Marbles: What do you play with them and how were they invented?

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A marble is a small solid ball shape made of glass, marble, stone, wood, clay or plastic. Sometimes they are also made of metal.

They are usually used by children to play marbles with them. In Flanders we also speak of marbels. The spherical shape has a diameter of about 1 to 5 cm.

What are marbles

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How the marble was invented 2500 BC

Marbles are very old. During the excavation at Mohenjo-daro, small stone spheres, identified by archaeologists as marbles, were found.

That's an excavation of a settlement built in 2500 BC!

Marbles are also often mentioned in Roman literature, such as in Ovid's poem Nux (which talks about playing the game with walnuts), and there are many examples of marbles from excavations of places related to Chaldeans of Mesopotamia and the old Egypt.

They were usually made of clay, stone or glass. Marbles arrived in Britain, imported from our area here, during the medieval era.

Marbles in the 19th century

It is unknown where marbles were first manufactured, but the “original” marbles were called “made in Germany”.

The Ceramic Marbles entered low-cost mass production in the 1870s.

A German glassblower invented marble scissors in 1846, a device for making glass marbles, and from then on glass marbles could be frequently made.

Watch here how marbles are made (nice Willem Wever episode from the past):

Some of the first glass marbles produced in the US were also made in Akron, by James Harvey Leighton.

In 1903, Martin Frederick Christensen - also of Akron, Ohio - made the first machine-made glass marbles on his patented machine.

His company, the MF Christensen & Son Co., produced millions toys– and industrial glass marbles until they were discontinued in 1917.

The next American company to enter the marbles market was Akro Agate.

This company was founded by Akronites in 1911, but is based in Clarksburg, West Virginia.

Who exactly made the first marble run is unfortunately unknown, but it is said that this also originated in Germany for the first time.

Different marble games of the world

In addition to the marble track, many different types of marble games are played all over the world.

I remember that we used to have two variations on the schoolyard:

  • push another one away with a marble, ending closest to it (kind of jeux de boule)
  • try to land in a hole in the tiles with a marble (with or without playing through the wall)

Here are some marble games from different countries:


In Australia, games were played with marbles of various sizes.

  • The smallest and most common was about 15mm in diameter
  • The two larger, more valuable sizes were called semi bowlers and tom bowlers, about 20mm and 25mm respectively

They were used in much the same way as regular marbles, although they were sometimes prohibited due to the advantage of their greater mass.

Owners of large marbles were also afraid to use them, otherwise they might lose them to another player in a lost game.

They were usually of the clear “cat's eye” or milk glass type, and of course just bigger.

"Firing" a marble meant that a player had to sweep his or her marble from a stationary position of his hand.

With that hand he would sweep or shoot the marble from his or her hand, usually with the knuckle on the back of the hand on the floor, and usually with the thumb of that hand against the marble.

Once a player managed to land the marble in the hole, he would immediately shoot his own marble at his opponent's marbles.

However, if one player hit another player's marble, the act would be referred to as 'a kiss'.

The game was then over and all or both players (in the case of only two players) would have to retreat to the starting line to restart the game, to no avail.

Of course, this can be quite annoying or frustrating if one player has already built up quite a few hits on another player's marbles.

So the most skilled players did not resort to these kinds of tactics.

The overall goal was to hit a certain marble 3 times after hitting the hole, which was called “the murder”.

Once a player killed another marble, if the game was 'for keeps', he was allowed to keep the opponent's marble.


In India there are many games with marbles.

A simple game of marbles is called “Cara,” where each player places one or more marbles in a long line of marbles, each one an inch or more apart.

After this, each player throws another marble as far from the line as possible. In this game, the player whose marble is farthest from the marbles gets the first chance to hit the marble line and subsequent players are allowed to descend according to their distance from the line.

Any player who touches and moves a marble in the row of marbles may take it and any marbles to the right of it.

Usually marbles in the line are smaller marbles and the players themselves have slightly larger marbles to aim at the line of smaller marbles.

This game needs a playground with flat and hard surface for running the game. The number of players can be anywhere from 2 to 30.

The distances of the marbles thrown determine the order of players to hit the line, are anywhere from 10 to 30 meters and may depend on the player's desire to try first, at the risk of being too far and miss the line.

Players have to roll their marbles from a distance to hit the marbles in line.

Each player may only touch the line of marbles once, assuming there are still marbles in the row and each player gets a turn.

In a row of twenty marbles, it is reasonable to get at least 5 to 20 marbles, depending on how well someone hits the marbles.

When all the marbles have been picked up by the players, the game will restart with players lining up their marbles and trying to win as many marbles as possible.

If a few marbles remain in line after each player has taken a chance, the players again throw their marbles perpendicular to this line and start marbles again to hit the line according to the above rules.

This process is repeated until all marbles in play have been picked up.


In Uganda, a popular game of marbles is called maze. It requires a small pit dug into the ground for two or more players, each with its own marble.

To start a game, a throwline is drawn on the ground with chalk or a stick about three feet from the pit.

Then the players roll their marbles close to the pit.

The person whose marble falls in it gets points equal to one game.

If a second marble falls in and hits the first, that player gets more points than the previous player, but they must all return to the throwline.

If no marble goes in, the player whose marble is closest to the hole starts a “fire session”. When he misses, the next opponent fires.

You can only shoot 24 consecutive times per turn and earn one point for each shot.

But all the while, a player must make sure that the gap between the marbles is larger than two palms.

If an opponent realizes that this is not the case, then he can pick up his marble and place it anywhere.

When a player aims at a marble placed near the hole, he must avoid throwing it into the hole, as this is how he gives away points to the opponent.

There are different rules of play but the player with the most points wins.

Beneficial fingers include the middle finger for the marble power and the little finger for a precise long range target.

Is a marble track a good toy for a toddler?

Yes, a marble track is generally a good toy for preschoolers. It stimulates their creativity, problem-solving skills and hand-eye coordination as they follow marbles as they roll around the track.

In addition, preschoolers often enjoy making the marbles move and make sounds, which promotes their sensory and motor development. Good marble runs are a great way for preschoolers to learn about cause and effect, balance and gravity in a playful way.

It can also improve their social skills when they play with others. However, choose a marble track with large marbles to avoid choking hazards and make sure they play under supervision.

Are marbles more fun to play with than other toys?

Whether marbles are more fun to play with than other toys, depends on the child's personal preference and the playing situation. Marbles can be fun and engaging, especially when used in combination with marble runs or other creative games. They provide opportunities for imaginative play and developing different skills.

Always something to do for the holidays or rainy day?

Play Choice now has the ultimate activity book collection, with over 60 pages of fun coloring pages and educational puzzles.

Joost Nusselder, the founder of is a content marketer, father and loves trying out new toys. As a child he came into contact with everything related to games when his mother started the Tinnen Soldaat in Ede. Now he and his team create helpful blog articles to help loyal readers with fun play ideas.