Traditional Dutch games for children: Sjoelbak, Koekhappen en Spijkerpoep

At national festivities like Koninginnedag (celebrated this year for the last time on the 30th 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 Sjoelbak, Koekhappen and Spijkerpoep.


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 for example 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. maplesyrup) 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…




Spijkerpoepen is a game that scouts like to play and children on national festivities in the Netherlands. 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.



24 replies »

  1. Oh yes, Stephen, it is. It’s really difficult to get the “spijker” into the bottle… Nobody makes observations about the posture and everyone tries to focus on the task. 😉

  2. the name of spijkerpoep is very inappropriate for kids in its english form next time NAME IT SOMETHING DIFFERENT

    • I’m sorry that you don’t like the name of it, but I think we can’t change it. It’s a very traditional game here in NL and it’s very good for coordination and concentration.

  3. Hi I am trying to find the name of a numbers card game which I played with a Dutch couple whilst on holiday in France. It was quite easy to learn but was not Uno. Hope you can help. Ann

  4. Hi, I’m trying to find information about a kids game called “release the Belgium, anyone ever heard of it?

  5. Hi,
    I too grew up in western PA during the 50’s. Our game of Release the Belgium was played with 2 teams. One team were the escapers the other team the chasers. The game started at a designated “jail”. Our jail was literally the steps of our town’s Belgium Club!
    The escapers were given time to run and hide or just plain run. We hid in gardens, neighbors cars, up in trees, etc. The only rule was no hiding in houses. When an escaper was caught, they were escorted back to the jail waiting to see if a teammate could release them. If a teammate was fast enough, or willing to chance their own capture, they would run to the jail and make a tag yelling RELEASE THE BELGIUM!! – thus, freeing all the captured escapees. If all escapers were caught, then the teams reversed and they became the chasers.
    We played for hours. I too wondered if this game was started in honor of perhaps a WWI battle.

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