Strange Symbols

Thinking & Engaging
Thinking & Engaging

Dazzle and amaze your participants with this quick activity as they try to figure out how you and another staff have the ability to read one another’s minds.


  • Sticks or other random long objects


As the facilitator of this back-pocket game, you need another staff member to be “in”on the trick. Gather your participant group and explain to them how you and another staff member can read one another’s minds. They will instantly be doubtful and disbelieving. Prove it to them with a little game.


  1. Tell your group that even though you can read each other’s minds, the capability of the mind-reading power is limited. Therefore, they can only transmit a number from 0-10.
  2. Send your staff partner out of the room or away from hearing range of the group.
  3. Have your group suggest a number to transmit. Confirm the choice by repeating it.
  4. Call back in your staff partner. 
  5. Gather your sticks and arrange all or a few of them into a random formation. Take your time while doing to in order to build the suspense and really look like you’re thinking about the “correct” formation.
  6. Of course, because the sticks have been randomly formed, there is no rhyme or reason to them relating to any number, though in the process of this game, participants will try counting the number of sticks used, the number of adjustments you make, or even if you are sending signals via blinking!
  7. When the formation is complete, ask your staff partner what the number is. S/he will give the correct number and your group will be astonished!
  8. The real way that you will transmit the correct number to your staff partner will be with your fingers. Once the formation is complete, rest your hands at the edge of the table, on your la, or even on your face, showing only the number of fingers reflective of the transmitted number. (If the number is zero, make fists). Make sure your fingers are visible to your staff partner, but also remain discrete from participants.
  9. Undoubtedly, your group will want to play again and again in order to figure it out! Play until your heart’s content, and, for as long as possible, and to keep the fun going, don’t tell them!


  • Switch roles with your staff partner.
  • If you and your staff partner have “an extra special connection,” consider changing the mode of transmittance, especially if your group has discovered the finger trick. Get creative.


  • It’s possible that some participants might get extremely frustrated with not knowing how the game works. Consider only playing a couple rounds and then moving on to the next program activity, or, if you feel like behaviours might escalate, just tell them.


  • This is a quick activity and so a wrap-up isn’t necessary.

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