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Ball and Jacks

Ball & Jacks: This simple game has been around for years but has never really left the spotlight. Once you get into the more advanced techniques and skills, this hobby can be very deep and fun to take on with some friends.

Below is a terrific introductory article where you can learn the basics and how to get started. You can help grow our learning community by contributing your knowledge to the article. Just click on the edit tab in the wiki article below.

Use the white subtabs above to navigate the other Ball & Jacks resources. We have a Ball & Jacks forum where you can get your questions & doubts answered, a page with Ball & Jacks how-to videos, a page with the best handpicked links to other sites, and a page with the best Ball & Jacks books and products.

Good Luck and Have Fun!
Duncan Davis

 

Introduction


Playing jacks with a ball and jacks is a game children have enjoyed for hundreds of years. It is a simple game and quite inexpensive to purchase. Jacks are one of the few games you can have as many players as you like or only one player. The unusual thing about jacks as compared to other games today is you can play it without the need for all those expensive electronics!




Material Balls and Jacks Are Made From


Over the years the material balls and jacks are made from have changed considerably. In ancient times when the game began children played the game with what ever they could find available. The tools for this game were originally not manufactured or produced by anyone. The children found the tools for this game outside on the ground. Usually knuckle bones or stones were used for the jacks and the ball was also usually a stone. Because the ball was of stone or some object as equally hard the ball did not bounce as it does today. The Children just through the stone or object in the air and grabbed the knuckle bone or stone and cause the makeshift ball before it landed on the ground or surface they were playing on. Knuckle bones had nubs or points on them, thus created later the jack with points on them. Later versions of the jacks were made of clay, wood, ivory, or other hard material shaped into a square.




Jacks and balls over the last 100 years have changed. The balls are generally made of solid rubber and are small. There is some jack balls that are hallow light weight hard plastic and are usually sold with plastic jacks. The balls are about the size of a healthy walnut. This size makes it easier to catch the ball and grab the jacks holding them in the same hand.




Jacks are usually made of light weight hard plastic or metal. The jacks have 6 prongs, 1 each on the top and bottom and four around the sides which are rounded at the ends. There are generally 10 jacks to a set. However, there are exceptions to that. There are also varied sizes of the balls and jacks depending on what you prefer.




Best Surfaces to Play Jacks On


The best surface to play jacks on is a hard, smooth, flat surface, and preferably as level as possible. It is best to play on such surfaces as concrete, linoleum, hardwood, or tile. The thing to be careful of with tile and concrete is if there are cracks they can interfere with the bouncing of the ball. Tables may be used to play jacks on as well. However, if you are going to play jacks on a table it would be best to stand to play the game because sitting causes the player to be close enough to the jacks to be clumsy when playing.




Where Can You Purchase This Game?


Depending on the quality for balls and jacks you can purchase them at any number of stores such as Wal-Mart, Kmart, and Target, the dollar store such as Dollar Tree, Dollar General and Deals. This game can also be purchased in some grocery stores such as Kroger, Save-A-Lot, and many others. You can also purchase ball and jacks on line on such sites as Amazon, EBay, and most stores have an online site. The advantage to purchasing games such as this online is you can get a wider variety in size, material they are made of, and styles such as retro. The prices range from $1.00 up.




Strategies for Playing Jacks


Be sure the tools you have to play the game are adequate. If the ball is too hard it will not bounce well, thus possibly causing you to miss. The ball you use to play jacks should be very rubbery and bouncy. If the jacks are too light weight they might be difficult to grab. Metal jacks are the best to use when playing this game. Using a ball or jacks that are too large can make it more difficult to bounce the ball or grab the jacks. Using a ball or jacks that are too small will cause the same problem. Standard size jacks and ball are the most effective tools to use to play jacks.


 


When throwing the jacks, do not throw them too hard or grabbing them in twosies on up will be more difficult. Throwing them too softly could cause them to clump together making it difficult to grab one or more jacks.




How to Play


To first determine who plays first in the game someone in the game must throw the jacks up in the air and each player catches as many as they can. The player who has caught the most jacks gets to play first.




The basic ball and jacks game is simple. You throw the jacks down scattering them on the table, ground, or whatever playing surface you are using. After you throw the jacks, if any of them are touching (or kissing as it is called), you can either leave them like that or toss them again. Depending on where you are at in the game it may be to your advantage to have some jacks together. For example, if when you toss the jacks two of the jacks are touching and you are on twosies they will be easier to pick up. You then put the ball in your hand, throw it in the air and pick up a jack catching the ball after it bounces once without dropping the jack. Lay the jack aside and continue picking up the jacks this way until you have picked them all up. This is called onesies. When you have completed picking up all the jacks in onesies, then you do the same thing over again only this time you pick up two jacks at a time. Picking up two jacks at a time with each throw of the ball is called twosies. You continue to do this until you are on tensies, when you pick up all ten jacks with the throw of the ball. If there are an odd number of jacks, such as 7 instead of 10, and you are on twoseis, you can pick up the extra jack first and then do all the others in twoseis. This is called “queens before kings” or “horse before carriage”.




Each player continues to get a turn until the player misses the ball, fails to pick up the jacks or drops or moves a jack. That player is then out of the game. The last player in the game is the winner. The winner gets to start the new game.




Variations of the Game


The game can continue with common variations:


o Eggs in the basket or cherries in the basket; The player cups the hand they are not tossing the ball with and play the onesies to tensies as they did before except the player puts the jacks in their cupped hand instead of laying them down with each turn.


o Pigs in the pen; the player scatters the jacks and holds the palm down on the ground that the player is not tossing the ball with. The player then throws the ball up with the other hand and picks up the appropriate amount of jacks before the ball bounces. After the ball bounces once, circle the hand holding the jacks around the bouncing ball and catch the ball with the hand still holding the jacks.


o Double bounce; Instead of letting the ball bounce once, the player lets it bounce twice before they catch it.


o No Bounce; the player has to pick up the jacks without allowing the ball to bounce.


o Double jacks; the player picks up jacks twice and catches the ball before it bounces more then once.


o Around the World; the player hold the hand that is not tossing the ball palm up, throws the ball with the other hand, and picks up the correct number of jacks with the hand they tossed the ball with. Circle your hand with the jacks around the bouncing ball and catch the ball, then putting the jacks in the palm up hand.


o Over the fence; the player puts their hand flat on the ground and the jacks are placed on the other side of the hand or fence and this is where they are picked up from during the game.


o Strike a Match; when the player bounces the ball they must drag the jack across the playing surface instead of picking it up.


o Poison hand; The player puts their hand behind their back while playing, keeping all the jacks in their hand as they continue to pick up the jacks




The above list is not by any means an exhaustive list. It barely touches on the variation and games of ball and jacks. There are more variations and games being invented every day.




Purposes and Uses for Ball and Jacks


You might be asking yourself, how many uses can such a simple game have? Certainly there is the simple use of occupying the children with a simple and economic game. Ball and jacks also make a wonderful gift and stocking stuffer. It is also a good theme for the next party your children have. For example, why not make the next child’s birthday party you have to host a retro party of vintage games such as jacks or use the jacks for competition and the winner gets to keep the jacks set? This is also a budget friendly toy and party favorite.


 


Ball and jack sets could even be use as a money maker at your church or other organization. Let the children get involved and have competitions for people to donate to. Or if the adults feel young at heart, let them compete too.


 


Ball and jack sets are also used in schools for recreation time and therapy for challenged children. For example, children with autism or children who have difficulty with fine motor can benefit from playing jacks. This game is also used in mental health institution and centers. With children, a relaxing game sometimes helps them communicate. There are times when playing such games as jacks are therapeutic to children.




Benefits of Ball and Jack Games


Though playing jacks may be busy work for kids, you may be amazed to know how much physical and psychological benefits playing with a ball and jacks can have. In order to be able to play jack well you have to develop good concentration and coordination skills. Thus this development will help the individual in other ways and with other tasks. That is why the ball and jacks are used for therapy with challenged children. It also teaches children to compete in a civilized manor.




Since playing jacks is fun, the game also helps you relax. Relaxation is important to the good health and immune system of the body. In addition, after a day of physically demanding activity it is nice for the children to have games that require sitting so they can wind down. However, keep in mind the stress level may increase if a player is playing the game with more skilled players.




Just as most products ball and jacks serve a financial good. To produce them there is an increase in business and job. The revenue from the sales also gives revenue in the form of taxes to the government supporting our nation as a whole. This revenue only covers a percentage, but, as they say, every little bit helps.




Conclusion


There is a lot more to ball and jacks than one would think. The ball and jack sets are such a small toy but have such a large impact on our lives. This small and inexpensive toy can impact our personal lives and the economy. It can save a parent’s sanity for a small few hours, averting child boredom. Ball and jack sets can lend therapy to challenged children and give way to child development. Maybe we adults are missing something. Why should children have all the fun? Maybe we adults should go out and buy us some inexpensive fun too! Who says we are too old to play jacks? You’re as old as you feel and with ball and jacks, there really is no age limit!