Native American Games & Activities for Kids

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Games figure prominently in Native American culture, often serving to communicate with tribal gods or to educate children in the skills they will need as adults. You can divide these games into two types: games of skill and games of chance. Crafts are integral to the culture, and many Native American children made their own toys and taught children in the colonies how to make their own, as well. You can improvise the supplies for crafts and games using a few basic materials.

Games Without Equipment

  • A simple game that girls of the Klamath tribe of the Northwest Coast traditionally played is called "running game." The participants stand behind a starting line, take a deep breath and run, yelling loudly. Once the players run out of breath, they stand still. The player who runs the farthest before running out of breath wins. For the "laughing game," played by the Nootka tribe of the Northwest Coast, players sit opposite each other and try to make each other laugh. The first to do so wins. For the bear, crab, and frog races, children stand behind a line and race to the designated finish line, imitating the gait of the animal -- either the first to finish or the best imitation wins.

Games With Equipment

  • To play "the moccasin game," two teams sit opposite each other, separated by a blanket. On the blanket sit four moccasins. One group watches as the opposing team places a token under one of the moccasins. After much shuffling and slight of hands, the team guesses which moccasin holds the token. Using sticks to keep score, four points are awarded if the right shoe is selected; if wrong, four points are taken away. The team with the highest score wins. To play "chunkey," one player rolls a stone over the ground while the rest of the players throw darts indicating where the stone will stop rolling. The player whose dart is closest to the final location of the stone wins.

Craft Ideas

  • Native American children used corn husks to craft dolls. Make one of your own using string, scissors, a bucket of water, corn husks purchased at a craft store and a doll diagram. It's matter of draping and bunching the husks in the shape of a person, then fastening them with string. Another idea is to use self-drying clay to make Native American pinch pots, a tradition among Eastern Woodland Native Americans. Start by shaping the clay into a ball, then make indentations in the center until you have reached the desired depth, and use the thumb and index finger to pinch the sides. Use objects from nature to etch designs onto the sides of the pot.

Native American Music

  • Teach a group of children the song, "O Hal'Lwe," performed by the Nanticoke tribe in present-day Delaware and Maryland. The song is traditionally danced by women with an accompaniment of drumming and singing by men. The words compare women to an oak tree, both bringing new life, shelter and protection to the tribe, thereby guaranteeing its survival. Start by teaching the song, pointing out the call and response sections, and assign a few students to play the drums on each beat. Then teach students the dance, putting the girls in a circle and instructing them to move counterclockwise, while tapping their feet.

References

  • Photo Credit Brian McEntire/iStock/Getty Images
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