Traditional Games in the Netherlands

Instructor: Breana Murad

Breana has seven years experience teaching multiple Social Studies subjects including U.S. History, World History, and Civics. She holds a master's degree in teaching.

Traditional games in the Netherlands take many forms. Whether it's a more traditional board game or speed skating, the Dutch have several ways to enjoy a friendly (or not) competition.

Orange. All you see is orange. You run down through the list of possibilities: an orange grove? Nope. A sea of orange tulips? Nah. A pumpkin patch? It's only June. Only one possibility remains; a Dutch football game.

The Netherlands is a small country in northwestern Europe. People of the Netherlands, like many around the world, work hard and enjoy their leisure time. They spend this time dining, spending time with friends, enjoying the arts and theater, and of course….games.

Games of the Netherlands

Board and party games are enjoyed in the Netherlands as they are in other nations. Some common party games for children appear in the United States and may be familiar. These games include:

  • Sack-racing (Zaklopen)
  • Egg-races (Eierlopen)
  • Pin the tail on the donkey (Ezeltje prik)

Other games of Dutch origin are not as commonly played.

One such game is called Hul Gul. Literally 'What's in your hand?' the game is played traditionally with buttons, but any 10 small items will do. Player 1 puts his chosen number of items in his hand and holds it out. Player 2 asks Hul Gul?

Buttons are commonly used in Hul Gul.

Player 1 responds with 'Hands full,' and Player 2 then tries to guess how many of the items are being held in Player 1's hand. If Player 2 guesses right, she gets all of the items in Player 1's hand.

If Player 2 guesses incorrectly, she must give up the difference between her hand and Player 1's and her guess. For example:

Player 1: 6 items

Player 2 guess: 4 items

Player 2's hand: 8 items



This rule remains in force regardless of which player holds more items. The winner is the player who wins all the items first.

…If you followed all that, how about Dutch shuffleboard?


Sjoelen (Dutch shuffleboard) involves three rounds. During each round, 30 wooden discs are slid along a table measuring 2 meters long. The goal is to get the discs through 4 arches numbered 2-3-4-1 on the opposite end.

A Sjoelen board.

Scoring is based on the number of the arch the disc goes through. For each set of 4 discs in a single compartment, a player receives 20 points.

The highest score wins the game.

There are World Championships for Sjoelen, and they're held every two years. The last round was held in France in May 2017, and a Dutch team took home the honors. The next round (for those of you who now hold a burning passion for Sjoelen) will take place in 2019 in the Netherlands.

For those of you looking to get outdoors, no worries-the Netherlands is known for its outdoor activities as well.

Sports in the Netherlands

As of 2003, 69% of the population reported that they spent time playing sports, specifically. Therefore, Netherlands has several options for those looking to play games outside. As of 2007, it was reported that the Dutch spend an average of 2.6 hours a week participating in physical activity and/or sports.


The most popular sport in the Netherlands is the worldwide (except in the USA, apparently) obsession known as football, or soccer to any Americans reading this. Both genders embrace football, and as of July 2016, the Royal Netherlands Football Association had over one million members of both genders and all ages.

Football is as popular to watch in the Netherlands as it is to play. The Netherlands regularly fields strong teams to the World Cup competitions every four years.

Ice Skating

Due to a large number of canals and waterways in the Netherlands, children learn from an early age to ice skate. Whether it's indoors or out on the frozen-over canals (this only happens every five or six years), adults and children enjoy being out on the ice.

Dutch skaters in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
Skating Amsterdam

This national pastime is recognized during the Elfstedentocht or Eleven Towns race over frozen canals that link 11 towns in the Netherlands. Internationally, the Dutch often compete in speed skating and other long-distance skating events.

Other Popular Sports

The Dutch also enjoy such commonly known sports as tennis, gymnastics, and swimming. Uncommonly known, but popular in the Netherlands, are the sports of Korfball and fierljeppen.

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