Mancala Game For Kids – Rules And Variations – MomJunction

Games encourage learning in fun ways. The Mancala game for kids teaches them to think and count strategically. Mancala is an old family game that originated in Africa about 4,000 years ago and is also known as the sowing game or the count-and-capture game.

Mancala is suitable for adults and children alike, so it’s the perfect addition to the family room. The two-person game can be played using marble, plastic, or wood. In ancient times, people used seeds, stones, and even beans to play Mancala. If you’re intrigued by this fascinating game, we’ve included the rules and fundamentals you need to know to play Mancala. Let the game begin.

Rules Of The Mancala Game

Depending on the variant of the game, there are different rules of captures. In most of the versions of Mancala, the object is the capture the most beads or stones. And the rules of the game are simple enough for kids to learn. Some Mancala rules for kids include:

  • Begin the game by placing a specified number of beads in each small pocket.
  • Let the players take turns at ‘sowing; and ‘capturing’ the seeds.
  • A player will sow the ‘seeds’ or beads by selecting a pocket, scooping up all the seeds in that pocket and then dropping a bead in each of the pocket adjacent to the starting pit.

Variations Of Mancala

There are two main varieties of Mancala- Kalah, which is a children’s game and Oware, which can be played by both kids and adults.

1. Kalah:

Kalah, as mentioned earlier, is the Mancala for Kids. The rules of this game were invented by William Julius Champion, an American. The game is ideal for kids aged 3 to 10. The objective of the game is to collect the most beads by the end of the day before one player clears their side of beads or pieces.

Set Up:

  • In Kalah, the game board has two rows of six small pits or pockets, with a large storage pit at each end. Place the board between the two players. The six pockets or cups will make the playing area. The big bowl to the right is Mancala. It’s here the captured pieces will be kept.
  • Each player will get 12 beads. Place four beads on each of the 12 pockets. If your kid is a beginner, then you can start with just three beads in each pocket.

The Game:

  1. Select who will go first. You can flip a coin to choose the beginner.
  1. The beginner has to take all four stones or beads in a pocket on her side and place one bead in any of the four adjacent pockets. The beginner can grab just one stone that is on his side.
  1. Players can put the stones only in their Mancala, not the opponent’s Mancala. Skip the method even if you have enough stones to the reach the opponent’s Mancala. You can place in the opponent’s pocket, though.
  1. Now take turns picking the beads from any pocket and putting them. If the last stone ends up into your Mancala, then you can take another turn.
  1. If the last bead that you drop lands in an empty pocket on your side, then you can capture the piece along with any piece in the hole directly opposite. Plus, you will also get all of your opponent’s beads that are in the opposite pocket.
  1. The game will end when the six pockets of one player are empty. The player who still has stones left in the cup will capture the beads and keep them in his Mancala.
  1. Now compare the number of stones in the Mancala. The player with most stones will win the game.

2. Oware:

Oware, a variant of Mancala is a tad more complicated game recommended for kids aged 11 and up.

Set Up:

The game board for Oware is similar to Kalah. It consists of six small pits or pockets with two storage pits. Even the ‘sowing’ is similar to Kalah. While sowing:

  • The players can pick one of the smaller houses in their row
  • They players can scoop out all the beads or seeds in that house and
  • By moving counterclockwise, the players can drop one seed in each of the small houses until they have sown all the seeds in their hand.


The sowing may be simple, but the rules of the game are entirely different.

  1. The player cannot drop beads or seeds into the storage pits as you sow. Players can sow seeds only in the small cups or pockets.
  1. The rules of capturing are also different. If the first player has finished the move in the second player’s house, then the first player will count the seeds in that pocket. For example- If the player asks whether there are two or three beads in it, and the answer is no, then the first player’s turn will be over and the second player will get to sow the seeds. If the answer is yes, then the first player will get to collect the seed and keep it in this storage pit.
  2. Next, you will have to examine the next-to-last house. If the house belongs to the second player and contains 2 to 3 seeds, then the first player will get to capture those seeds as well. The first player will continue working backward until he gets to the house that doesn’t contain the correct number of seeds.

Make Your Own Mancala

You can even make your own Mancala board with your child to increase interest in the game. Here’s a simple DIY for your help. Follow this Mancala directions for kids:

You Will Need:

  • Cardboard egg carton with six columns on each side.
  • Acrylic paint
  • Scissors
  • 48 beads, pebbles or dried beans
  • Two small glass jars

How To:

  1. Cut and discard the lid of the carton.
  1. Now tell your child to paint the carton in brown, black or whatever color you like.
  2. Place 4 beans in each of the pocket or cup and a jar at the end of the jar. The jar will be your Mancala store. The game board is ready for playing.

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