You have shelves full of books and a playroom full of toys, but still kids want something to do-oo-oo. We know just the trick! These easy games to play with hands (yes, just hands!) will keep kids busy anywhere — the car, long lines, a doctor’s office. And you know what’s even better? They’re all free!
These fun hand games let kids play, but they also let them put their own twist on their play. Here are eight fun games for kids to play with nothing but their own hands, and grown-ups can easily join in.
1. Numbers (or Chopsticks)
This finger game involves simple math and can be played by two or more players ages 5 and up. Each player begins with one finger held out on each hand. Player 1 taps one of Player 2’s hands with her finger, causing Player 2 to hold out a second finger on that hand. Player 2 can then tap one of Player 1’s hands with her two fingers, and Player 1 will have to hold out two more fingers on her hand, so that she now has three. When one player has 5 (or more) on one hand, that hand is “out.” For a fun twist, players can also “divide” an even number of fingers across both hands, so that if a player has four fingers on one hand and none on the other, she can split them into two and two. The last player to have a hand still in play wins.
2. Thumb wrestling
The object of this game is to pin your opponent’s thumb down for three seconds. Curl your fingers and lock hands together, thumbs up. Chant together “1-2-3-4, I declare a thumb war,” then let your thumbs do the wrestling. Check out a TED talk by gaming expert Jane McGonigal on how to take this game to the next level by making it a larger-group activity.
Concentration is a hand-clapping game that challenges kids’ ability to keep rhythm and think on their feet. Two or more players sit in a circle and start the rhythm by slapping their knees, clapping their hands or snapping their fingers in a pattern. The player who is the leader chooses a category, such as names or animals, and on his turn, each player has to call out something that fits this category in time with the rhythm or he is “out.” The last remaining player wins. Check out this example of a mom and her daughter playing together.
4. Finger spelling
In this game, Player 1 closes her eyes while Player 2 traces a letter of the alphabet on Player 1’s palm. Player 1 has to guess what the letter was. If she’s right, she is the winner, but if she guesses incorrectly, Player 2 wins. Older kids can increase the challenge by spelling out short words.
5. Di-Bi-Di-Bi-Dip (Cham Cham Cham)
This two-player game from Korea is a simple way to decide a winner, similar to Rock-Paper-Scissors. The leader holds out a fist, chanting “di-bi-di-bi-dip” (or “cham cham cham”). Then both players flip their hands either horizontally or vertically. If they match, the opponent wins. If they don’t, the leader wins.
6. Hand-clapping games
From Miss Mary Mack to Miss Lucy’s steamboat and beyond, hand-clapping games play a valuable role in child development. Researchers at Ben Gurion University’s Music Science Lab found these games help with handwriting, spelling and motor coordination. There are many different versions and variations of these hand-clapping games, so help your kids discover their favorites!
Ninja is played with two or more people standing in a circle, swiping at each others’ hands to eliminate them. Moving clockwise in turns, players strike a pose in one swift, Ninja-like movement and slap the hand of the person next to them to get them out. To see how it’s played, read this simple explanation or watch one of the largest Ninja games ever from Phillip DeFranco.
8. Hand Slap (or Hot Hands, Flinch or Red Hands)
This game is not for faint-hearted adults. In this game, two players stand face to face. One places his palms up, the other hovers his hands over Player 1’s palms. Player 1 tries to flip his hand over and slap the back of Player 2’s hands. If the second player flinches or if Player 1 makes contact, Player 2 loses and they switch hands.
Introduce your little ones to easy games for kids from the days before electronic devices ruled the planet. They may discover that unplugging and tuning in to each other is the best way to connect and have a good time.