Human Knot

Enjoyment Factor: 5/10

Teamwork Rating: 6/10

Leadership Opportunity: 5/10

Age Range: 10+

Activity Time: 10 Minutes

Set Up Time: No Set Up

Equipment Requirements: None

Indoor/Outdoor

 

As teambuilding/icebreaker activities you do not get more of a staple than a good old human knot. The are incredibly simple to set up, requiring not equipment or preparation and genuinely force a team to work together and communicate. While I would not say hold a full team building session around this activity I have found it a useful tool when used as part of a bigger activity (appearing in both the game show and Empire in the Big Activities section).

the idea

Have your group stand in a tight circle, shoulder to shoulder with everyone facing in. Then have everyone reach in and take someone else's hand in each of theirs. Note: don't let someone take both of someone else's in each of theirs as they will form their own loop! Note: people often say you do need an even number of people to perform this activity, not true. As long as everyone has two hands then there will be an even number of hands whether you start with an even or an odd number of people. If you have everyone take a left in a right hand and vice versa then you do need to start with an even number of people but if you just let everyone join hands then you don't. If two people hold hands with both their right hands then the activity still works it just means that they will be facing different ways when the loop is sorted out.

Once everyone has hold of someone else's hand then the aim of the game is for the group to untangle the knot they have created. This is done by twisting, turning, wriggling, steeping over/under - really all kinds of actions will be used just as long as they never let go of the hand they are holding. Once the knot is unravelled what you should have is a nice loop, occasionally you might find you have two self contained loops if people have not been paying attention to whose hand they were taking. There have been circumstances where I have seen knots that after 30 minutes of wriggling the team still couldn't get anywhere, generally the more people involved in the knot the more difficult it will be to solve, if it does seem unsolvable I would usually take pity and let them reform for the beginning and try again or let a couple of people break hands and then rejoin in a less difficult position.

variation

A fun variation of this activity is to perform it in reverse. Take your ream and have them join hands and create a line - it is best if you can give each person a short length of string and hold one end and then give the free end to someone else to hold onto. You still get a line of people but now each person is separated by a piece of string. The task is then for the group to work to how to tie themselves in knots.

  • I would always start with a nice easy underhand knot. If tied correctly the knot should appear in one of the pieces of string when everyone is through.
  • As they get better at working out how to do it I would increase the complexity of the knot going from an overhand to a figure-eight, a reef knot, maybe even a bowline if they were really good.
 
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