Summer Fun with Marbles!
A Guest Post
It’s summer fun time! Today, Stephanie from Neuroses Galore is here to share with us a little about a super fun summertime treat—Marbles!
Sometimes I feel like I’m on an endless quest for just the right type of outdoor toy. The silver bullet of outdoor toys that doesn’t require me to push it or to help it be shared, wash it away or otherwise direct its use. I’ve tried all kinds of things. I’d even love to have a swing set but it’s just not in the cards for our tiny city yard. Enter the most compact outdoor toy ever! Just about everyone can play and it requires minimal adult direction but you’ll want to play anyway. Marbles!
I was intrigued by a book about marble play that I picked up somewhere with its marbles long since lost. My kids are 4 and 1 so I’m most interested in games for the preschool set but, as it turns out, marble games are infinitely adaptable for all ages.
First things first, you have to learn how to shoot. In my experience games with the preschool crowd are no fun when you are too hard and fast about the rules. We practiced “knuckling down” but it was easier to bowl or flick the marbles. The kids used whatever was most comfortable but I tried to do it the official way to level the playing field a bit. In the end it really didn’t matter so try different things and have fun with it.
Bridgeboard was by far our favorite game. To play you cut several openings into the side of a shoebox and assign each one a number. Divide the marbles evenly among players, take a few big steps back, draw a line to shoot from and then bowl or flick your marbles toward the box. You score points for every marble that goes in through an opening based on the number that’s assigned to it. We used low numbers so that it wouldn’t get too confusing to keep score.
As soon as we started playing I was amazed by how engaging the game is and how much thinking and learning happens while you play. You have to practice all kinds of skills not only to get your marble through the target but also to write names and keep score. After a while the score sheet started to get a little unruly and I realized that this would be a terrific way to start teaching tallies. Alternatively you can make the game even easier by playing Boxies and bowling into the empty box without the challenge of the smaller openings.
Black snake is fun. It’s like golf or croquet with marbles. You shoot your marble from obstacle to obstacle until you reach the end of the course. Dropsies is fun too but you need to have a good supply of marbles to make it fun. We kind of don’t have enough between what we pilfered from Kerplunk and our marble run. You can buy loose marbles in Baltimore at aMuse Toys.
The most important things I took away from this adventure were: to have fun, do what works, to let my kids explore the marbles and to not worry if some of them get lost in the grass. You absolutely cannot worry about losing marbles and you can’t get hung up on the rules. I’m happy if we keep up with turn taking and we never did get around to playing a traditional game of marbles but who’s counting?! Marbles are all about fun. Now go have some!
Links to all of the games I mentioned above (but didn’t fully describe) can be found via the links below plus a couple of other things that I thought looked cool.
Other fun things with marbles:
Ever wonder how a marble is made? While most marbles today are machine-made in molds, there is still a rich tradition in hand-making glass marbles. Watch:
I’m a mom to two terrific little girls in Baltimore. I’m a teacher and a lawyer by trade and now that I’m grown up I’m trying to figure out ways to merge what I love about those two professions. When I’m not in full time mommy mode I consult for the Baltimore City Public Schools in the Charles Village neighborhood to improve the schools’ capacity to engage the community and market themselves. In the fall I go back to teaching pre school at Community Play School, a child-centered and individualized arts-enriched program inspired by the Reggio Emilia method. I like making stuff too. You can see some of my work in One Yard Wonders and in Fabric-by-Fabric One-Yard Wonders which releases in November. But most of all I like having fun.