the sequence of steps before starting the game. These games can be made as complicated or as simple depending upon the players. Now go ahead and create your own style.

As a parent, its our personal presence more than material presents that play vital role in our kids’ emotional development. Let’s play these games with our kids and involve other kids too. For children, it’s 100% fun and entertainment. These games would no doubt help you lighten your spirits and ease the relationship between you and your child. More than most – therapeutic benefits of the games are not just for kids, it’s for all! So go ahead and harness your skills further for a better performance at home, at work & life.

For further reading on how to play the game you may check the following links on google:

It’s all in the game

Have you ever wanted to do something very badly but kept postponing? Have you ever played a game end number of times (some long time back) that even a wayward thought of it now brings back a whole quantum of memories?

Games we played as kids – a thought as simple as this has been occupying my mind for a while now and the urge to share my musings has been haunting ever since. There were  a series of zero-cost or low-cost games which involved lots of physical movements and I wonder what happened to them now!

Hopscotch was a game that was quite easy to play. It was played indoors or outdoors – I remember girls playing it more than boys! You can play it alone or with a whole lot of friends and siblings. All that you need is good control over your body and you feel everything in the game can be controlled! You feel the power is within you! You win… you lose…. you help and get helped… it’s all in the game… writing this here included! 

Kids today are glued either to a small, medium or big screen. While they learn to manipulate gadgets of varying sizes, they fail to learn and manipulate their own physical body – certainly they are not to be blamed

For a child to understand his body, he should learn to use his body. Learning to use the body is learning to move the body as per will. kids naturally love movements. More the movement, more the learning. More the participation, more the enjoyment! 

Our old games emphasized the need for physical movement for better growth. They impart logic, focus and concentration – more than most they improve dramatically the child’s ability to maneuver his own physical body! 


Hopping on one foot is considered one of the most difficult movements by our human body. But certainly, when played as a game there is nothing more interesting than hopping!

This game can be played alone but is certainly more fun & interesting when several players take turns to wait.

Recently, I introduced this game to a handful of children aged between 4 and 10 who were quite versatile on mobile games. Though they floundered initially, kids got the momentum pretty faster to my amazement. When I joined them in the game, I had to gasp for my breath at the end but delightfully it was great fun! One of the little girls, who was aged 5, found the game so interesting that she tossed in her own set of rules on the spot with additional boxes and more complicated procedures like closed eye hopping. I was astonished by her sense of balance and spatial awareness!

Some of us always prefer to take the toss only if we know why or simply put the benefits behind! And here we go on the benefits of hopscotch! I am not a professional but have tried my best to provide correct information and did do ‘out of my context’ research to do justice. Suggestions and criticisms will surely guide me in penning more games.

hopscotch benefits5.jpg

Benefits rather therapeutic benefits of ‘hopscotch’ are compiled under the guidance of Mrs.Nirmala Solanky Venkateswaran, Occupational Therapist who has more than 55 years of experience in the field. She has recently moved to Kochi from Chennai and I had the privilege of seeing her at work with kids (kids with ADHD, autism and varying neurological conditions). There seemed to be an untold understanding between her and the kids and she never failed to bring confident smiles across those little faces! She is a strong advocate of low-cost and zero-cost therapeutic tools for treatment. And when I expressed my interest in reviving old games, she was totally happy. It’s her words of motivation which made me pen my thoughts on traditional games. I shared it with her for approval during my last visit to Kochi and she gave me her suggestions which are carefully added in here.

By introducing ‘hopscotch’ to your kids, you are introducing them to a joyous world of hopping, leaping and real cognitive & physical “exertainment”. Every kid may not be able to enjoy this game, but those who do, let them have real fun!

If you would like to read further on how to play, please check the link below:

A word of caution – if your kid has any physical or neurological difficulty, please do consult your doctor or therapist before venturing! 

Hopscotch – How to play?



This post is an inner-link to the original post “It’s all in the game!”

Click ‘It’s all in the game”  to know the benefits of Hopscotch!

How to Play

What materials you need?   Chalk piece(or anything that helps you draw lines), a coin/pebble/bottle cap 

Number of Players?    More than 1 (trust me its more fun with more players)

How to play?      Draw the hopscotch grid as a single or plain double grid for beginners & move ahead with mixed grids(single & double) as they progress. (You may check the drawings and links below)

Basic Rules:

There are no hard and fast rules laid down. However, I am sharing the rules which we followed years back:

  • Player’s feet should not touch the lines.
  • Hands should never go down for balance.
  • Player rests on both legs only at home.
  • Player loses turn if:
    • Coin is tossed out of the grid
    • Coin falls on the lines of the grid
    • Coin slips from palm
    • Coin is tossed onto crossed squares
    • If the player lands on a square captured by opponent.
Incidentally, I do not have personal pictures to post in here. You may check the links below for pictorial or video version.

Stage I

  • The player stands behind starting line and tosses the coin to square one.
  • Now, starting from square 1, player hops over from square to square to reach home (on top) and then turns over and hops back. When on square 2, player picks the coin from square 1 and hops back to the starting line.
  • Player throws the coin in square 2, hops as above picking the coin on way back (when on square 3) and reaches the starting line.
  • Repeat the above till the player completes all the squares.

As the players become more adept , the player tossing the coin skips the square with coin, and takes a leap to the next square.  This may not be easy for beginners.

For some the game ends here. But my childhood game continued with following steps:

Stage II

  • The player places the coin on open palm and hops from first square to the last square without touching the lines and balancing the coin on open palm.
  • On reaching the last square, player throws the coin outside grid and hops on it to complete the step.
  • The player then places the coin on the back of palm and repeats the above step.

Stage III

  • The player starts this stage by asking co-players – “Sit” or “Stand”.
  • If the co-players say “Sit”, player sits down with his back facing the grid and tosses the coin onto any square on the grid(without looking). Player loses turn if the coin falls on the lines or beyond the grid. If the co-players say “Stand”, then the player stands with his back facing the grid and tosses the coin onto the grid(by throwing it over his head).
  • The player hops through the squares and picks the coin on way back as in the first stage. But now, the player crosses the square (or writes her name) from which she picked up the coin. This would mean that the player has captured the square and can rest her legs in the square in her subsequent steps. Opponents cannot land on a captured square and they have to leap or jump to reach the next square in their turn.
  • The player who captures all or maximum squares becomes the winner.


For those who would like to read further on how to play the game:

Video on how to play Hopscotch


*Read more: