Both children and adults in Colonial America enjoyed this game. At the time, Jackstraws was also called Spillikin, but today, we call it Pick-Up Sticks. During the Colonial era, people commonly played it with twigs or straws. Children would often pull straws from a broom to play. Wealthier people could buy special sets carved from ivory or bone (King 94).
The rules for this version of the game come from Colonial Days by David C. King, p. 94.
Players: 2 or more
Object: To pick up sticks one at a time without moving the others around them.
Equipment: 21 sticks or straws. (You can use a commercially-made set or make your own Colonial-style set with broom straws (either from an old broom or bought at a craft store) or any other kind of thin sticks or dowels. If you use sticks with little side twigs sticking out, trim them off with a pair of scissors. The sticks or straws should be about 6 inches long.) For a harder game, you can use 10 to 20 more sticks.
Set Up: To set up the game, one player holds the sticks upright in a bunch. One end of the bunch rests on the floor or table where you are playing, and the player lightly touches the other end with his fingertips to keep the pieces standing up. Then, the player removes his hand and lets the sticks fall. The sticks will land in a disorganized pile.
Playing: The first player tries to pick up one of the sticks from the pile without moving any of the other sticks. If he can do it, he gets to keep that stick and try to pick up another stick the same way. He can keep picking up sticks as long as the only ones he moves are the ones that he's trying to pick up. If the player moves any other stick than the one he's trying to pick up, his turn ends and the stick he was trying to pick up stays where it is or is put back if the player is holding it. The next player also tries to pick up a stick without moving any of the others. The players take turns picking up the sticks like this until there are no sticks left.
Winning: After one of the players picks up the last stick, the players count how many sticks they have picked up. The one with the most sticks wins the game.