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How to Play the Jacks game

Playing Jacks is great fun! Did you know the game of Jacks originates from Indonesia and is called Bekel there? Find out how to play Jacks here!

No matter how far technology has come, and how many ways there are for kids to entertain themselves, you still can’t beat an old fashioned, simple game. There’s really nothing better for kids than time spent with their friends, playing games together and getting a bit mucky. But many lovely playground games have lost popularity over the generations.

The Playground Games series of blog posts celebrates the best classic games from around the world and, while teaching your child about the fascinating and entertaining games played by children in other countries, we hope these game guides will give you some inspiration to try with your little one at home.  

Here we learn why Jacks, or “Biji Bekel”, as it’s called in Indonesia, deserves to bounce back and be played all over the world.  

What you need:

  • Some floor space, just enough for all those playing to sit down
  • A rubber/bouncy ball of any size
  • Six small items (known traditionally as biji bekel), such as Jacks or if you don’t have these small stones will do

Jacks rules:

  • All the biji bekel or jacks (small items) are held in one hand, along with the ball, to start.
  • Throw the ball in the air. While it’s on the way back down, release all the biji bekel on to the floor.
  • Let the ball bounce once. Catch it before it hits the floor for the second time. Then bounce it again. While it’s in the air, pick up as many of the items as possible, and catch the ball before it hits the floor. This is all with one hand!
  • Keep repeating until all the biji bekel have been picked up. The aim is to get faster and neater in picking up all of the biji bekel between bounces.
  • To make this game a little bit trickier for older children add in a new rule that they have to pick up all items in three turns or less, this will really work-up a competitive spirit.

What’s so good about playing Jacks?

Playing Jacks is absolutely brilliant for boosting kids’ hand and eye coordination. It demands quick responses and sharp movements. They will need to have a steady hand as they have to pick, turn, and grab the biji bekel one at a time or all at once.

Once they’ve got the hang of it, they will want to play over and over again to get faster and better at it, and catch all the bekel faster than their friends can. It can be played anywhere – it’s best to play it on the floor outside so that you don’t have to worry about the ball and bekel bouncing off the edge of a table. 

Tales of Jacks and Bekel to share with your children

If your kids are curious about this game and how it came to be then it may surprise them to find out that Bekel was actually believed to be invented when the Dutch still occupied Indonesia, and that the name is derived from a Dutch word, “bikkelen”, meaning knucklebones.

The ancient game was played with real sheep bones. (That will make the kids squirm!) Whatever small items you choose to play with, it’s a lovely, simple game that will keep kids’ hands and minds occupied for hours, so it’s high time Bekel bounced back.