The human knot

Break your own chains!


This strategic teambuilding exercise is a much-loved classic, re-enacted in playgrounds and stuffy boardrooms alike. Guaranteed to bring a group closer together – both figuratively and literally – it provides hours of giggling, and will subtly test your child’s problem solving skills to the max.


Instructions – setting up the game


  1. Gather a group to play. If you’re supervising young children, you may find smaller groups are more manageable, and the knots formed less complicated to untangle. The ideal number of players is 8-20, but you can play with as few as four.
  2. Explain the rules (below) to your group. The children will join hands together randomly to form a ‘human knot’ out of their arms. The goal of the game is for them to untangle themselves without letting go of the hands they’re holding.
  3. Although it’s against the rules to let go of the hands you’re holding while playing the game, explain to the children that the may need to readjust their grip at some point, and that’s okay. Tell them that it’s important that they’re comfortable.
  4. Before the game starts, stress the importance of being gentle when detangling. Explain to the children that pulling or yanking too hard might hurt someone, and discuss the importance of respecting one another’s boundaries.


Instructions – playing the game


  1. Get your group to stand in a circle, facing one another, with both arms outstretched in front of them.
  2. Now, get everyone to reach out and grab someone else’s hand. Please note: they cannot grab the hand of the person next to them, as this will make the knot too easy to detangle.
  3. Once everyone has given away both of their hands to another player, it’s time to begin. Let the detangling commence!
  4. In order to undo the knot, the children will need to manoeuvre around the other players. They should be ready to bend, twist, and move in any way that is required to untangle the knot. They may find that they need to duck under or over the hands of other players, and they will need to work together as a team to figure out how to move in tandem.
  5. Once the group have finished untangling, they should have an unbroken circle of joined hands. If the children find that they cannot untangle the knot no matter how hard they try, they might be too good at the game! In the event of an unbreakable knot, the group may need to break apart and try again.


Top tip: to make the game more challenging, try setting a timer so the group has to complete the exercise