How to Play Jacks

Jacks is an ancient game, but kids all over the world still play it, and all different ways too. Ask your mom how she played it when she was a girl—just don't use the word 'ancient' when you do!


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Dealing with bored children? Entertain them with the children's games in this Howcast video series.

You Will Need

  • A hard floor or flat surface
  • 10 jacks
  • And a small rubber ball
  • One or more friends to play with


  1. Be careful if you have a little brother or sister who's 3 years old or under—he or she could choke on a jack or ball this small, so don't leave them out.

  2. Step 1

    Sit on floor

    Sit on the floor or ground facing your friend; if there are more than two of you playing, sit in a circle.

  3. You don't have to play this game with someone else. In fact, practicing alone will help you get better!

  4. Step 2

    Pick first player

    Decide who goes first. You can flip a coin or play eenie, meenie, minie, mo, for example.

  5. Step 3

    Toss jacks

    Let's say you're up first. Gently toss all the jacks onto the floor so they scatter in front of you.

  6. Don't let them land too spread out or you'll have a tough time scooping them up.

  7. Step 4


    Now toss the ball into the air, pick up a jack, and catch the ball—all with only one hand! You're only allowed to let the ball bounce once. This is called 'onesies.'

  8. Step 5


    Put the jack you just scooped up in your other hand and repeat the game, picking up one jack at a time, until you've grabbed all 10.

  9. Step 6

    If you miss

    If you can't pick up the jack and catch the ball before it hits the floor again, it's the next player's turn and he or she starts over with all 10 jacks.

  10. Step 7


    When you've grabbed all 10 jacks, move up to the next level: 'twosies.' Pick up the jacks 2 at a time, still with only one hand and before the ball bounces twice, until you've captured them all.

  11. Step 8

    Increase number

    Keep on playing, increasing the number of jacks you pick up each time.

  12. For a faster game, or to help you get the hang of it, play with only 5 jacks.

  13. Step 9

    Next player's turn

    If you can't pick up the right number of jacks, it's the next player's turn.

  14. Step 10

    Start where left off

    Each time it's your turn again, start where you left off. If you messed up on 'sixies,' for example, start by picking up 6 jacks, and so on.

  15. Step 11


    The winner is the person who gets to 'tensies' by picking up all the jacks at once and catching the ball. And once you can do it, you might want to challenge your mom to a match!

  16. Kids in ancient Egypt played jacks with a wooden ball and the toe bones of a sheep!