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Updated on January 4, 2010

Jacks (or Jackstones) is the name of a children's game played with small metal or plastic objects called jacks. Players must pick up the jacks from the ground while tossing and catching a ball or another jack.

Children usually play with a ball and six or more jacks. Players take turns trying to do a number of stunts without a miss.

The first player to complete the stunts wins the game.


Some of these stunts are known as Eggs in Basket, Downcast.and Ups and Downs. Jacks without a ball is faster and far more difficult. Ten jacks are usually used. Stunts are performed while one jack is being tossed in the air. Some of the stunts are Scatters, Over and Back, Sweeps and Pigs in the Pen.

The player to go first is usually decided by "flipping". A set of jacks are placed in cupped hands, and flipped over to the back of the hands, and then back to cupped hands again. The player who keeps the most from falling on their turn gets to go first.

To commence the actual gameplay, the jacks are loosely scattered onto the area of play. Players take it in turn to bounce the ball, pick up jacks, and then catch the ball, before it bounces twice.

There are variants to this procedure. Instead of bouncing, sometimes the ball is thrown into the air. Or it is bounced against a wall or target. Or no bounce is allowed at all.

In some variations of the game, the players must pick up as many jacks as possible in each turn. More commonly the number of jacks to be picked up is ordered and sequential: such as onesies (picking up one), then twosies (picking up two), etc.

In most versions of the game, only one hand is allowed. To simplify play or for learners, both may be used. To make it harder, a player might be required to use their off-hand (if they're right-handed they must use their left and vice versa).

The winning player is the one who picks up the most jacks.

If playing with fifteen jacks, that goal is rarely achieved. If ten are used, the person who gets to the highest game wins. Game one is usually single bounce (onesies through to tensies); game two is chosen by whoever "graduates" to game 2 first... some game variants are double bounces, over the fence, pigs in the pen, eggs in the basket, around the world and flying Dutchman

Some games, such as Jack be nimble are short games that are not played in the onesies to tensies format.


An older game was played with knuckle-bones of sheep or other small animals. The game originated hundreds of years ago, probably of Asiatic origin, and popular in ancient Greece and Rome, when the only playthings boys and girls had were materials they found near their homes. They collected small stones and animal bones and learned to use them in a game. Similar to today's version of the game, They tossed five small pieces of bone into the air and caught on the back of the hand in variety of ways.


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