Sjoelen? Koekhappen ?! Spijkerpoepen ?!?! – Traditional Dutch games

You might know that going to a Dutch birthday party can be quite a challenge. In this blog I wrote about the infamous Dutch birthday circle!

There is the birthday boy or girl surrounded by family and friends. At home, all sitting in a circle.  No music, not much to eat, coffee, tea or beer and just talking…

But.. this is not always the case.

Sometimes the Dutch like to go a bit more crazy and get some old fashioned games out.

In Dutch these are called Oud-Hollandse spellen!

And by the way not only at birthdays, also for other festivities. Kings Day, especially, is a day where you can find a lot of these games.

There are couple of them that every Dutch person knows. But for foreigners these games might come as a big surprise.

Traditional Dutch game: Sjoelen

Let’s start with the one that’s probably the most popular to play: sjoelen.

In short, what is it?

Sjoelen is played on a wooden board (a shuffleboard) with wooden discs. At the end of the box there are four gates, with small openings through which the discs just fit. The goal of the game is to slide the discs through the gates.

This game used to be played by many families at Christmas and New Year’s Eve, but also at other celebrations.

When you see it for the first time, you might think it’s pretty easy. But it’s definitely more difficult than it looks.

Also beware, every family has its own rules and people can get pretty upset when they lose a game of sjoelen.

Traditional Dutch game: Koekhappen

A piece of gingerbread, string and a tea towel.  What you do is.. tie the slices of gingerbread with string and hang them at the right height for the people who have to eat them, so they can reach them blindfolded.\

The first person to finish their piece of gingerbread without using their hands is the winner. This game is mostly for childrens’ parties, but not always..

Traditional Dutch game: Ei op lepel

You may have heard or even played this one: ei op lepel (egg and spoon race). For this game you don’t need much, just spoons and eggs.

The concept is pretty simple. There are two teams each with a spoon handle in their mouth with an egg on it. The team that is the first to finish and hasn’t dropped their eggs is the winner.

Traditional Dutch game: Spijkerpoepen

Spijkerpoepen, nail pooping! Sounds interesting, right?

The required materials of the game are

  • a piece of string
  • a long nail
  • a bottle

The nail is tied to one end of the string and the other end is tied to the player’s waist. The aim of the game is to get the nail into the bottle, without using anything other than hip, waist and thigh movements. The one who gets it in first, wins the game.

Hence the name spijkerpoepen!


  • Ik heb gewonnen – I’ve won
  • Ik heb verloren – I’ve lost
  • Het is een gelijkspel – It’s a tie
  • We hebben gelijkgespeeld – We drew
  • Laten we beginnen! – Let’s get started!
  • Het is tijd om te beginnen – It’s time to begin
  • Wie begint er? – Who’s starting?
  • Wie mag er beginnnen? – Who gets to start?
  • Wie zit er in mijn team? – Who’s on my team?
  • Hoe lang duurt het spel? – How long does the game last?
  • Hoe werkt het spel? – How does the game work?
  • Wat zijn de regels? – What are the rules?
  • Wanneer heb je gewonnen? – When are you the winner?

Bart de Pau
online Dutch teacher & founder of the Dutch Summer School & Dutch Winter School