Ancient Roman Children's Games
By Rebecca Bagwell
Updated September 22, 2017
When studying about the Ancient Romans, students often wonder about how children back then lived. Children in Ancient Rome played many similar games that children do in modern times, only with ancient materials. Some ancient games such as leapfrog, jumping rope or flying kites remain basically unchanged today. To play Ancient Roman children's games with your kids, choose one like Knucklebones, Roman Ball or Dice to recreate authentic an ancient Roman experience.
Children in Ancient Rome played Knucklebones, similar to the way children now play jacks. Instead of playing with jacks, Ancient Roman children played with the small knucklebones from sheep or goats. They also occasionally used the anklebones of other small animals. For children who had no bones to play with, they would find small stones to use. In one version of the game, children played Knucklebones by throwing five small bones or stones into the air and catching them all on the back of the hand. For another way of playing it, Ancient Roman children would throw one bone or stone into the air and see how many bones they could scoop up before catching the one thrown. Roman children probably also played marbles and checker-like games with the small bones and stones.
Ancient Roman children also played games with balls that resemble modern hockey and volleyball. One ball game played by many Romans involved bouncing a ball inside a circle without the other players catching it. They drew one small circle surrounded by a much larger circle. At least three people would stand outside the larger circle. The first one would throw the ball trying to get it to bounce inside the inner circle. If the ball bounced inside the circle and no one caught it after the bounce, then that person would get a point. The player who catches the ball on the bounce gets to throw it for a point. Players can move around the circle to distract their opponents from making good shots.
The Ancient Romans also played games with dice. Ancient dice, like those of today, had markings for the numbers one through six on the sides, and were made out of ivory or stone. One game used three dice, which the player would throw at once. After the dice landed, the Ancient Romans would count the sides facing up to total up the score. Three sixes would make 18 points or the maximum points for one roll. They would try to throw a higher score than their opponents to win. The Ancient Romans also used the dice for gambling.
Rebecca Bagwell is an educator with a bachelor's degree in secondary education from Trinity Baptist College. She has taught in China and the United States. While overseas she started writing articles in 2006 for bilingual trade journals. Now, she lives in the South where she homeschools and writes freelance articles encouraging creative approaches to education.