Hand Games - How to play?

Hand Games Preparation

  1. Sticks are used to keep score during the games. At Chief Jimmy Bruneau School I have created a set of unique sticks; the colors of the sticks symbolize the land, water and sun. Each game requires 12 sticks.
  2. Sticks
  3. Gymnastics mats are used for the players to kneel on. These mats are very helpful for the players as games can be long and kneeling down for long periods of times can be very difficult.
  4. Coats or dark bed sheets are used so players can hide the object in their hands.
  5. Hiding Object
  6. A small bag of pennies is available for a player to use as an object to hide.
  7. Bag
  8. In Physical Education class, if there are students that know how to drum we will use the drum during the games. However, often a CD is used with a stereo to add the wonderful sounds of the drummers to the game.
  9. Dene Drummers
  10. Participants will use many different methods to hide the object (penny), but it is very important to have your hands in such a manner that the captain can clearly see a left and right hand hiding an object.
Uncrossed Arms
Crossed Arms

The Hand Games Team

Years ago teams might include many players, upwards of 30-40 per team, however, today teams are made up of 4 people. Each team has a captain (someone who guesses for the object). It is his or her job during the game to guess what hand the other team (players) is hiding the object (coin).

Letís Play!

At the start of the game, the official/teacher will place 12 sticks between the opposing teams and at the center of the mats. Sometimes, depending on the ability of the players Iíll keep the sticks near me at the edge of the mat so I can give the winning team their sticks, in other words I will be the scorekeeper for them. This way I find it easier for students to learn how to play and watch to understand how the scoring system works, without having to worry about keeping track of the score.


All players kneel on the mat facing other and at the start of the game the opposing captains will play a one-on-one match until one captain loses. The winning captainís team will get to hide their objects first. It is after the captainís match I will play the Dene Drummers CD or have the drummers begin to play, to start the competition. The winning team proceeds to place their hands under their coats or bed sheet and hide the object, moving it from hand to hand until they decide which hand to hide it in. Then the players proceed to present their hands to the other team, using facial gestures, body movements and sounds to try and outsmart the captain, who is guessing. Often upon presenting their hands, players will have their arms crossed or straight in front of them, often players will develop their own elaborate and unique positioning of the hands.

How does the captain guess?

In order for the captain to pick what hand the opponents have their object in there are many different signals that can be used. However, in my Physical Education classes and paralleling the Arctic Winter Games rules, I teach the students four signals. Below are the 4 signals that are used and pictures to clarify the signals.

Signal #1 ≠ One hand splitting the line of players.

With this signal the hand is pointed between the players on the other team. It can split the players at three different places.

Wherever the hand splits the line, all hands of the opponents closest to the hand signal of the captain have to be shown.

Here we see the captain pointing between two players. So these players have to show their inside hands.

The other opponents have to show their hand closest to the captainís hand.

inside hands Showing hand

Signal #2 - Index finger pointing in one direction (right)

Here the captain points his fingers with the thumb hidden. Thus, itís all the hands to the right, the direction of the index finger.

Pointing fingers

Signal #3- Index finger pointing in one direction (left)

Here the captain points his fingers with the thumb hidden. Thus itís all the hands to the left, in the direction that the index finger is pointing.

Fingers with the thumb hidden

Signal #4- Index finger pointing in one direction (right)

Here the hand splits the opponents with the thumb exposed and the index finger is pointing.

The opponents can be split in three different places. In the picture below player 1 and player 2 are split, so the captain is asking player 1 to show her left hand and player 2 is asked to show his left hand.

Showing hands AShowing hands B

Before the captain can make a signal, he/she makes a loud sound, whistle or hits the floor with his/her hand, this lets everyone know he/she is ready to guess. The players must show their closed fist to him or her and the captain then proceeds to make a guess using one of the four hand signals. Opposition players must then proceed to open their hand which the captain has signaled, so everyone can see if the object is there. If the object is not there, meaning the captain was wrong in his/her guess, the opposition player (s) must then show the other hand containing the object.

View video clip A.

View video clip B.

How are points (sticks) awarded?

During the game each time the captain is wrong in his or her guess, a stick is awarded to that team. For example, if the captain guesses and he makes 1 correct guess and 3 wrong guesses, the opposition will receive 3 sticks. The player that was guessed correct is eliminated from the round and now there are only 3 players remaining for the captain to try and guess. This will continue until the captain has guessed all the players remaining or until opposition wins all the sticks. If the captain, over a period of time, guesses all the opposition players correct, it is their turn to hide their objects and for the other team captain to try and guess what hand the object is in. As well, this team can now try and win the 12 sticks.

Lesson Planning

When you read through the lesson plans, please realize that you can create and change these plans to be suit your class development levels. As well it is very important and necessary to incorporate both stretching and strength exercise progressions in your lesson plans to foster a safe learning environment. I encourage you to construct your own unique lesson plans and modifications that make for a positive learning experience for your students. However, if you do incorporate the Dene Games into your classroom please share your experiences, in the Bannock and Tea Room, education is an opportunity to explore, letís explore our Dene Games journey together.

Click here to see lesson plans.