Learn about the game of marbles; where it came from and how it's played.

Source : http://www.highlightskids.com/Stories/NonFiction/NF0199_knuckledown.asp...

  Ben Nelson
  Ben Nelson won the boys’ division of the 1998 National Marbles Tournament. It’s held each year in Wildwood, New Jersey.*
  (photo by Danny Drake/The Press of Atlantic City)

Do you want to have fun? Find some mibs, grab a taw, and start shooting. These words may sound odd, but you probably know the game they’re used in. It’s been around for ages but is still enjoyed by people everywhere. What game is it? Why, marbles, of course!

The game of marbles dates back to ancient times. Historians think that children in Egypt, Rome, and North America may have played marbles thousands of years ago. In fact, signs of marble playing have been found in countries all over the world.

Marbles from long ago were not like those of today. People used stones, clay balls, nuts, and fruit pits as the first marbles. Later, people made marbles from materials such as glass, china, and real chips of marble. This gave the game its present name.

Adults as well as children enjoy marbles. Some people say that Presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson liked to play. Abraham Lincoln is thought to have been an expert at a marble game called “old bowler.”

How do you play marbles? Here are directions for “ringer,” a game that is popular today.

Getting ReadyGetting Ready
Find a large flat surface where it’s safe to play. It can be outside or inside. Use chalk or string to make a circle that is ten feet from one side to the other. Inside the circle, place thirteen marbles in the shape of a cross. (See picture at right.) Each marble should be three inches from the next one. These target marbles are sometimes called mibs.

How to Shoot
Turn your hand so that at least one knuckle rests on the ground. This is called “knuckling down.” Hold your shooting marble between your curled index and middle fingers. Aim, then flick the shooter with your thumb. Shooters are also called taws, and they may be larger than the target marbles.

Let’s Play!
From outside the circle, shoot at the marbles in the cross shape. Try to knock them out of the circle without having your shooter roll out. Shoot again from the spot where your shooter stopped. Your turn ends when you fail to knock a marble out of the circle or when your shooter rolls out.

Players take turns. The winner is the player who has knocked out the most marbles by the end of the game.

There are dozens of ways to play marbles. “Pot” games are played by aiming marbles at small holes, or “pots,” in the ground. “Bombers” is played by dropping a marble to try to hit another marble.

Sometimes people play marbles “for keeps.” That’s when the winner keeps the marbles that have been won—not just for the length of the game but for good. Since many players collect marbles as a hobby and don’t want to lose them, most games are played just for fun.

Has anyone ever asked you if you’ve “lost your marbles”? This phrase means to lose your common sense or sanity, or to be foolish. Some people believe that this comes from a folktale in which a monkey steals a boy’s marbles when the boy is not paying attention.

Whether or not any monkeys live near you, here’s what to do if you’re looking for fun. Polish up those mibs and taws, call your friends, and “knuckle down” to an exciting and historic game.

* Emily Martin was the girls’ division champion. The winners’ names go into the National Marbles Hall of Fame, which is also in Wildwood.