Teach your kids how to play old-school jacks.
- Small rubber bouncy ball
- Jacks: At least 10 to start with. Keep the jacks and ball away from kids under age 3.
- A hard, level playing surface: A hardwood floor, driveway or blacktop all work well.
- Players: One to six players. Of course, your child should practice solo beforehand to hone her skills. That means you can actually sneak in a phone call while she is happily occupied by herself. Yippee!
- Sit on the ground and face your playing partner or partners.
- Decide who goes first. You can eeny, meeny, miny, moe or flip a coin.
- Toss the 10 jacks out in front of you. Ideally, none of them should be touching.
- First up, onesies (a different onesie than the kind your child pooped all over as an infant).
- Toss the ball into the air and then pick up one jack with the same hand that you used to throw the ball.
- Let the ball bounce once and then catch it with the same hand. Transfer the one jack into the other hand. If the ball bounces more than once, or you fail to catch it, you lose a turn.
- Repeat steps 5 to 6, picking up one jack at a time until all 10 jacks have been successfully scooped up.
- Once you breeze through onesies, it's time for twosies. Throw all 10 jacks back out onto the playing surface.
- Repeat steps 5 to 6 again, this time picking up two jacks at a time.
- Once all 10 jacks have been scooped up in pairs, toss them back out and move on to threesies, foursies all the way up to tensies. Whenever you're left with an odd number of jacks, pick them up, too. For example, if you're on eightsies, pick up eight jacks first, then throw the ball up again and scoop up the two remaining jacks. Jacks geeks call this the "cart."
- The first player to successfully complete onesies through tensies wins the game! This game is so addictive, you probably won't hear from your child for hours. So grab an iced tea and turn on the TV!
- When you are on onesies or twosies, be sure not to toss the jacks too close together or they may land on top of each other rendering it impossible for you to cleanly extract one or two of them. On the other hand, don't scatter the jacks too far apart, especially when you're on fivesies and above!
- If your kid becomes a jacks whiz, challenge her by instituting advanced rules such as losing her turn for touching jacks she was not trying to pick up or transferring the jacks she picks up to her other hand before catching the ball.