Release Date: 
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Play Duration (new players): 
Play Duration (experienced): 
Minimum number of players: 
Maximum number of players: 
Minimum Age: 

by Jonathan Leistiko


Keep the game going for as long as you can by clapping whenever the number of fingers you’re showing matches the number of fingers the other player shows.

You Need

Two players.
Sharp wits.
(Optional) A referee.

Setting Up

Both players face each other at a friendly distance. The referee (if you have one) should be able to see the front of both players.
The game begins when both players start chanting backwards from four to one, showing the number of fingers called with one hand while showing and concealing it with their other hand. After one, both players begin a chant, showing and hiding a number of fingers from one to four on alternating beats. When both players show the same number of fingers, then both players must clap on the next beat instead of throwing fingers. If a player forgets to clap, then the game ends; start again if you want to.

Using the following chant, both players would show and hide their fingers as follows:


Pterydactyl in the air, (beat) (8 beats)

It’s a reptilehas no hair. (beat) (8 beats)

All its babies hatch from eggs. (beat) (8 beats)

Great big wings and stubby legs. (beat) (8 beats)

Caw! (beat) Caw! (beat) Caw! (beat) Caw! (beat) Caw! (beat) (10 beats)

The “eeny-meeny-miney-moe” and “Miss Mary Mac” chants work well as Finger Dance chants too.


No winners, no losers. Just try to go for as long as you can. When you get really good, chant faster or try to break your best record.


Instead of clapping when fingers match, players clap when the sum of their fingers equals five.

The object of this variant is to transfer the title of “It” to the other player by guessing the number of fingers that they will show before the end of the game. The game begins the same way, with one player as “It”. If the player who is “It” shows as many fingers as the other player, then the title of “It” switches. Once you’ve gone through the chant one time, the game ends and the player who is not “It” wins.

Origins and Credits

The core mechanic for this game comes from my attempts to create a live-action role-playing conflict resolution system that does not use any external props (like dice), but has more possibility for variance than Rock, Scissors, Paper. I also really wanted to make a more portable, playground-oriented game, in the spirit of Dinosaurs and Mammals.

The chanting was added to the game by Sharon, who pointed out to me that virtually all “street games” for kids have sing-song chants associated with them.

1/27/01: Tonight Sharon made up the current object of the game while we were driving home from IKEA in Houston (we went there to get more shelves for our IVAR shelving system). The old object was the “tag style” one listed in the Variants. She also made up the “fivers” variant this evening.

4/30/2009: This game is a real blast from the past. I’ve been super-busy with follow up from GTS 2009, so I’ve had to dig through my “slush” file to find games that haven’t made it to the web yet. Games like this one!