Remember marbles?! You probably picked up a net bag full at some point in your life, carefully removed each glass ball, and examined it in the light. How did they make those colored swirls inside? Why were we allowed to play with, ya know, glass? And who had the coolest player’s marble of all your cousins? Now here you are with your own kids and their own netted bag full of rounded projectiles. They’re standing in front of you with their fresh collection of marbles and they have no idea what to do with them. But you do, Mama. You most definitely know what to do with marbles.
At least you did. Twenty or thirty years ago. Now you’re not so sure, right? And that’s why you’re here. These marble games are sure to bring back some memories and channel your kiddos’ competitive nature. And they’ll get them out and playing outdoors for a change.
1. Classic Marbles
This is the easiest of marble games to play and the one you’ve probably played a million times. Draw a playing circle (use your finger in dirt or carpet or use sidewalk chalk on the concrete) and dump all your regular sized marbles into the circle. Players then use their larger marbles and take turns bouncing or rolling them into the circle to try to knock marbles out of bounds. Any marble that is displaced from the circle is theirs to keep for the game. The game is over when there are no more marbles in the circle and the winner is whoever collected the most.
2. Marble Bounce Game
Remember all those times you spent hours tossing trashed paper into the wastebasket across the room? Or what about playing Quarters in college? The objective is the same: Get the marble into the “basket” — in this case, just use a red Solo cup or, for a harder game, a dixie cup. You can shoot for a clean toss or bounce marbles off the floor or wall.
3. Marble Mazes
Use straws, pens, toothpaste tubes, and anything else you can think of to build walls and route out a maze. Inside the maze, place “obstacles” like tunnels of rolled paper or toilet paper tubes. Next, have two players race to get their marbles from start to finish in the maze without dislodging the walls or jumping over them. Make it harder by instituting a “no hands” rule.
4. Marble Putt-Putt
Marble Putt-Putt requires a little more prep but can still be a ton of fun for your kiddos. What kind of obstacles can you come up with for their marble to complete? Think: Maneuver around lids or over holes and cardboard ramps. You could use a piece of foamcore, so they can move the board to get their marbles from point A to point B. Or, just set up the course on a table or empty section of floor.
5. Matching Marbles
This is similar to the classic marble game. The difference, though, is that players are each assigned a certain color and should only hit and knock out marbles that are their color. In other words, it requires a bit more hand-eye coordination and concentration. Feel free to set your own rules (based on the age and skill of players) about what happens if they knock out an opponent’s marbles.
6. Marble Toss
Think of Marble Toss as a mini version of a beanbag toss or ski-ball. Use an empty egg carton (or some Dixie cups) and label them with point values. (Bigger point values should be further away and there shouldn’t be as many of those.) Next, have players stand behind a line and toss their marbles into the cups. Once they’ve tossed all their marbles, add up their points.
Marble Games You Can Buy
Of course, if your kiddo gets really into marbles, they might start looking for new and different ways to utilize them. There are still a ton of cool marble games and mazes on the market these days. These are our favorites.
7. ThinkFun Gravity Maze Marble Run
This is not your typical marble maze. ThinkFun‘s game comes with multiple see-through cubes with various obstacles and mechanics inside. When you stack them or set them next to each other, they propel the marble from one cube to the next. Follow the directions on the playing cards or freestyle your own maze.
8. Marble Genius Marble Run Super Set
This giant super set of pieces lets your kiddo create their own marble run… or they can use the included guide. The bold colors and ability to build to pretty tall heights make this one a favorite for marble lovers.
9. National Geographic’s Glowing Marble Run
You know if a product comes from National Geographic, it’s going to be a top-notch learning game with impeccable quality. As for something your kids will be excited about: This one glows.
Looking for a marble game that isn’t just a giant maze or marble run? Kerplunk is a classic.
This ancient marble game is as much a game of wits and strategy as it is about having fun. Mancala game rules call for users to play with 48 little stones or marbles, moving them along the special board until one user ends up with none, thus winning.
Types of Marbles
You (and your kiddos) may be fascinated to learn that there are, in fact, many different types of marbles. If you were to do a deep dive of marbles in history, you’d undoubtedly find a ton. But, for now, we’ll just introduce you to a few:
- Aggie: “Aggie” is short for agate, which is what many marbles were made of by the middle of the nineteenth century.
- Alleys or allies: Just like aggies, this type of marble gets its nickname from the type of stone used to create it. In this case, that would be alabaster, a soft stone related to marble. Now, “alleys” has become a term used to refer to marbles in general.
- Benningtons: A marble that isn’t perfectly round, you say? Yep! These blue-and-brown-glazed marbles have a distinctive flat unglazed spot where they touched other marbles during the glazing process.
- Cat’s Eyes: As you may have guessed, these marbles get their name because they look like the eye of a feline. That look is achieved through different colored blades or vanes within a clear marble.
- China: Made from glazed china orbs, China marbles are known for two designs: crisscrossing lines, or a bull’s eye.
- Clearies: Clear glass marbles made of a single transparent color are called clearies.
- Cloud: One of the most sought-after marble types, Cloud marbles are rather rare. Handmade, they feature clear glass with colored glass pieces suspended within.
- Corkscrews: To earn the name Corkscrews, marbles must have two or more colors in spiral designs.
- End of Day: With a name like this, you know these marbles must have a cool backstory — and they do. They’re made from leftover pieces of glass. After being gathered and heated to give them color, they’re reheated and rolled again over more “junk glass.”
- Immies: In case you hadn’t guessed yet, “Immies” stands for “imitations.” While these marbles look like Aggies, they’re actually just glass streaked with colors to appear as though they’re agate.
- Onionskin: This marble is created by layering to give it, well, an onion effect. There are three types: segmented, single-color, and speckled.
- Plaster: These non-glazed marbles are decorated in the same style as Chinas but are duller in appearance.