Tip158: November 2021 – Native American Games
Website Educational Tip for Physical Development
Bonnie Berstein and Leigh Blair in their book Native American Crafts Workshop wrote “Kids can learn how Native Americans lived, how they
worked and how they played… Most importantly, the ancient
wisdom of Native Americans can teach kids to rediscover their
own environments. The experience of finding available
materials and crafting them into useful items will help kids expand their
awareness of the gifts of nature outside their own front doors.”
Infants: Sea Birds
The Inuit, or Eskimo, as the French fur traders called them, choose teams
for their kickball game according to when the players were born. Those born
in the summer months are “sea pigeons,” birds seen during the summer by the
Inuit fishermen when they paddle their kayaks over the water.
Those born in the winter months are the “ptarmigans” birds hunted on the
coast whose plumage changes color with the seasons, turning snow-white in
Those players born in “freeze” (autumn) or “break-up” (spring) can choose
to be either side. But the “sea pigeons” and “ptarmigan” themselves never
play on the same team
Toddlers: Stone Basket
This Zuni tribe game is made up of stones that are painted black on one
side and a symbol on the other side. Each player has 10 stones and there
are 10 for the center. A basket is needed to put the stones in. The players
alternate turns taking 4 stones in their hands, shake them, and dropping
the stones into the basket.
1 black face up, 3 symbol face down = wins one stone from the center
1 black face down, 3 symbol face up = wins one stone from the center
2 black face up, 2 symbol face down = does not win any stones from the
4 black face up = wins 4 stones from the center
4 face down = wins 4 stones from the center
When all the center stones are gone then the other player must give up
When one player has all the stones the game is over.
The Pima tribe played a game similar to badminton where the ‘birdie’ was
made out of a piece of corncob stuck with feathers. The paddle was just the
palm of one hand. It was called jackrabbit hit because the sound of the
hand hitting the birdie sounded like jackrabbits hopping over crusted snow.
A birdie can be made out of not only corncobs, but also out of a 8oz water
bottles with construction paper feathers taped to the top of the opened
The game is played when 2 or more players take turns trying to bat the
birdie in the air with the palm of one hand. The first player to hit it 10
times without missing wins the round. As the players get better, the
winning number of hits can be increased.
Native Americans believe that each person has a unique and separate
path to follow.