5 Traditional games from Malaysia

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When the idea of writing about traditional games was flashed upon us writers, the child in me got so excited about it that I jumped at the opportunity. Maybe because it meant that I would get to play the games too, alongside my kids of course! I went on a trip down memory lane and gathered up some of the traditional games I used to play with when I was a kid myself.

In this time of electronic gadgets with iPads, smartphones and computer games being kids go to play items, playing traditional games seems like a blast from the past – from a time when gadgets were almost non-existent. It was from the good ol’ days when we had to make do and play with whatever we had around us. Let’s have a look at these traditional games!

1. Congkak

traditional games

The word congkak is believed to originate from the old Malay word ‘congak‘, meaning mental calculation which is mainly practiced in this game. An efficient player who mentally calculates a few steps in advance, will have an advantage in collecting points to win the game. 

A congkak board has fourteen holes in two sets of seven, plus an additional store-hole for each player. The objective of the game is to capture more seeds (or marbles) than one’s opponents. 

When my 6-year-old twins started playing the game, it turned out to be a marble hunting game as the marbles rolled out of the board and all around the floor! However, they got the hang of it eventually, after a few tries. It turned out to be a game of good fun for my kids.

2. Batu Seremban (five stones)

Batu Seremban is an ancient traditional game, which has been around for generations. Played with stones originally (hence the name ‘five stones’), it is commonly played by kids using five mini beans. The idea of this game is to throw one ‘stone’ (or bean) up, while scooping up as many of the remaining ones before catching the one that was thrown. The game requires a lot of speed and agility, not to forget some pretty ‘stones’ too. 

We managed to get cute ‘My Little Pony’ designed beans, which made playing the game all the more fun and interesting. 

3. Bottle caps

Also known as ceper or tutup botol, this local game is played using five metal bottle caps. It usually requires two or more players, and is a favourite game amongst boys. 

How to play? First part of the game is to determine who starts first, a process of which all five bottle caps are placed on the palm of the player. The player has to throw all the bottle caps up in the air and attempt to catch them with the back of the palm, and then lob again to catch them. 

The second part of the game involves spinning the bottle caps in the air, before using the bottle caps to hit one another. The game is determined by a point system, and is basically a test of a person’s dexterity and accuracy. 

My kids were actually in awe how something as simple as bottle caps can turn into a game. They have now vowed to start collecting all bottle caps they can find to add on to the collection they already have. 

4. Country flag eraser games

Remember those good ol’ erasers with flags? Or as Malaysians would call them: ‘rubbers’. Other than using them to correct mistakes, students also used them to play eraser games. 

This primary school game gained popularity a long time ago and it doesn’t even require much. This was the reason why kids back then used to go around collecting erasers – and not just any erasers, it was the rectangular ones with country flags printed on them. The object of the game is to just flip your erasers with the aim of landing on top of your opponent’s eraser. It is that simple.

My kids had so much fun playing this game, they simply couldn’t stop, each time playing with a different flag eraser. 

5. Guli (marbles)

Guli or known as ‘marbles’ is one of the simpler games played back in the olden days. The marbles are made from glass, the centre of which are wavy colourful patterns.

It is usually played on a flat open surface with a one meter diameter circle drawn on the ground and all the marbles placed in the circle.  The object of the game is for a player to hit the opponent’s marble by flicking their own. Another version sees the players hit each other’s marbles out of the circle. 

Trying out all of the traditional games truly brought me down memory lane. I am glad for having done this. All in all, my kids truly had fun playing all of the games, and it was a welcome distraction away from their electronic gadgets.

Looking for more fun things to do for kids at home? Have a look at these science projects!

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