Making and Playing Pick-Up-Sticks

Making and Playing Pick-Up-Sticks

By Brenda Hyde

People of all ages around the world have been playing some version of Pick-up Sticks for centuries. In China they were made of ivory and the ends of the "sticks" had elaborate carvings. Different versions of the game were played in many countries-each with their own unique twist. In the United States and Canada we usually played a basic game of Pick-up Sticks that consisted of 25-30 colored sticks. You can make your own by buying a bag of wooden skewers and clipping off the sharp end. Using a piece of coarse sandpaper sand this end until it's fairly smooth. At this point you can paint the entire stick or just an inch or so on each end so the color is obvious. You'll want to paint the sticks in the colors and amounts below. I've listed the point value of each color afterwards.
1 Black -25 points

7 Red -10 points

7 Blue -5 points

8 Green -2 points

7 Yellow 1-points

You can also buy wooden dowels that are 1/4 inch to a 1/2 inch thick and make a large set for playing in the yard. These sell for $25.00 and up in the stores. For that same amount you can make a couple of sets and give one as a gift! For the large sticks it would be good to primer the wood first, paint and then put on a coat of two of polyurethane for protection.

After making your set of Pick-up Sticks or buying them you'll need to know the rules.

First, stand the sticks upright holding them all vertically with your hand in a group. Let go gently and allow them to drop where they may. Each player's goal is to pick up as many sticks as they can without making the other sticks move. There were two methods used-one included the black stick in the group and it was worth the most points. But sometimes the game rules instructed players to use the black stick as a "tool" to move the sticks. Personally I think it's more fun to just use your fingers to pick-up and include the black stick for points.

The winner will be the one who can total 200 points. The first player to go (roll dice or use some other method for choosing the first player) picks up one stick at a time until another stick is moved when he attempts to pick one up. Then it goes to the next player and so on until someone reaches 200 points. You can use your own total if you wish. Some versions used 500.

I really like old fashioned games like this that don't use any technology to play. It really gets the family interacting away from the television and computer. It helps us teach good sportsmanship to the kids, and everyone ends up laughing harder than they would during a movie!

About the Author

Brenda Hyde is a Mom of three, a freelance writer and editor of Old Fashioned Living. For more family ideas and recipes subscribe to one of our free newsletters; descriptions here.


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