Top 10 Benefits of Playing Mancala

Have you heard of or played the game of mancala? If you have, you have played the most common game in the world. 

Custom Mancala Board

Let that sink in for a moment. A simple game managed the task of connecting the entire planet. And did so long before Facebook, Twitter or the internet.

People from childhood all the way thru old age can benefit from playing Mancala. Since most people are familiar with the game, very little time will go to explaining it.

But in case you have never played, here is a simple explanation of gameplay. There are 12 cups with two long stores at the end. Each cup has 4 seeds in it.

Players take turns taking all the seeds from one cup on their side. They "sow" them in counter-clockwise order. Players sow one seed per cup including their own store in the order.

When they run out, their turn is over, unless they land in their store with the final seed, then they get a free turn. If the land in an empty space on their side, they capture that seed and any in the cup directly across from it.

Simple yes, but how can such an elementary idea be useful? Read on to see.

1. Learning to Count

As young children learn to count, having something small to hold helps the process. Just being able to pick them up and count them out, as they drop them cements the learning process.

If you want to make it even more fun for them, play with M&M's or chocolate chips. Let them eat as high as they can correctly count. Mixing learning with sweets creates external motivation and makes learning fun.

2. Playing Mancala for Fine Motor Skills

If you know anything about child development, you have heard of fine motor skills. These small movements include holding pens, picking up beads or opening candy wrappers. They take practice and effort to learn.

Mancala helps by teaching them to pick up multiple items and set down one at a time.

3. Taking Turns

As with any game, children learn to move their pieces one at a time. Instead of thinking they can move all they want, they learn to wait their turn.

It may come as a shock to the uninitiated what a difficult task this is for children to master.

4. Critical Thinking

Mancala teaches critical thinking at each age group. And it does so whether players realize it or not.

And, unlike chess or checkers, the movements, pieces, and gameplay stay simple. Some versions get more complex, but those are best for older children.

You may have noticed the great lack of critical thinking in our "google it" society. Mancala can help build that trait in children you know.

5. A Fun Project

If you want to kill a couple hours with your kids, build mancala boards with them. You can do this any of a hundred different ways.

Try it with egg cartons if you want to do it fast. Or cut down paper cups if you rather it took longer. Or if you want to keep them occupied for hours, in which case use sandpaper and wood.

Also, try decorating vase beads with paint markers for even more fun.

6. Math Skills

Subitizing means understanding the total number without counting them. You look at a star on the flag and you know it has five points. You see a traffic light and know automatically it has 3, 4 or 5 lights without counting them.

Mancala helps children recognize how many seeds are in a cup without physically counting them.

Also, it helps to introduce some ideas of multiplication. 6 cups on my side with 4 seeds per cup means how many seeds?

7. Keeping the Brain Young

It's no secret that degenerative brain disorders plague our society. Board games, in general, seem to have a positive impact on long-term brain health. Mancala does as well.

Critical thinking skills don't only help children. Everyone could use a good dose of brain-boosting activity like what mancala provides.

8. Playing Mancala as Part of Drug Rehab

In recent years, drug addiction treatment has come under scrutiny. Many suggest that helping addicts to re-enter society by aids in permanent recovery. It helps even more when you use a positive social game.

Mancala makes an excellent choice here. The games go quick and the payoff for a win is instantaneous. Plus, it helps people connect thru conversation while playing.

If you seek long-term drug recovery for yourself or someone else, try playing Mancala.

9. Physical Rehab

Just as it can aid in fine motor skills for toddlers, mancala makes great physical rehab. The game requires picking up multiple pieces and transferring one at a time from palm to fingers.

It engages muscles in the entire hand, brings blood to the tendons, hits the thumb muscle. As an added benefit, it strengthens the mind-muscle connection between the brain and hand.

10. A Great Social Game

Last, but not least, playing mancala at a game night makes for a fun time. You can even play group variations to spice things up a little. Or maybe make it into a tournament.

No limit exists to the amount of fun you and your friends can have playing mancala together. The simplicity of the game makes rounds go quick. The underlying strategy makes the competition intense.

Further, the rule variations keep you and your opponents on your toes and focused.

Time to Start Sowing

The benefits are there for sure. Why not start playing Mancala with some friends today?

If you don't have a board already, you can make one from a few things around the house. Or, if you prefer more decorative types, check out these options here.

You don't need anything fancy. But some solid wood boards with high-quality stones will last longer.

But whatever you choose, start sowing the pieces today and reap the benefits for the rest of your life.

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