DIY Mancala Board

Blog post by: Pragathy Krishnan

Mancala is part of a family of board games played in Africa and Asia. The word ‘mancala’ is an Arabic word meaning “to move”.

‘Kalah’ is a two-player strategy board game invented by William Champion Jr. in 1940. His invention was referred to as the ‘Mancala in North America.’ Before long, the game slowly increased in popularity.

We will be creating a board based on the North American version. The ‘Kalah’ board has twelve houses (smaller pits) arranged 2X6, and 2 stores (bigger pits) on each end.

If you would like to learn more about the rules of ‘Kalah’, here is a link: 

This game is the perfect indoor game to play during quarantine with family, roommates and friends. It is very customizable and popular among children and adults. The beads and the board are easy to disinfect after each session.

Once you are a better player, you can start changing the rules such as altering the number of stones placed in each house, omitting or adding ways for repeated turns, or adjust the layout of the board.

Here are some variations of Mancala played around the world that you can try:

Oware :


Bao :

Part 1 : Mancala Beads

This tutorial is inspired by Color Made Happy.

You will need:

  • 48 clear glass pebbles
  • acrylic paint
  • paint brushes
  • painting palette
  • newspaper
  • painting palette (optional)
  • paper towel
  • clear nail polish topcoat
  • Glitter nail polish topcoat

Step 1: wash the glass pebbles with soap and water. Handle the pebbles gently because they can break, chip or scratch easily. This will make sure that you are working with a clear and transparent surface.

Lay the pebbles out on a paper towel to dry. You can use a blow dryer on low heat but be careful to not crack the glass.

Step 2:  Lay out the paint colours that you will be using on your painting palette and use the smallest paintbrushes you have. If you do not have a painting palette, you can use a sheet of newspaper. Turn the glass pebble on the flat side facing up and start painting your design.

Step 3: You can paint in a striped or colour wheel pattern. Feel free to use as many colours as you want.

To create the colour scheme I have created, divide the pebbles into three groups of 16. Paint the first group with warm colours, using red, orange, yellow and hot pink. For the second group, paint with cool colours such as green, light blue, dark blue, indigo, and purple. For the last group, mix both tones and create a rainbow effect.

Step 4: After painting the pebble, lay the flat side up on a piece of newspaper. Repeat until you have completed painting all the pebbles. Wait for the paint to dry overnight.

Step 5: After the paint has dried completely, paint over the pebbles again with clear nail polish topcoat and leave it to dry. The nail polish will create a glossy finish for the painted side.

Here is the final product :

Step 6: (optional) To create beads with a glitter finish, paint the glitter top-coat first, then the acrylic paint and finish it off with the clear topcoat.

Part 2 : Mancala Board

Here are two tutorials on how to create the standard Mancala board. 

Made of Wood

Made with Egg cartons:

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