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Hawaiian Games for Kids

Young girl surfing a wave.
Shmenny50/iStock/Getty Images

When Captain Cook visited the island of Hawaii in 1778, he witnessed ancient Hawaiians playing games of skill and sport. In historical times, it was common to experience wrestling, boxing, foot races, bowling and even sledding on a slide made of lava rock. Hawaiians surfed long before it was a popular modern culture and lifestyle, with most Hawaiians bodysurfing and the chiefs using surfboards. Teach children some history and pay tribute to Hawaii's island culture by testing your skills at Hawaiian games.

Traditional Games

During the four-month harvest celebration known as Makahiki, Hawaiians played games and held contests. Try some little-known ancient Hawaiian games to help introduce the culture to your children. These games require few materials and cost little to create. To play Konane, a Hawaiian game similar to checkers, take a square foot piece of cardboard and mark 64 dots on it in 8-by-8 rows. Cut out 32 black and 32 white paper pieces. Place the paper on the board alternating black, then white, then black paper pieces. Each player picks up one black and one white piece from the board, hides them in his hand and lets the other player choose a hand to decide who goes first. The player who selects the black piece begins the game by jumping the black game piece over a white one into the empty space and removing the white piece. The next player does the opposite, using a white piece to jump over the black one. Players can jump in any direction and they can go over more than one of their opponent's pieces as long as they land in an empty space.

'Ulu maika, a Hawaiian bowling game, can be easily played by children. Gather two foot-long wooden stakes and a rolling stone shaped like a cylinder. Place two stakes in the ground 6 inches apart, 15 feet from where game participants will stand. Each player takes turns rolling her cylinder so that it goes between the stakes.

Commonly attributed to Hawaii, the limbo--a dance played with music and a long stick--actually originated on the island of Trinidad. To play this game, have two children hold a long limbo stick. Play music and let kids take turns going under it without touching it or using their hands to balance themselves on the ground. Lower the stick a few inches after each player has had a turn.

While not invented in Hawaii, hula hoops--named by British sailors who observed the movements of the Hawaiian dancers' hula--are commonly associated with Hawaiian culture. Pass out hula hoops to two children and see who can hula for the longest time period. Play some festive Hawaiian tunes while they dance.

Honor Hawaii's surf culture by holding a surf board shuffle. Cut surfboards out of cardboard or large boxes, big enough so the children can lay down on them and use their arms to push themselves along. Children can race against each other in pairs or it can be part of a relay. Other relay ideas include pass the coconut or dress like a Hawaiian in which they must don a flowered lei and grass skirt.

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