Jenga: History and Fun Facts

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Jenga is a fan favorite game that is played by people around the world, both by adults having a couple of drinks and by families with children too. Maybe you’ve heard of Jenga before and maybe not. Either way, it is an exceedingly fun yet simple game that allows for endless hours of fun.

Although it might be a very simple game, there are actually quite a few interesting facts that you might not know about it.

Jenga: History and Fun Facts

What Is Jenga?

Jenga is a very simple game that is based around building a tower without causing it to fall down. The game starts with a total of 54 wooden blocks. These are somewhat narrow and long wooden blocks, rectangles so to speak.

These blocks are used to build what is known as the Jenga tower. To build this Jenga tower, three blocks are laid beside each other, and then another three on top. The first three face east to west, and the second layer faces north to south. In other words, each layer of blocks is oriented perpendicular to the last. Once the tower is built, you’ve got 18 layers of three blocks.

The aim of the game is to then remove blocks from somewhere in the tower, besides from the top layer, and to then put said blocks on top of the tower.

Players take turns removing blocks from the tower and stacking them on top in the same perpendicular fashion as the tower was built. The player who causes the tower to collapse is deemed the loser, and the person who went before the person who caused the tower to collapse is the winner.

Playing Jenga

What Does “Jenga” Mean?

Although some people may think that the word “Jenga” is totally random, this is not the case. This word is derived from the Swahili word “Kujenga”. Loosely translated, this means “to build”. Of course, as you can see, the name of this game is quite fitting, as this is exactly what it is all about, building a tower.

Some people even take it one step further and say that this is a metaphor for the relationships that we must build in life.

When Was Jenga Invented?

At this time, the game of Jenga is nearly 40 years old. The inventor or founder of Jenga is a woman named Leslie Scott, who is the co-founder of Oxford Games Limited. The game was officially released in January 1983, at the same time that Leslie Scott trademarked the name.

To be specific, Jenga was released at the world-famous London Toy Fair, at which time she sold it through her own company. The very first blocks that were officially manufactured for this game were made in Botton, Yorkshire, UK, by the Camphill Village Trust. On an interesting side note, the V&A Museum of Childhood still has one of the original Jenga sets on display,

Who Invented Jenga and Why?

As mentioned above, the inventor of Jenga is Leslie Scott. What is interesting to note is that Leslie and her family were playing this game long before it became such a hot commodity. In fact, as a child, Leslie Scott lived in Tanganyika, which is modern-day Tanzania. She was born in Tanzania, which for the record at the time belonged to the UK, where she was raised speaking both English and Swahili.

This of course explains why the name of the game is a Swahili word. The family had purchased some children’s wooden building blocks from a factory in Ghana (where they later moved to), and started inventing their own game.

In terms of why the game was invented, it really boils down to boredom and ingenuity. This family had wooden building blocks laying around and somebody used their imagination to create the game. It was made to be fun for the kids.

What Are the Smallest and Largest Jenga Sets?

The largest official Jenga out there is known as Giant Jenga, with all 54 of the blocks being roughly 15 times the size of the original blocks. This tower is roughly 2 feet high and can get to well over 5 feet during play. The smallest version, known as Jenga Mini, is a pocket-size version with just 18 blocks. It stands at just over 8.5 inches tall.

Giant Jenga

What Was the Tallest Jenga Tower?

At this time, the highest Jenga tower on record stands at 40 complete tiers with two blocks on the 41st tier.

How Long Was the Longest Jenga Game?

According to official records, the longest game of Jenga lasted for a full 28 hours. This also has the record for being the largest board game out there, as each block was 32 times the length of a standard Jenga block. However, although the concept is the same, it technically did not use official Jenga brand blocks.


As you can see, not only is Jenga a very fun game to play, but it also has quite an interesting history too.