Human knot

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People solving a human knot puzzle

A human knot is a common icebreaker game or team building activity for new people to learn to work together in physical proximity.

The knot is a disentanglement puzzle in which a group of people in a circle each hold hands with two different people who are not next to them, and the goal is to disentangle the limbs to get the group into a circle, without letting go of grasped hands. Instead, group members should step over or under arms to try to untangle the knot. Not all human knots are solvable (see unknotting problem) and can remain knots or may end up as two or more circles.[1]

An easy way to ensure that the game will end up with a single circle with no nodes is to start from a circle of people holding each other hand, looking all towards the center of the circle, and ask some of them to cross his/her arms and swap his left hand with his right hand grasping again the same neighbors. When the game is successfully completed a certain number of people will appear to be outside of the circle. This number equals the number of people having crossed arms. The challenge is to solve the game several times starting each time with an increasing number of crossed people.

The game is recommended for children from 12 years and up, and is best suited to a group of ten or so players. No materials are required. The purpose of the human knot puzzle is to gain team building skills, problem solving skills, and communication skills among a group of people and onto the individuals participating.[2]


The options that can be included to make the activity more difficult are the following:

  • the teams can be given a time limit
  • mute or blindfold individuals
  • create penalties such as blinding or muting an individual when the chain is broken[2]


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  2. ^ a b "Human Knot". University of Oregon. Retrieved 22 December 2012.