How to play conkers - Be a conkerer!

Conker hunting
Go conker hunting (Photo: Margaret Barton/WTML)

Kids have been playing conkers for generations, and some never grow out of it! In fact, every October, hundreds of people come from all over the globe to take part in the World Conker Championships, held in Southwick, Northamptonshire.

Why not join in the fun by organising your own mini conker championships at school, or among your friends? Here’s all you need to know:

Conkers are the seeds of the horse chestnut tree, and you’ll find plenty of them around the base of the trees in September and October. The green, spiky shells split open when the conkers are ripe to reveal the shiny, brown seeds inside.

How to choose a killer conker

To be a winner, you’ll need a collection of really tough conkers. Choose round, regular shaped ones, and make sure they don’t have any cracks or dents. When you’ve collected a few, put them in a bucket of water. The best conkers will sink to the bottom as they’re the most solid.

How to prepare your conkers

Lots of people say the best way to make a conker really hard is to leave it in a cupboard for a year. But that’s a long time to wait! You could try these instead:

  • Bake them in the oven at 120°C for two hours. Get an adult to help you as they’ll be hot when you take them out.
  • Soak them in vinegar for a few days.
  • Charlie Bray, who won the World Conker Championship twice, advised feeding your conkers to a pig. The juices in its stomach will harden them nicely. Then you collect your conkers when the pig poos them out!  (If you’re prepared to do this to win at conkers, you might just be a teeny bit too competitive!)

Next, you need to make a hole straight through the middle of your conker using a nail or skewer. Definitely get an adult to do this for you – you want to make a hole in the conker, not in your hand!

Cut a piece of string to about 35cm and thread it through the hole. Tie a knot at both ends so the conker doesn’t fall off.

How to play conkers

  • Wrap the loose end of the string around your hand.
  • One player should dangle their conker on about 25cm of string, keeping it absolutely still.
  • The other player then swings their conker at it to try to break it. You could toss a coin to see who goes first.
  • If the attacking player misses, they can have two more chances before it’s their opponent’s turn.
  • Take turns until one of the conkers breaks and you have a winner.
  • A new conker is called a ‘none-er’ as it hasn’t beaten anyone yet. When it beats another conker, it’s a ‘one-er’. If it beats another, it becomes a ‘two-er’ and so on.

Got a champion conker? Tell us about it.

If it’s too wet to go conker hunting, have some fun with our conker colouring page instead.

Find out more about the World Conker Championships.

Played conkers?

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