Here’s an old-fashioned game with a modern tutorial to wind up your summer games! Learn to make your own DIY Game of Graces with a few household items and some small pieces of equipment (nothing more complicated that sand paper). Best part, it only take a few minutes to make so you can get out and have fun with your family!
>>>This article was originally written for our book, Homestead Holidays.<<<
Where Was the Game of Graces Invented?
The game of Graces was a popular game for girls in the 1800’s. It was first played in France where it was called le jeu des graces.
The Game of Graces was considered not only suitable but proper for a girl to play since the activity attended to it was purported to perfect graceful movement. These days, the game is played by adults, as well as children, and boys, as well as girls.
I never, ever look graceful playing this game but I can report that it is pure fun – even when you fall all over yourself trying to get your hoop.
How Do You Play the Game of Graces?
The object of the game is to catch the wooden hoop that flies through the air from your opponent’s rods onto your own rods. Here’s how the game of Graces is played with two players:
- Each player holds two rods (wooden dowels).
- The player launching the wooden hoop, holds their rods across each other like open scissors.
- While the player catching the hoop holds the rods straight out in front of them, about five inches apart.
- The player launching the hoop, crosses their rods and raises them in the air.
- Pulling the rods down and across and pushing the hoop, the player releases the hoop towards their opponent.
- The opposing player catches the hoop on her rods before it hits the ground.
- The first person to get 10 catches is the winner.
When our family plays, we allow for do-over launches if the hoop gets stuck in trees, or on fences or on the neighbor’s dog.
Also, if anyone under eight is playing, we allow a few extra launches if the hoop goes too far awry.
One other family rule is that you have to inquire if the catcher is alright upon the event of a fall BEFORE you start laughing.
You can purchase kits that come ready made for the game of Graces but you can also easily make your own.
How Do You Throw a Hoop in the Game of Graces?
This is the hardest part and the essence of the game, but just follow the instructions above and you’ll master it with practice.
Here’s a little tip: the crossing motion of the rods will launch the hoop into the air, but a slight toss upwards at launch time will help the hoop go farther and higher.
The motion is fluid once you get it down – and you WILL get it!
DIY Game of Graces Tutorial
Here are some simple instructions to make your own 2-player version of the Game of Graces. You will need a small saw, like a limb saw or utility saw. You will also need some sand paper.
This is such a simple game to put together that your children should certainly be encouraged to help! Even younger children can be taught to use sand paper, while the older teens can take care of any cutting.
Let everyone have an opinion on the color of ribbons you choose and whether or not you should paint your hoops and sticks. Have fun!
- Four wooden dowels 18-24 inches (45-60 cm) long, with a diameter of 1/2 - 3/4 of an inch (1.27 - 1.9 cm). The dowels should be thick enough not to break upon repeated use but thin enough that they’re not too heavy.
- One wooden embroidery hoop, 6"- 8" diameter
- Sturdy bag
- Ribbons, optional
- Small hand saw
- Sand paper
Cut the wooden dowels to length (if needed) and sand smooth. Be sure that the dowels are free of splinters.*
Take the inside ring from the embroidery hoop for use in the game.
You may decorate the hoop with ribbons, if you’d like. Traditionally, hoops were wound with ribbon and had multi-length tails of ribbon. You can even color coordinate them for special holidays. A decorated hoop makes a pretty picture when flying through the air, but it’s certainly not a requirement to decorate your hoop.
If you do add ribbons, clip the ends on a diagonal, and tie a simple knot at each end to prevent fraying.
Place all components in a sturdy bag that will weather picnics, trips to the beach (always a challenge to play in the wind!) and little kids carrying it around.
*You may choose to taper one end of each dowel for smoother launching, though this isn’t necessary to play the game.
If you would like to create a smooth point at the end of your dowels, use low grit sandpaper (anything between 36-100) to create the shape.
Afterward, smooth the surface with fine grit sandpaper (anything between 100 to 180). The lower the grit number on the package, the larger the abrasive particles.
This means that they remove more material but create more noticeable scratches. Most woodworking projects require a variety of grit numbers to create the desired finish.