Native American Games

Native Americans loved playing all sorts of games.  Some were very strenuous, such as archery, horse racing, football, and lacrosse.  But they also had games of chance that were not so strenuous, but still a great deal of fun to play.  We’ve included a sampling of both types of games for you to try with your groups of children.

The Guessing Game

This game can be played between two people or among as many as twelve people.  A boy or a girl will hold a small object in his or her hand to conceal it.  The other children attempt to name the object by asking questions about the color of the object, its size, its use, its price, etc.  The first student to guess what the object is, becomes the new player to hold an object in their hand.

The Stick Games

1st Stick Game

One child in the group puts twelve pencils behind his/her back and divides them; with several in the right hand and the remaining in the left.  The other kids must guess how many sticks are in each hand.

If six kids fail to guess the number of sticks in each hand, the child holding the sticks wins the game.  But if a child guesses the number of sticks before six turns are completed, that student takes the pencils (sticks), divides them behind his/her back, and attempts to win the game.  The game continues until someone wins.

2nd Stick Game

To play the next Stick Game, divide the children into two groups, with each group having a leader.  Provide four piles of colored paper that has been shredded.

The first group takes a pencil and passes it from player to player (on their team).  At any time, a player may step out of the group and attempt to hide the pencil under one of the four piles.  The player with the pencil must attempt to hide the pencil with his hands; and with quick hand movements attempt to fool the other team into guessing which pile he hides the pencil under.

The leader of the other team must pick the correct pile he/she thinks the pencil is under.  If chosen correctly, this team wins a point and they get the pencil.  If incorrect, the team with the pencil gets a point and starts over again.  Five points wins the game.

The Ball Race

Divide the group into teams of six. The path the balls must be pushed with the feet can be between two rows of desks (tables or chairs can be used).  Make the path wide enough for two players pushing balls forward with their feet.

To start, take a player from each team.  Both of them have a ball.  At the signal of “Go” each player starts attempting to guide their ball up the path.  If the ball goes off the path and between the desks, the player must start over.

The object is for each team to have all six of its members push their balls up the path to the end.  As soon as one player of the team reaches the end of the path, another player of that team starts their ball up the path.

The team getting all six of its balls up the path to the end first, wins the game.  Remember, there can be no kicking of the ball.  It must be pushed by the feet.  A player may push the ball with either foot at any time.

Dice Games

The dice we use today are cubical but their’s were two sided.  These stick dice were usually about four inches long.  You can easily make similar dice by using dominoes.

Get three dominoes per child, and paint one side of each domino white.  Paint the other side red.  Or you can paint three small similarly shaped pieces of wood.

Two people play this game at a time.  One player is designated as red, the other as white.

Each player picks up three dice and casts them on the floor; or they take turns casting them.  After one player casts the dice, their opponent then casts the dice.

Each time the dice are cast, the players count the number of dominoes with their color (red or white sides).  One point is awarded for each color shown.

You can also give the children beans or corn kernels to use as chips.  The children pay out chips for each point earned by their opponent.


Tops were made by the children, or their fathers made them out of wood, bone, clay or horn.  Usually they spun their tops on ice.  They competed to see who could keep their top going for the longest time.  In one top game, a child starts his/her top spinning and then runs around a large object or around a path.  The object is to run back to the top before it stops spinning. Several boys or girls can play this game. The child who keeps his or her top spinning the longest time wins the game.

Your children will have many hours of creative learning as well as fun, inventing a variety of top games.  A craft project could be for each child to carve or create his own top to use in the games.

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