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Malaysian Traditional Games for the Entire Family

This week’s article is part one of our Merdeka series to get us in our patriotic spirits as a family 🙂 And what better way to do so than to teach or introduce our children to our Malaysian traditional games and then play a round or two?

Older children (ie preschoolers and above) would enjoy and benefit more from these games but there’s no harm in introducing them to the younger ones (bearing in mind the risk of choking hazards in some games of course).

What’s great about these games are that they’re low cost, fun, and gadget-free! Apart from these traditional games being a good family bonding activity, you can also teach your children about the cultural background behind these games. After all, traditions are meant to be passed on 🙂

Playing games in a group (not just traditional games) is generally a good way for children to learn turn taking, understand the concept of winning and losing, enhance problem solving and social skills. As with all games and competition, it’s a great opportunity to let your child know that it’s okay to lose sometimes and more importantly, how to deal with disappointment and losing. The types of play commonly involved in games are cooperative and competitive play – both of which are vital to a child’s social development. Co-operative play is the predominant type of play in pre-schoolers 4-5 years old and we would expect more competitive play in older school-going children (ie: sports).

We’ve shortlisted 5 Malaysian traditional games for you to enjoy with the family this Merdeka month! Best part, most of them can be played comfortably on the play mat with the entire family! ❤️ Trust me, these traditional games are best played on the ground for more fun!

5 Malaysian Traditional Games to Ignite the Merdeka Spirit in You and Your Family


Congkak is believed to originate from the Middle East, also known as mancala (meaning “move” in Arabic). It is postulated that it ended up in the Southeast Asia via Malacca city as it was the trading centre in the past. According to an article by UPM (Universiti Putra Malaysia), ‘Congkak’ is believed to be derived from the Malay word ‘congak’ which means mental calculation. Hence, it is more suitable for older school going children.

It consists of a wooden board shaped like a boat with 14 holes (“kampung” or village) and 2 bigger holes at both ends (“rumah” or home). These days, the Congkak board is usually made from plastic instead of traditionally carved wood. Each small hole (kampung) is then filled with 7 marbles. Congkak is a 2 player game and the main aim is to fill the bigger hole (rumah) with as many marbles as possible.

Level up skills in:

  • Counting (younger children can help to fill up the holes with exact number of marbles under parental supervision – choking hazard)
  • Turn taking
  • Respecting rules
  • Cooperative play
  • Competitive play

2.Batu Seremban

‘Batu Seremban’ was all the rage back in high school among the female students (at least during my time it was 🫣, 80s babies for the win!). Almost every girl friend would have their own set of ‘batu Seremban’. It is a well known game in states like Kedah, Selangor, Kelantan and Johor (source: JKKN Malaysia).

These ‘stones’, in a set of 5, are essentially wrapped up saga seeds, beans or rice grains, sewn in small pretty cloth pouches (I love the ones with colorful batik designs). It is usually a group game, the more the merrier, whereby each person competes with one another to toss the ‘stone’ in the air while scrambling to pick up all the other stones with the same hand. Difficulty level increases as game progresses (not for the faint hearted 🤭).

Level up skills in:

  • Fine motor skills
  • Hand eye coordination
  • Competitive play
  • Social skills

3.Colek Lidi (Pick Up Sticks)

This is another simple but enjoyable game that brings so much memories of the good ol’ school days. Traditionally, the sticks used were discarded ‘satay’ sticks but they have long evolved to colorful plastic sticks manufactured by companies. Even back during my school days, we were already playing the plastic sticks version. The rule is simple – pick out one stick from the pile of sticks thrown, without moving the rest of the sticks. Then, you can even use that stick as the “master” stick to help pick out other sticks without moving the rest of the pile. The one with most number of sticks win.

Level up skills in:

  • Fine motor skills
  • Coordination
  • Attentiveness

4.Ceper (Bottle Caps)

Oh, this was a popular game among the school boys! It is said to be the boys’ equivalent of the girls’ ‘batu seremban’ as it also requires 5 bottle caps. ‘Ceper’ is a traditional Malaysian game that originated in the late 1970s for 2 players (or more). The ‘ceper’ used are basically recycled steel bottle caps.

To determine who should start, a player puts all 5 bottle caps stacked up on the palm, throws them in the air and try to catch as many as he can on the back of his hand. 1 bottle cap = 2 marks. And then, toss them again to catch the remaining bottle caps using the palm. The one with the most number of caps starts first. To play the game, stack up the bottle caps and spin them, making sure not to overlap. Another player will choose which bottle cap to shoot at (this requires skills!). The player with the most points collected wins the game.

Level up skills in:

  • Fine motor skills
  • Concentration
  • Competitive play

5.Guli (shooting marbles)

Another popular traditional game among the boys that’s usually played in a group no more than 5. Also known as ‘kelereng’. It involves drawing a circle on the ground (usually on the sand) with a straight line drawn heading towards the circle. This line serves as a guide when shooting marbles. Players then take turns to shoot other players’ marbles out of the circle. The aim of the game is to get the most marbles at the end of the game and the winner gets to keep the knocked out opponent’s marbles.

Recommended for older children (primary school-goers) due to potential choking hazards.

Level up skills in:

  • Hand eye coordination
  • Turn taking
  • Competitive play

And there you have it! We hope you enjoy this trip down memory lane as much as we did writing up this article 🙂 Of course, this is not an exhaustive list of all our Malaysian traditional games, so don’t forget about the outdoor games such as ‘wau’ (the traditional kite flying) and ‘gasing’ (spinning top).

Look out for part two of the Merdeka series articles on Merdeka arts and crafts activities for children. Stay tuned to our IG space xx

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