Only Dutch people know this – Old Dutch games

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Each year new students come to the Netherlands to see what this country is like. Maybe they even plan on living here.

In general, they have some idea about culture, food and traditions in the Netherlands. Though there are some traditions that are maybe not so well known.

But in the Netherlands they are seen as typically Dutch. I am talking about ‘Oud-Hollandse spelletjes’, Old Dutch games.

‘Oud-Hollandse spelletjes’ – Old Dutch games

One of these games involves an ontbijtkoek (kind of gingerbread), a ball of string, a pair of scissors and a knife?

And last but not least: blindfolds!

So the question in the video is: do they understand what you have in mind when you give them these things?

The funny thing for a Dutch person is that he will definitely know what it is for!

How does it work?

You slice up the ontbijtkoek. Then you cut different lengths of the string and you tie one end of a piece to the ontbijtkoek and you tie the other end up to the longer rope.

It’s a game, so there is a winner (winnaar) and a loser (verliezer)

The idea is simple: the first one who eats their whole piece of koek wins! You can’t use your hands.

As a participant you don’t realise this, but you will look ridiculous.

And the ontbijtkoek looks delicious at first, but wait until you eat the whole thing …

When do the Dutch play koekhappen?

These Oud-Hollandse games are popular on certain occasions. One of these, and also interesting for the students, is during a typically Dutch day: KONINGSDAG.

On 27 April the Dutch celebrate the birthday of the king, Willem-Alexander. This is a public holiday for the Dutch. There are several traditions associated with it which you can read about here and one of these is de vrijmarkt. A part of the vrijmarkt, as well as earning money by playing an instrument or selling all your old junk, is  Oud-Hollande games.

Other occasions when people play these games are during parties or activities in school. Also, some people play these games at family gatherings.

Traditional Dutch game: Ei op lepel (egg on spoon race)

You may have heard of or even played this one: ei op lepel (egg on spoon race). For this game you dont need much, just spoons and (hard-boiled) eggs.

The concept is pretty simple. There are two groups with a spoon in their mouths and one egg on top. The group that is the first to finish and hasn’t dropped the egg is the winner.

The next one is maybe a bit more obscure.

Traditional Dutch game: Spijkerpoepen

Spijkerpoepen (nail pooping)! Sounds interesting right?

The required equipment for the game are:

  • a piece of rope
  • a long nail
  • a bottle.

The nail is tied to the rope, after which the rope is attached 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 does this first, wins the game.

Hence the name spijkerpoepen!

Ezeltje prik. 

This is what you need: a paper donkey, a paper tail, a thumbtack and a blindfold.

Push a thumbtack through the tail, give this to the first participant and blindfold them. The person turns around on their axis a few times and may then try to get the tail in the right place on the donkey. The person who comes closest to the right spot wins.


Like the other games, zaklopen is a game you don’t need much equipment for. Just get some jute bags . The race is simple, the player who reaches the finish line first, wins the race.


Stack cans in a pyramid on top of each other and give one of the players three balls. The person with the balls tosses them at the tower. The one who does this best wins.


  • Ik heb gewonnen

I’ve won

  • Ik heb verloren

I’ve lost

  • Het is een gelijkspel

It’s a tie

  • We hebben gelijkgespeeld

We tied

  • 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 did you win?

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