Enabler Publications

Books to feed the Mind and Spirit

World youth games World youth games

Samples from this book:

Jeu de Boules (or Pétanque)

The impulse to throw a pebble or roll a round stone along the ground has been with man since earliest civilisation. Ancient Egyptian vases show young men propelling balls along the ground in some sort of competition - and that was 4,000 years ago! In the UK, the bowling green at Southampton has been in continuous use since 1299. But that is Lawn bowls, or in the north of England, Crown green bowls, played on an uneven rink. Neither game is regarded as a game which children play. However, the French game of Boules, also known as Pétanque is gradually becoming a popular beach and back-garden game.

A set of boules or bocce (the Italian version of the same game) are essentially similar. They are metal balls of about three and a half inches diameter and weigh about one and a half pounds. In the two-player game, each player uses three or four boules; with teams of two, each player uses three boules. Players usually mark their own boules or bocce with distinguishing marks. For each game a small, wooden jack called the cochonnet is thrown up the rink and must land between the bowling line and boundary line.

In the UK, sets of weighted plastic boules are cheaply available from many toy and sports shops. They are not as much fun to play with, but are perhaps best for youth groups who might be tempted to use the metal boule as an offensive weapon!

To play:

The Rink: Unlike Lawn bowls, boules can be played on just about any surface, but it is most usually played in France on a strip of hard gravel or sand about 80 or 90 feet long and 10 feet wide. Alan visited the Languedoc region of France recently, and there in Lavaur saw about thirty men and children playing boules on the site of one of the most vicious massacres of the Albigensian Crusade, where over 400 men and women were burned for heresy and the first Lady of the town was bricked up alive in the well, exactly underneath the present boules court!

The rink is marked up with a boundary and bowling line at each end.

Play begins: The cochonnet is thrown up to the other end of the rink, then one player called the bouliste, can either throw the boule (portée) through the air or roll it (boule pointée) towards the cochonnet. Players must not cross the bowling line until after the boule has landed.

The first player only throws one boule, then the next player throws their boules until they get the closest boule to the cochonnet, referred to as best boule. This marks the end of their turn. Play continues in this way until all of the boules have been thrown.

Scoring: Each boule closer to the cochonnet than the opponent’s best boule scores one point. A measuring rod, twenty inches long, called a baguette is used to measure the distance between boules and the cochonnet. After adding up the score, players change ends and the player/team which won the last end throws up the cochonnet for the new game, and throws the first boule. A game usually lasts for either 13 or 15 points.


The spelling of these four-sided spinning tops, which originated in medieval Germany, is a matter of some dispute! Our friend, Jenny Nemko, who works for the Beeb, insists that they are spelled as above, but the Encyclopaedia Judaica spells them ‘Dreidls’ and in America they are called ‘Dreiduls.’ Their name is pronounced ‘drey-dull.’ Despite their German origins, they are best known as a Jewish game. It has an unusual history. At many times during their history the Jewish people have been persecuted, and they were forbidden to practise Judaism. To disguise their religious meetings, they sometimes had children on hand playing with the small dreidles. If intruders interrupted a meeting, the elders immediately became engrossed in the children’s games. Traditionally, Jewish children were only allowed to play games during the festivals of Chanukah and Purim by the rabbis.

Nowadays the dreidle is still played with, and is especially associated with the Hanukkah (sometimes spelled Chanukah); the Festival of Lights. The dreidle has the hebrew letters N,G,H and S inscribed on its four sides, which stand for the words:

Nes Gadol Hayah Sham

meaning ‘A great miracle happened here.’ The miracle happened in 165 B.C.E. (Before the common era) when a Jewish group called the Maccabees were besieged by the Syrians in the Temple of Jerusalem. They had an oil lamp with only enough oil left for one day. Somehow the lamp continued to burn for eight days until reinforcements arrived. The playing of dreidles and the lighting of the Chanakiah - an eight stemmed candelabra, celebrate that victory during the Festival of Lights.

Children usually play with a dreidle while the candles are burning, using counters, nuts or sweets for stakes, but the original German game was used for gambling. In the last two centuries dice were regarded as sinful in many cultures, including in Britain, because they were used in gaming, and various forms of spinners were used in a variety of games as an alternative. (Put and Take is described earlier in this chapter.)

A dreidle made of plastic or metal, often brass, can be bought, but it is also easy to make one from wood. You need a cube about one centimetre square. Paint or letraset the hebrew letters on the four outer sides, then carefully drill a hole in the centre where a dowel can be inserted. This should fit tightly and be sharpened to a point about one centimetre below the cube. Hardwood is best for the cube, so that it doesn’t split.

The letters on the top are:N, G, H, S.

The rules of the game are simple. Players sit in a circle and all put in two coins or counters in to a pool to start. The first player spins and if:

  • it stops with an N facing up, they do nothing;
  • it stops with a G facing up, they take all the pot, and everyone puts in two more coins to start a new sequence;
  • it stops with an H facing up, they take half the pot, and everyone puts in one coin to the pool;
  • it stops with an S facing up, they all put one coin in to the pool.

It is a very easy game to learn and since the playing piece is small, it fits easily into the pocket. We have found that spinner games are very popular with most children.

World youth games World youth games

Alan Dearling and Howie Armstrong

148 pages with over 200 games and sequences

Published by Russell House Publishing

ISBN 1 898924 50 3

£14.95 plus £1.50 p&p

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