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What is this? Knucklebones

Learning activities


Students ask questions to investigate the changing nature of children's toys and games.

Students compare the experiences of childhood from the past with their own experiences, through oral history activities.


  • 3-minute video about the knucklebones
  • a few sets of knucklebones, so small groups of students can play the game
  • the materials and rules to play a number of games not often played by children today

Note: the games selected for play may depend on the grandparent who helps with this activity, and also on the games played by the children at school. Jacks, hopscotch, 'What's the time Mr Wolf?', skipping and marbles are some suggestions. The rules for these games and others can be found on various websites, such as Games Kids Play.


With your students, watch the video 'What is this? Knucklebones'.

1. Discussion

Have a class conversation about the types of games the students play today. Ask students if they know other types of games children played in the past. Ask them if they can think of games they play today that grandparents would not have played when they were children. Ask the students to draw a favourite game, either as a poster or as an annotated picture story.

2. Playing games

Review the rules of knucklebones. (A detailed explanation can be found on this Knucklebones (Jacks) web page.)

Break the class into small groups and let each group play the game.

3. Interviewing elders

Explain to students that some grandparents and older friends are going to visit the class to talk about the games they played when they were children. Talk to the grandparent/older friend helpers before they arrive, so you have an idea of the games that might be discussed. Ask the children to brainstorm some questions they would like answered by their visitors. To help students develop questions, you can prompt the whole class discussion with questions like:

  • What games do you play today that were not played in the past?
  • Why do you think these games weren't played in the past?
  • What games do you play today do you think were played when our visitors were your age?
  • What makes these games fun?
  • Where did/do you play these games?
  • Other than play, what else did you do when you were young?
  • Did you have your own toys? Where did you keep them?
  • How did you get to school?
  • Was school different? What was your favourite part of school?


Go to What is this? and the teacher support video.

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