Cat’s Cradle String Game

(For Ages 6+)


  • 4 ft. yarn or string
  • 2 participants

Prep Time:

  • 5 minutes

Recipe for Fun!

The cat’s cradle string game has been played since ancient times all over the world. Known as fan sheng in China and Jack in the Pulpit in the U.K., it’s a simple game that requires teamwork and offers a great sense of satisfaction when mastered. A fun play idea for one-on-one play dates with a grandchild, or for a way to keep kids busy and focused on a rainy day.

The object of cat's cradle is to pass the string back and forth as many times as possible, keeping the cat’s cradle intact. 

Here’s how to play the cat’s cradle string game:

  1. Tie the ends of a 4-foot string together, forming a circle.
  2. One player puts both hands through the circle, then stretches out the string and holds firmly under their thumbs
  3. The same player then loops each side of the string around their hand.
  4. The player then extends their middle finger on one hand and tucks it under the string on their other hand, pulling tightly.
  5. The same movement is repeated using the middle finger of the other hand.
  6. If done correctly, there will be 2 X’s formed on both sides of a loop (or cat’s cradle) in the middle of the string.
  7. Player two then pinches both X’s simultaneously with both thumbs and forefingers, pulling the X’s up tautly
  8. Player two then pushes the pinched X’s between the outside strings.
  9. As player two is bringing the X’s through outside strings, they gently lift and pull the entire string. Player one should slowly work their hands free of the cat’s cradle at the same time, passing the puzzle into the other player’s hands.
  10. If done correctly, when passed from player one to player two, the cat’s cradle should look just like it did in step 6.

What do kids learn from playing cat’s cradle? You probably think the biggest thing kids would learn from cat’s cradle is creative problem-solving. And while you would be right (cat’s cradle is like a puzzle made of string!), it’s not the only skill kids learn by playing this simple game. 

Games like cat’s cradle help improve children’s hand-eye coordination and help strengthen the small muscles in the hands and fingers - which kids use when writing, using scissors and performing other small motor tasks. It’s also a fun way for kids to learn patience, practice giving and taking direction, and create a wonderful memory with the parent or caregiver who teaches them how to play!