How Do You Play Heads Up Seven Up? The Ultimate Instruction Guide

... Credit :
Jane Taylor in Entertainment

Last updated: 10 January 2020, 03:55 GMT

Any camp counselor or classroom teacher will, at some point, need to entertain a large group of youth in a small space. Youth voluntarily quiet and pay close attention to the teacher and each other in an attempt to succeed or be a winner, which is how you succeed at keeping kids entertained and together when there's not much space. Great games of this type include thumbs up, bingo, desk tag, telephone, and our favorite: heads up seven up. So, how do you play heads up seven up?

How Do You Play Heads Up Seven Up?

Heads up seven up is most simply described by a game of it. In general, all heads go down on the desk (or just down with eyes closed) and then one or more “its” secretly selected by the leaders walk around and tapping or touching their outstretched thumbs. The seven chosen individuals then go to the front of the room, and the remaining try to guess who was the tapper. This is the simplest explanation of the game, and we encourage you to explore the many variations below, or maybe create your own.

Heads up seven up does not require any particular skill, ability, or tools. It is a game that is cooperative, and everyone wins in the end. All you need is a group of people and a defined space to work within. Most people find this group game can go on for a long time because roles continue to switch, and there is never actually a winner or a loser. 

This is a game that keeps kids quiet and focused for a long time, improves communication and deduction skills, and is fun. Depending on the group, some may be able to continue playing while you are busy elsewhere. Read on to discover the many variations on this game and how it can be adapted to your next gathering of youth.

Variations On How Do You Play Heads Up Seven Up

Answering how do you play heads up seven up would not be complete without a review of the many variations of the game. Almost every classroom or camp has its version. We wanted to cover a few modifications. The fundamental rules that cross over all games are that the “its” should remain as quiet as possible, and there is no peeking allowed by the kids with their heads down. Here are some different ways you might play heads up seven up at your next gathering.

Teacher-Led, Guess the It

The teacher begins by saying, “heads down, thumbs up, it's time to play seven-up.” All the students put their heads down and hold their thumbs up. The teacher acts as the first leader and selects one “it” in secret, who then quietly chooses six more by touching their thumbs. All seven go to the front of the classroom, they yell “heads up seven up,” and the remaining youth try to guess which of the seven was “it.” The first one to guess right gets to be the leader for the next round.

Seven “Its,” Guess Who Is Who

This variation is probably the classic version of heads up seven up. This variation starts with seven known “its.” The rest of the group puts their head down, and the seven “its” walk around and select seven possible replacements by touching their extended thumbs. Once all seven have chosen a replacement, the “its' return to the front of the classroom and replacements try to guess which of the "its" picked them. If they guess correctly, they get to take the place of their “it” for the next round.

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Learning Variations

There are ways to adapt this game to learners of all ages. You can incorporate learning questions into your heads up seven up game instead of just guessing who was “it.” “Its” can challenge their replacements with math problems or science trivia. Early grammar or language learners can be made to ask and answer in full, correct sentences; for example, Joe may ask, “Sally, are you it?” and Sally replies, “No, Joe, I am not it.”

Outside Seven Up

This version is played outdoors with a ball that bounces and a wall. It is not quiet or contained and is a great way to burn off extra energy. There are seven people with seven balls, and the rest serve as referees. The seven people stand in a line facing the wall and holding a tennis ball or a bouncy ball. Then the game begins in rounds, and there are seven rounds titled onesies, twosies, threesies, and so on.

Player number one makes up the onesies rule and communicates it to the other players. For example, player one says to toss the ball at the wall, spin round once, and catch it when it returns. Player two then creates the rule for twosies, making it slightly more complicated. This process continues until all seven players have had a turn to make up a rule. All players have to complete all steps to stay standing. If any referees see their mistakes (or catch their runaway balls), they can take their place for the following round.

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What Are the Benefits of Playing Heads Up Seven Up?

There are lots of reasons a teacher or camp leader may choose heads up seven up for their next gathering or to fill up a few minutes of extra instruction time.

Containment and Quiet

When played as an indoor game, it is a way to keep youth occupied and (mostly) seated while they play a game. The game requires that only the “its” move about while everyone else sits still. It is essentially tag without the wild running. It also requires that the “its” be as quiet as possible to avoid detection.


Heads up seven up helps youth develop non-verbal communication and awareness of others. When guessing who is “it” or who picked them, kids must watch for changes in facial expression, eye contact, and movement. They learn to pay attention to smells, intuition, and sounds. While the "its" travel the classroom, you can feel the sense of the remaining students come to life as they try to figure out who is moving near them.


Individual variations of heads up seven up will involve deductive reasoning. If there is only one it, and the first guesses are wrong, then the next guesser must remember to exclude that one of the seven. In this way, the seventh guess should be able to deduct who was it if someone hasn't been lucky enough to guess first. However, they will only guess right if they have paid close attention.


The seven “its” or the lucky seven must work together to navigate the classroom and pick their possible replacements silently. They will have to use eye contact and gestures to indicate where they are going and who they intend to choose. Careful movement around their peers is essential to success.

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Things to Be Aware Of

Learning how do you play heads up seven up will not be enough for all leaders or teachers in all settings. There are some things the rules of this game assume that leaders will want to keep in mind to ensure fun for all. When choosing a classroom game most instructors will want a game that is inclusive and team building, so try to keep these things in mind.


First and perhaps most obviously, this game assumes the participants have some mobility. If playing the game with children with mobility issues, adaptive equipment or wheelchairs, consider their inclusion carefully. If the game cannot be adapted to the least able, it should not be played.


Second, heads up seven up assumes that the participants all feel safe enough to place their heads down and not see while others walk around them and possibly touch them. Consider that youth will specific traumas will be triggered by this experience.


Third, you will need a leader to keep the game fair and forward moving. There are bound to be certain children who do not abide by the rules, and an excellent facilitator can show these kids why it is more fun to play with than against. It is also useful to have one person dedicated to picking who gets to guess first, second, and so on. This doesn't have to be a teacher, but it should be someone who has demonstrated fairness and neutrality.

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We hope this has helped you better understand how do you play heads up seven up. We enjoyed looking into the details of this classic classroom game and were surprised to learn the different variations. We especially like the idea of incorporating grammar and language into the game. It is a game that works in most settings and with most groups and can help build cooperation, communication, and deductive reasoning skills. 

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