Native Americans played games as part of tribal ceremonies and also as a means to teach children skills. They were meant to be played in groups to encourage social interaction and teach social skills. They also taught coordination, patience, and endurance—virtues that would be important in adult life.

Here are a few Native American Games we will play this summer:

Hoop and Pole

Natives of different groups have their own special ways to play the Hoop and Pole game. But in all the games, a person tosses a long dart or stick at a circular hoop. In this version of the game the hoop is rolled along the ground, set into motion by a third player, while the two other players throw their pole as the hoop rolls in front of them. The score depends on how or if the pole falls through the hoop.

Pebble Patterns

In order to grow up to be skilled at hunting, gathering, and staying safe in the wild, Native American children had to learn to be extremely observant of their natural surroundings. This game was played by many tribes throughout the continent to challenge and develop this skill. Players would gather about thirty pebbles of varying size and color. One player would create a pattern or design out of some of the pebbles, at the appropriate level of difficulty for the other player or players. The other player(s) would study the pattern for a specified time before the pattern was covered or destroyed, and then re-create this pattern to the best their ability. As skills develop, this game becomes more and more complex!


A two-player abstract strategy game from the Zuni Native American Indians or the Pueblo Indians of the American Southwest. A cross between tic-tac-toe and checkers. The board is pictured below. 


  1. Start with an empty board

  2. Players should decide which color marker each will use and who will go first

  3. Each player takes turns placing one marker on the board until all of the markers have been placed. They cannot place a marker in the very center intersection of the board during this phase of the game.

  4. Next, players take turns moving one piece along a line to a different intersection on the board. During this phase of the game, they can move their markers to the center intersection.

  5. Players win by getting all three markers in a row, either in a straight line or diagonally.

picari board.png

Ring The Stick 

The ring the stick game is one of the most popular Native American games played by children. Children tied a string at the end of the stick, and a ring on the end of the string. The player would toss the ring in the air and try catching it with the end of the stick. The game was important in teaching children about the importance of having and reaching a goal,  and the importance of hand-eye coordination.