Traditional Games in Finland

Instructor: Brittney Clere

Brittney, a National Board Certified Teacher, has taught social studies at the middle school level for 15 years.

Can you imagine a game of baseball where the ball is thrown straight up in the air instead of straight to the batter? In the Finnish version of baseball, that is exactly what they do. In this lesson, you will learn more about this and other traditional games of Finland.

The people of Finland are known to be avid sports fans and tough competitors. They excel in many popular sports such as Motorcross, soccer, and wrestling. Some, however, enjoy competing in Finland's more traditional games.

Some traditional Finnish games can be played just among family and friends or more competitively in tournaments. Kyykka, or Finnish Skittles, is one of those. In this two player game, there are twelve pins called skittles, and each player has a small wooden bat. The objective is to toss the bat and knock the other player's pins out of the play area. The winner is the player who can do it in the least number of throws.

Skittles game pieces.

Mölkky is another popular skittles game. Each pin has a number, and if a player knocks down only one pin, that number becomes their score. If two or more pins fall, the score is the number of pins knocked down. The winner is the player who gets exactly fifty points without going over, so some players may strategize to knock down only one pin. When a player gets close to the targeted fifty points, the one pin strategy comes into play.

Molkky pins.
Molkky pins.

Considered Finland's national sport, pesäpallo, or pesis, is the Finnish version of baseball. There are some differences in the rules, but the concept is the same. A pitcher tosses a ball, the batter hits it with a bat and then runs the bases. The most noticeable difference between pesäpallo and baseball is that instead of throwing the ball horizontally to the batter from a pitcher's mound, the pitcher and the batter both stand at home plate together. The pitcher tosses the ball straight up in the air, and it is hit as it comes back down.

A pesapallo game being played.
Pesapollo game.

Other traditional Finnish games are not part of any tournament play but are more for entertainment. Chain is one of those games. In Chain, or Ketsju, one person must leave the room while the others join hands in a circle. They then weave themselves around each other until they are tangled into a knot. The person who left the room can now come back in to try and untangle the group.

Crab Ball Tag is an amusing game to watch because the players move around like crabs, with their stomachs up and walking on their hands and feet. There must be at least six players who are crabs, and one standing player will be the tagger. This player has a rubber ball that he/she can throw at the crabs. The crabs can hit the ball back using only their legs or head. If a crab kicks the ball back out, the standing player can only make his next throw from where he stands. If no one has kicked it out, he can move about, but not run. If a crab is hit between the waist and neck, that player becomes the tagger.

The crab walk position.
Crab walk.

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