Mancala is a game that has been around for thousands of years.  It is believed to have originated in Africa or the Middle East. Most versions have different names but they all fall into this mancala type game. My mother learnt this game when she lived in Kenya and taught me how to play Mancala when I was a teenager.  I have always taken some sort of Mancala board to  my jobs. My latest board is a travel sized one, I used it to teach a previous charge of mine when we were travelling and recently I used it to teach EC and YC.

You don’t need any fancy boards for this game; you can literally make your own using paper and rocks. I wanted to collect shells while on holiday but didn’t get the chance to get enough, so I used pebbles instead.

Make sure you follow my homemade toys board on Pinterest for more ideas, and don’t forget to save the pin for later.

You will need:

  • Paper
  • Pen
  • 48 small pebbles/stones/shells/counters

On the piece of paper draw 2 rows of 6 circles (also called pits). At either end of the rows draw one large circle; these are the mancalas (or homes).

Place 4 stones in each of the pits.

How to Play Mancala

You play in an anti-clockwise direction, which means your home is the long mancala on your right.

This is my mum playing with me.

Player one starts by picking up all the pieces in one of the pits on their side of the board.

how to play mancala

She is dropping one piece in each pit going anti-clockwise.

Going anti-clockwise, the player deposits on piece in each pit until they are all used up.

how to play mancala

If you come to your mancala drop one of your pieces in it. Make sure you skip over your opponent’s mancala when you get to it.

If the last piece you drop is in your mancala then you get another turn.

This is my mum’s last piece, so she captures all of the stones opposite (in my side).

If your last piece falls in an empty pit on your side then you can capture all the pieces in the pit opposite and put them all into your mancala.

how to play mancala

She keeps putting her extra stones in my holes as she goes round the board.

The game finishes when all six pits on one side of the board are empty. If a player still has any pieces on their side when the game finishes, they then put them into their mancala.

The winner is who ever has the most pieces in their mancala.

Pin for later:

How to play mancala.  A strategy game that is fun for children and adults.

About The Author

Nanny Anita
Norland Nanny

Nanny Anita is our resident Super Nanny. Having trained at the famous Norland College, in Bath, she has over 12 years experience, working all over the world with children from 2 months to 17 years old. Nanny Anita is an expert when it comes to keeping the little ones entertained and writes a column with Leonora called 'Get Crafty' for Little London magazine. Nanny Anita has been on hand to answer our reader questions, and she provides weekly arts, crafts and activities for families to do with their children at home. She really is a modern day Mary Poppins!

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