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Kuti kuti is a traditional children’s game in which two opposing players take turns to deftly flip colourful plastic tokens on top of those of their opponent. If a player’s token lands on top of an opponent’s token, the player then claims the opponent’s token as his own. Requiring skill and accuracy, the game was popular among children in Singapore in the mid-twentieth century but has declined in popularity with the advent of electronic games in more recent decades.
History of the game
The origins of the term kuti kuti are uncertain, but it is possibly the Malay term for the flipping action used in the game. The game has been played by local children since the late 1940s. The shape of the game pieces and the rules of the game have parallels to the more complex game of tiddlywinks but it is uncertain if the local game was derived from this British pastime.
The earliest versions of kuti kuti pieces were simple, round discs with a limited number of colours. Later versions of the kuti kuti pieces were made of brightly coloured transparent plastic shaped as objects or animals such as elephants, monkeys and birds.
In the past, packets of kuti kuti pieces were often sold at mamak shops (Indian shops). In the 1980s, tidbits such as “Kaka” (puff snacks) had token kuti kuti pieces in each bag to entice children to purchase the goodies. Today, kuti kuti is still manufactured and sold in heritage shops in Singapore and Malaysia.
Variations of the game are also played using bottle caps and rubber bands instead of plastic pieces. These variants of the game feature players flipping bottle caps or rubber bands instead but retaining similar rules. The game with the rubber bands is called “rubber”.
Playing the game
A player begins by facing his opponent, and they flip their pieces until they draw close enough to strike the other player's piece. Each player then attempts to land his piece on top of the other. The kuti kuti piece thus defeated would be added to the winner’s collection of pieces. Larger pieces were much sought after as they were more likely to win a game. The game ends when a player loses all his pieces.
Ang, Veron. (2007). Singapore HeritageFest 2007 (Part 2): Childhood memories. Sparklette (2003-2010). Retrieved August 20, 2010 from http://sparklette.net/travel/singapore/singapore-heritagefest-2007-part-2-childhood-memories/
Good ol’ daze. (February, 2002). Young Parents, p. 13.
(Call no.: SING 649.105 YP)
Koo, Victor. (2006, March 5). My favourite toy as a kid – the Mech Sumo robot. Taking up the challenge. Retrieved August 24, 2010 from http://victorkoo.blogspot.com/2006/03/my-favourite-toy-as-kid-mech-sumo.html
The information in this article is valid as at 2010 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.