Traditional Dutch games for children: Sjoelbak, Koekhappen en Spijkerpoep


At national festivities like Koningsdag (celebrated on the 27th of April) and also during general social gatherings like Burendag (“neigbours-day”, usually the fourth Saturday in September), Dutch children (and adults) use to play traditional games like SjoelbakKoekhappen and Spijkerpoepen.


Bildschirmfoto 2017-09-22 um 18.12.25Sjoelbak is a shuffelboard game, and one of the most beloved games for kids and adults in the Netherlands.

The Sjoelbak is a long board placed on a table. The goal is to slide 30 wooden disks (or pucks) towards the end of the board and try to have them enter through four small open arches that are numbered from left to right: 2, 3, 4, 1. Each player has 3 chances to get as many pucks in the scoring boxes. The player with the highest number of points wins the game. – The most intriguing rule is that for each set of pucks (i.e. a puck in every box) they count double. So instead of 10 points for a set (i.e. one puck in each box: 2+3+4+1=10) you will get 20 points. This game is played also in Belgium, France (billard hollandais) and in Germany it’s called Jakkolo, whereas in Czech they adopted the Dutch word šulbak.

The very similar english Shuffelboard was played since the 16th Century: the players did shuffel metal weights on the table and tried to push them along the table.

Since the Seventies there are several Sjoelbak-associations which organize open contests (League ANS (Algemene Nederlandse Sjoelbond)) .




Koekhappen is a game that children often play at kinderfeestjes (kidsparties) and on Koningsdag. An ontbijtkoek (or another soft delicacy) is attached on a thread and the players have to try to bite the koek off the thread by keeping their hands behind their backs.
A variety to koekhappen is appelhappen, where an apple with stroop (syrup; ex. maple syrup) is attached to the thread. The stroop makes it more difficult to bite into the apple and the risk to get all over besmeared with stroop is quite high, which adds to the kid's fun!




Spijkerpoepen (lit. "pooping nails") is a game that children like to play on national festivities in the Netherlands, and that scouts here in the Netherlands like to play. It is an old Dutch game which leads to amusement and requires a good coordination and concentration.

You need a rope or string, a nail and a bottle. The nail is attached to the string and fastened to the backside of the player’s trousers. – The aim of the game is to put the nail into the bottle only by moving the hips and the middle and upper legs.

An earlier version of this post has been published also on my "other" blog expatsincebirth.

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