Quirk of the Month: Pick-Up Sticks

My good friend Javi gave me an early birthday present—pick-up sticks and jackstones, a throwback to the toys I enjoyed in my analog childhood.

I’m starting to sound like a grandparent incessantly talking about the good old days when we didn’t have what the kids of today have. My childhood in the ’80s and ’90s had no Internet, smart phones, social networking sites, apps, text messaging, and other handheld devices that run our lives today. The basic telephone was a shared household gadget, and our parents already thought it was too much that we were glued to the radio, cassette player, and TV all day.


How did a ’90s kid entertain herself? I played hide ‘n seek and other street games outside. When inside the house, we had board games, toys, and books. I remember how my classmates and I were more excited about the cheap games we got from the sari-sari store (small convenience stores in the Philippines). Because we couldn’t easily lug around our dollhouses and plush toys, we treasured the games we could hide in our pockets, like jackstones, marbles, Chinese jackstones, and pick-up sticks.


These toys still exist today, but it doesn’t seem to have the popular appeal of an iPad app filled with fancy background music and graphics. The plastic toys of my childhood are still used as loot bag fillers at kiddie parties, but I rarely see children play with them.

Do you remember how to play pick-up sticks? Here are the basic rules:

1. Gather two or more players.
2. One person clutches all the sticks in one hand.
3. On the floor or a flat table, let go of the sticks gently and let them randomly fall on the surface.
4. The first player tries to pick up one stick without moving the rest of the sticks. If you successfully pick up one stick out without moving anything, you keep it and continue picking up new ones until one of your moves disturbs the pile.
5. When you move something, your turn is over and the next person tries.
6. You may use any of your collected sticks as a tool to pick up your next stick.
7. When all the sticks have been picked up, each player counts his/her number of sticks and the person with the most is declared the winner.

What street games and toys do you remember from your childhood?

February 24, 2015


  1. Loisa wrote:

    Chinese garter, piko, pantintero, tumbang preso and jumping rope are some of my games back in the 90’s. 🙂

  2. Hiyas wrote:

    This is my childhood! I remember being soo giddy for receiving my own scrabble and boggle as a present..And I was such a pro at sipa and I remember scraping my knees countless times in playing patintero and learning to ride the bike..And mtv then..Good times.:)

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