Finding Your Marbles

Need a game that's good for springtime? Marbles can be played outside or inside, so it doesn't matter if a quick, spring shower comes through your neighborhood. You just need a flat, smooth surface, like the kitchen floor or the blacktop at a playground. You can buy marbles at just about any place that sells toys. Grab a bag and get going for fun times practicing a classic game of skill.

Hey, they're made of glass. Why are they called marbles?

In the 1800s, the best marbles really were made of beautiful alabaster marble. In ancient times, they were made from clay, flint, and other stones. But those new "marble" marbles rolled better and lasted a long time, but they were too expensive for most people to own.

Craftsmen started to experiment with making glass marbles, but these, too, were expensive. In 1846, a German glassblower invented a pair of scissors that made marble-making a lot easier and cheaper. Today, most marbles are made in factories. Recycled glass is dropped onto rollers where it is shaped into rollers. Some people still make beautiful glass marbles by hand.

Ways to Play

Playing marbles basically involves putting a lot of smaller marbles together to be targets. Then, kids take their larger, shooter marbles and try to hit the smaller ones. There are lots of different games to try. The book, Marbles: 101 Ways to Play, has clear instructions on marbles basics and games such as Marble Arch (easy) and Tic-Tac-Toe (hard). The classic tournament game is called Ringer or Ring Taw.

Before you start playing a game, make sure you know whether you're playing for keepsies or friendlies. Keepsies means exactly what it sounds like. When you lose your marbles to another player, you lose them for keeps. Don't try this until you are pretty good at marbles. Friendlies means that everyone gets to take back his or her own marbles when the game is done. This version is highly recommended for brothers and sisters!

You can read more about the grand old game of marbles both in the library and on the Web with our All Fun resource list.