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Teach Your Kids to Play Native American Games

by: Tori Forner ; edited by: Ronda Bowen ; updated: 5/25/2012 • Leave a comment

Playing games for Native American tribes was not just about having fun. Native American children's games actually helped to enhance the child's skills in specific areas such as observation. The games helped the children to survive in the wilderness.

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    Native American games can teach students about different cultures   Learning about other cultures while playing games can be fun. The world is a big place and the more knowledge we have concerning the different cultures the better. We are all human beings and each culture has positive aspects that need to be shared with the world. Every region of the United States has been home to different Native American tribes. Exploring tribal heritages is part of exploring our nation's heritage. Many Native American children's games can enhance survival skills. The tribal children needed to know how to survive in the wilderness. Also due to the fact that the Native American people had to make games themselves out of whatever they could find, the necessary equipment for most of the games tend to involve items found in the natural environment. The games require little or no monetary investment.

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    Pebble Patterns

    Pebble Patterns

    Necessary game equipment:

    30 Pebbles (or coins, buttons, or colored popsicle sticks)

    Becoming observant of their natural surroundings was a necessity for Native American children in order to survive. Many tribes throughout the United States have used the Pebble Patterns game to help children develop their powers of observation. The actual Pebble Patterns Native American children's game utilized real pebbles that the children needed to find, which also improved their gathering skills. Other objects can be used in place of pebbles such as coins, buttons or colored popsicle sticks. There should be a variety of sizes and colors of the item. The main idea of the game is to create patterns with the objects. The game is intended for two or more players.

    • One person utilizes some of the objects to create a pattern.
    • The other player or players must study the pattern for an allotted amount of time.
    • The creator either covers their pattern with a cloth or destroys their pattern. Keep in mind that if the pattern is merely covered by a cloth, then the copies can be directly compared to the original in order to determine the winner.
    • The opponents try to recreate the initial pattern as closely as possible. The person whose pattern most closely resembles the original earns the right to be the next creator.
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    Guessing Dreams and Wishes

    Necessary game equipment:

    Paper

    Colored pencils or markers

    The game of Guessing Dreams and Wishes comes from the Iroquois people who believed that dreams and wishes are extremely important. The game enhances a child's power of observation as well as utilizing deductive reasoning.

    Draw a picture of a dream or wish that you have had.

    • Show the drawing to the other players.
    • The players guess what the dream or wish is in the drawing.

    The game can also be done in a similar manner to the game of charades. One person silently acts out their dream or wish and the audience guesses what it is.

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    The Plum Stone Game

    Necessary game equipment:

    5 plum stones for each player pair

    1 bowl or basket for each player pair

    1 iron (if desired and only to be used by an adult)

    Paints

    100 counters (twigs or sticks)

    The Plum Stone Native American children's game is truly just a fun game of luck,but it can have a little bit of skill mysteriously mixed in. It is typically played by Native American women who have been known to become somehow skilled in the game. To make the more authentic version of the game, you will need a hot iron to blacken the plum stones. If you want to make the game preparation into a craft for the kids, you can use paint to mark the stones.

    • Clean and dry the plum stones.
    • Burn both sides black with the hot iron on two stones.
    • Draw a new moon on one side of each of the two burnt stones.
    • Scrape away the black on the inside of the moon lines.
    • Draw a star on the other side of the two blackened stones.
    • Scrape away the black on the inside of the star lines.
    • On the remaining three stones, burn one side black and leave the other side natural.

    If you decide to paint on the stones instead of burning them with a hot iron, the project becomes more of a fun craft for the kids.

    • Clean and dry the plum stones.
    • Paint both sides black on two stones and let them dry.
    • Paint a new moon on one side of each of the two painted stones and let them dry.
    • Paint a star on the other side of the painted stones.
    • On the remaining three stones, paint one side black and the other side white.
    • Allow all of the stones to completely dry.

    Each pair of players is given one bowl or basket and five designed plum stones. The goal of the game is to reach 100 points. Place the bowl with the five stones inside between two players who are facing each other. The counters are placed to one side of the bowl, within reach of both players. One counter equals one point. Break a twig in half, and hold the two halves and one long stick in one hand so that they all look the same in height. Have the opponent draw a twig to see who goes first. If the opponent draws the long stick then they can go first. During a turn, one player shakes the bowl to toss the stones and try to get "point-worthy" combinations. If a stone falls out of the bowl, the throw does not count and you must start again. The stones must always turn so the results will vary. The only possible point combinations include:

    • Two moons plus three natural color=10 points
    • Two stars plus three blacks=10 points
    • One moon, one star and 3 natural=1 point
    • One moon, one star plus three blacks=1 point

    A player contines throwing the stones until no points are scored. The opponent then proceeds with their turn. When a player scores points they take counters equaling the number of points they earned and place them on the opposite side of the counter pile next to them. Once all 100 counters are gone, the players take counters from each other when they score points. The winner is the person with all 100 counters by their side.

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    Resources:

    Apples 4 the Teacher: http://www.apples4theteacher.com/native-american/games/

    Scholastic: http://teacher.scholastic.com/lessonrepro/lessonplans/ect/nativegames.htm

    Native American Games: http://wnit.org/outdoorelements/pdf/408NativeAmerican_Ga.pdf

    Image courtesy of http://www.sxc.hu/photo/713435