How to Play Human Knot

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Human Knot is a problem-solving game that is a good icebreaker for a group of teens or adults. Often used as a corporate training exercise, it is also a fun activity at camp or at a party. By the end of a game, even a group of strangers should feel like they know each other a little better. Players have to utilize communication and teamwork skills, devising strategies to solve the puzzle and untangle the knot they have created.

Set Up the Players

  • Ask your players to stand in a circle. Players need to stand close together with their shoulders almost touching. The game works best with a maximum of around 10 people -- if you have a larger group, split it into teams and space them round the room. You can explain the rules of the game before it starts, if you wish. If you prefer, don't tell players what they'll be doing and just give instructions at each stage to prevent people from planning moves in advance.

Make the Human Knot

  • Tell players to put their right arms into the air and to reach over and take the hand of another player. They shouldn't hold the hands of players standing next to them. At this stage, it's a nice touch to get players to introduce themselves to the people whose hands they're holding. When everyone has a hand, tell players to hold their left hands in the air and to take the left hand of another player. This should be a different person to the one whose right hand they are holding. Again, they shouldn't take the hand of their neighbors, and you can have them introduce themselves, if you wish.

Untangle the Human Knot

  • This is the hard part for the players. Tell them that they must now untangle themselves from the knot -- without letting go of any hands at any time -- to make a circle. You can set a time limit, if you wish. Keep in mind, it can take a while for the group to work out moves and, unless players get frustrated, they learn a lot about each other if they have time to work things through. This also gives you a chance to observe the group and learn more about its individuals. If a player breaks the chain by letting go of a hand, the game is void and the group must start over.

Rule Variations

  • Sometimes, a group gets lucky and untangles itself real quick. If this happens, start over. Ideally, you want all players to work through a tricky untangling. If a group just can't untangle itself, give players the chance to change hands once -- encourage them to discuss the best moves before they do this. If you're working with multiple groups, make the game competitive and tell players that the first group to make a circle will win. Typically, players talk through their options as they work together. If you're using the game as an icebreaker, make a rule that players have to use first names when they discuss moves. If you have the time, play a second game where they cannot speak and a third where you blindfold them -- this gives their communication and teamwork skills a real workout.

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