7-Up: what’s the game and how to play it

Raise your hand if you have played the 7-Up game in school? Hands should be shooting up all around because 7-Up is an elementary-school classroom classic. Most teachers have led a round or two of 7-Up at some point in their teaching careers. Seven-Up is also a summer camp staple on rainy days. It’s an easy game to get going and a fun way to keep a group of children occupied, especially when waiting or transitioning to another activity. To play, you need at least 14 kids, which is what makes it an ideal school or camp game.

So, who invented it? No one is really sure who gets credit for creating the heads down, thumbs up game of 7-Up, but the game is mentioned as far back as the 1950s. Seven-Up is also known in other circles as Heads Up, but regardless of what it is called, kids just love it.

The rules of 7-Up are pretty simple. A teacher or an adult chooses seven kids to go to the front of the room, while the rest of the participants put their heads down and their thumbs up. The seven people in the front of the room then walk around and push the thumb down of one person.

When time is up or all of the seven push a thumb down, the grown-up in the room calls, “Heads up.” The people whose thumbs were pushed down stand up. Then, the participants take turns going around the room and each person standing has to guess who did it. If the person guesses correctly, the child changes places with the person in the front and becomes a chooser for the next round.

So, what is the object here? Basically, it is to stay in the game as a chooser for as long as possible. Apart from the basic rules of 7-Up, set a few boundaries to keep the game rolling along.

Participants with their heads down should be reminded peeking is a no-no. Place a quick time limit on pushing thumbs down. This will help the game move along faster. Two to three minutes is sufficient. Remind the choosers not to pick the same child multiple times. The last rule is helpful in making sure everyone is involved. Kids usually like to keep picking their besties, especially younger players, and no one enjoys being left out. Give the same two to three minute time limit on children guessing.

Woman talking to a classroom of kids

7-Up variations

One fun way to change up the dynamics of the game is to allow one of the participants to pick the seven choosers. If the round of 7-Up is at a birthday party, the child whose special day it is can call up the first batch of choosers.

Another way to step out of the usual 7-Up box is to have all the participants put their heads down and their thumbs up. The adult in the room secretly taps one child who now become “it.” As it, the child walks around the room pushing down the thumbs of six participants. If someone’s thumb gets pushed down, he or she walks up front. When time is up, the adult calls “Heads up.” The seated participants now take turns trying to guess which of the seven in front was “it.” Keeping quiet is a big plus in this 7-Up version.

Make 7-Up educational

Teachers know kids learn better when lessons are fun. Seven-Up can actually be used to practice math facts at any age whether the skill is multiplication, addition, division, or even word problems. To play, randomly choose kids to solve a problem on a flash card. The first seven to answer correctly go up front. Then, heads go down and thumbs go up. Each person up front pushes down the thumb of one person. When “heads up” is announced, the kids stand, but instead of guessing who picked them, each person has to solve a problem. If he or she gets the answer correct, the two change places. The chooser gets to stay in the game if the person he or she picked gets the question wrong.

This variation of 7-Up isn’t just for math. It can be used for spelling and vocabulary reviews, too. The difficulty of the questions can easily be adjusted to suit the developmental levels of the participants.

For smaller groups

What if everyone wants to play 7-Up, but you don’t have 14 or more players? That’s okay, just change up the number of people doing the choosing. If you have six kids, have two kids act as the choosers and the other four put heads down. For 10, have four pick and the other six stay seated.

Take 7-Up outside

Seven-Up is primarily used as an inside game, but if you have the table space, take it outside. It’s a great backyard game for parties where tables are already set up for eating. A few rounds of 7-Up is a fun way to keep partygoers occupied while waiting for food or the cake to arrive.

Seven-Up has stood the test of time simply because it’s an engaging guessing game where participants want to stay in it to win it. In today’s tech-savvy world, heading back to simpler games that get kids talking and giggling is time well spent away from screens.

Group of five young kids at a park

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