Newsround's smashing guide to the perfect conker!

  • 4 October 2012
Conkers

It's the perfect time of year to go conker crazy. Here at Newsround we've got all you need to know about how to come out on top in the ultimate playground game.

What is a conker?

  • A conker is the seed of the horse chestnut tree.
  • It's a hard brown nut which is found in a prickly casing.
  • Over time the green outer casing of the seed will turn brown and crack open revealing the conkers inside.
  • They fall from the tree when they are ripe during the autumn months.
Image copyright SPL

How to prepare your conker for playing:

  • The best conkers to play with are uncracked, firm and symmetrical.
  • Make a hole through the middle of of your chosen conker.
  • Thread a strong piece of string, about 25cm long, through the hole and tie a knot at one end, so that it doesn't pull through.
Image copyright PA

How to choose a good conker:

Test your conkers in water. All the conkers that are damaged or mouldy inside will float to the surface - make sure you get rid of those ones! The good ones will sink.

Hints on how to make your conker stronger:

  • Soak your conker in vinegar.
  • Bake your conker in the oven (with your parents help).
  • Use an old reliable, conker from previous years.

How to play conkers:

  • Players take turns at hitting their opponent's conker.
  • If you are the one whose conker is hit first, let it hang down from the string which is wrapped round your hand. The conker is held at the height your opponent chooses and is held perfectly still.
  • Your opponent, the striker, wraps his conker string round his hand just like yours. He then takes his conker in the other hand and draws it back for the strike.
  • Releasing the conker he swings it down by the string held in the other hand and tries to hit his opponents conker.
  • The game goes on in turns until one or other of the two conkers is completely destroyed.

Did you know?

  • Famous author, Roald Dahl, was a big conker fan, he said: "A great conker is one that has been stored in a dry place for at least a year. This matures it and makes it rock hard and therefore formidable."
  • Unlike many other kinds of chestnut seed, conkers can't be eaten by humans.
  • The first recorded game of conkers was on the Isle of Wight in 1848 and was modelled on a 15th century game played with hazelnuts, known as 'Cobnuts'.
  • Extracts from horse chestnuts have been used to treat malaria, diarrhoea, frostbite and even ringworm, as well as being an ingredient in most sun creams.