How to Play Jack Straws, Pick Up Sticks and Spillikins

The object of these games is to remove one item without moving any other item. Visual perception, hand eye coordination and a steady hand are needed.

Pick up sticks is the traditional wooden stick game.

Hold the sticks upright on a table, then let them fall. Once they have settled they will be lying in a pile and many will be crossing over others. By looking at the layout and working out which sticks are touching others, will determine which sticks can be moved easily.

Players toss to see who tries first, or just choose the youngest player, and then player take turns.  Players who move sticks are out of the game. The player who can remove the most without moving any other stick is the winner.

Pick up Sticks usually have coloured tips or rings which are used to collect points.

Jack Straws is a similar game with the same objective, however, as the items to be removed are not totally straight and have more difficult shapes, it is harder to remove them. A simple game becomes more complicated needing logical thinking to progress.

See below for Top Tips to play and click to view our Jack Straws game.


Various mentions of this type of game can be found in countries around the world, but that’s not surprising as the ingredients are simple (sticks, bones, straw) and the concept easy to follow (remove one piece without disturbing any other pieces).

Also known as Spellicans or Spillikins from the USA, Mikado probably from Japan and Marokko from Hungary.

Top Tips

*  To make Jack Straws more competitive allocate a score to each colour of stick. Some of the ‘sticks’ in Jack Straws are harder to move than others so give points accordingly!

*  If playing with children include the scoring element. This allows kids to add up and use their numeracy skills.