Quick n' Dirty Mancala Board

My husband, 6 year old and I (re)learned to play Mancala over the Labor Day weekend from my Mom. We enjoyed the game quite a bit, but were frustrated because the cups in my Mom's game board were too small to accommodate the number of stones that they frequently ended up holding. At best, you couldn't easily count how many stones were in the cup; at worst they spilled out and into the next cup. James and I bought a set of our own at a consignment sale this weekend, but we weren't able to examine it first. Sure enough, it had the same problem as my Mom's - but worse! So we were looking for a way to make our own.
An egg carton is the obvious solution, but I don't have one on hand.
We came up with two quick n' dirty solutions. The first, since it is still nice outside, was to simply draw a board on the porch with sidewalk chalk. James made this one for us.

This worked pretty well, expect that my poor back and feet don't care for the squatting. Ugh. I will suggest that you make your circles generously sized, though, since without any sort of rim there's a lot of opportunity for "splash."

My second brainstorm for inside play was to use Wiki Sticks. I'd acquired a small set several months ago, but they weren't quite the hit I'd imagined and most of them were still untouched on the supply shelf.
I bent a dozen into circles and stuck them on our little Ikea table. I didn't finish off the goal / mancala slots at the end just out of laziness, but I probably would next time.
Using the slightly sticky, slightly raised Wiki Sticks to provide a "rim" was a moderate improvement over a chalk line, but having the whole setup on a table was the biggest win for my 39-year-old back.

Despite Six Whole Years of parenting experience, certain aspects of child development still catch me by surprise. In this case, it's the fact that grabbing a handful of 8+ small pebbles and then dropping them one at a time into little holes (or circles) is surprisingly difficult for a six-year-old. (Of course, this is just a bonus to the game as a learning activity, so I try not to be too impatient!) And sure enough, quite frequently the wiki-stick "cup" came up with the handful of stones. The stickier the wiki-stick the better it's going to work, of course, but I'll admit this is only a quick-n-dirty solution rather than a perfect one.

I have a feeling we'll be coming up with another iteration or two of mancala boards, but that's just part of the fun!


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