Play Marbles


Marbles is a fun game from childhood that should be well-preserved in a person with memory loss’ long term memory. There are lots of ways to play, but the classic game of “Ringer” is probably best known, so I’ll describe it here for those of you who may not have played before. However, be warned: always ask the person with memory loss what rules the remember and use those if possible. It’s much easier for a caregiver to remember those rules than for someone with memory loss to adapt to new ones!

How to play Ringer
1. Draw a circle at least 2 to 3 feet wide on a table (painter’s tape works well) or the floor, depending on how spry you’re feeling. Note: The larger the circle, the harder the game.
2. Place 13 marbles in an “x” shape inside the circle with each marble about 3 inches apart.
3. Select your shooter (a marble larger than the ones inside the circle).
4. Each player takes turns trying to “flick” their shooter with their thumb from outside the ring at any marble(s) or marbles inside the ring.
5. Gather any marbles you’ve knocked out of the ring.
6. If you got any marbles out of the ring AND your shooter Shooter ends up outside of the ring, you get to shoot again. Otherwise, it’s the next player’s turn. (If your shooter doesn’t leave the ring, take it out before the next players goes).
7. Continue taking turns until the ring is empty.
8. Whoever knocks the most marbles out of the ring, wins!

Alternate ways to play Ringer and other marbles games can be found at

The game can be modified to be easier/harder by making the circle bigger or smaller, or changing the rules of play to make sure everyone gets at least a few turns. People in the later stages of the disease might do well on a team, helping to choose which marble to target when shooting, or being the referee/counter at the end of the game. Even just handling the marbles and admiring their different colors and patterns can be fun. Of course, this is also a great activity for reminiscing. Ask questions like, “Who did you play marbles with?”, “Did you have a favorite marble? What did it look like?” or “Did you play for ‘keeps’?” to help get the conversation going.

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