How to Play Chopsticks (or Sticks) Finger Game

This post may contain affiliate links. That means if you click and buy, I may receive a small commission (at zero cost to you). Please see my full disclosure policy for details.

Have you heard of the game sticks? It’s a simple finger counting game that originated from Japan. I never heard of this game until my son told me he learned it in kindergarten, except he called it chopsticks. Whatever you call it, sticks is a fun math game that will get your kids to think strategically.

How Do You Play the Game Sticks

All you need to play sticks is a minimum of two players and their fingers! You can play with more than two opponents and we will address how to do that in the rules below.

Chopsticks Rules

  1. Start the game with all the players holding their hands out with one finger extended.
  2. One person starts by tapping another person’s hand with one of his hands.
  3. The person whose hand was tapped must add up the number of fingers involved. So for the first turn, there would always be two fingers involved – one from each person’s hands. He should then hold up the total number of fingers involved out with the tapped hand.
    Chopsticks Mid Game
  4. The players take turns tapping. You always need to choose one hand to do the tapping, and which of your opponent’s hand to tap.
    Chopsticks Game Tap
  5. When a hand has all 5 fingers out, that hand is out.
  6. Once the hand is out (or “dead”), you need to put it behind your back.
  7. The goal of the game is to eliminate both of your opponent’s hands. To do so, you need to continue to add to your opponent’s hands by tapping. The last one with at least one hand left wins!

My kids had a lot of fun playing sticks. Since we are big on gameschooling, this is the perfect game for my kids to practice counting and addition. I also love how this cool finger game is simple enough for both of my kids to play together … without mommy! 

Chopsticks Game 2 Plus 2

The kids love tapping each other’s hands, but you might just want to make sure they don’t start hitting too hard. Also, you would want to tell them to always show their hands to each other clearly so that there is no miscounting.

Variations to Chopsticks

There are several variations to playing sticks, and you can choose which one to play with depending on your children’s age and math level.

Basic: This is the simplest way to play sticks and it’s the way I have outlined above. Once a hand has 5 fingers all extended, that hand is out. It doesn’t matter if the total number of fingers is over 5. Anything 5 and over will render that hand dead. This is the way my son learned chopsticks in his kindergarten class.

Multiplayer: If you have more than 2 players, then take turns clockwise. 

Roll Over: You have to extend exactly 5 fingers to make that hand dead. Therefore, if you go over 5, the difference between the sum and 5 will be the number of fingers you need to hold out. For example, if you have 3 fingers on your hand and you tap your opponent’s hand with 4 fingers extended, your opponent now needs to hold out 2 fingers (3+4-5=2).

Game of Five: Instead of hiding your hand behind your back when all 5 fingers are extended on your hand, you need to wait until that hand gets tapped again. Clarifying this rule is important because it could be a game-changer.

Split It: When it’s your turn, instead of tapping your opponent’s hand, you can choose to tap your own hand. When you do, you add the total number of fingers extended on both hands, and redistribute it whatever way you wish. For example, if you have 4 fingers on one hand and 2 fingers on another, tapping your own hand would mean you can put 3 fingers on each hand. Another variation of the split is that you can tap the dead hand and bring it back into play.

Final Thoughts on Sticks Finger Game

When you think about teaching your kids math, relax, and don’t stress. To your kids, math is something new and exciting and they want to learn it. Especially when you make it fun with board games and finger games like chopsticks, kids will learn without even realizing it. 

For more math activities for your kids, check out:

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest

Scroll to Top