Heads Up, 7 Up

Heads down, thumbs up!

Heads down, thumbs up!

This was everyone’s favorite elementary school activity. It worked well for when there was some downtime in the classroom because it gave everyone something to do and there were plenty of people to participate. Although this game dates back to at least the 1950s, it’s still a great memory for Generation Y.

The Object of The Game

The whole purpose of the game was to guess which one of the 7 people who were “it” tagged your thumb while your head was down. If you guessed correctly, then you would be able to replace them on the “it” team. Basically this game was impossible to win because all you could do was take a guess. If played correctly, your chances of winning were one in seven, and half the time you didn’t even get picked because only 7 were chosen to guess. Basically it was a scheme to keep kids quietly entertained.

3 Steps

There were three basic steps to playing this game. First either the teacher (or one of the 7) would say “Heads down, Thumbs up!” and everyone participating would close his or her eyes, put their head down on their desk, and keep one hand in the “thumbs up” position so that it was accessible.


Photo By captain simons mandolin

Photo By captain simon's mandolin

Next the 7 would wander the room choosing either their best friend or someone they thought wouldn’t be able to figure out who they were. To “choose” a person, the 7 would press down on a person’s thumb. Some people were clever and would either press down harder or lighter on a thumb in order to “disguise” themselves. Once chosen, that person would put their thumb down so that no one else could choose them.


Photo By super.heavy

Photo By super.heavy

Once all of the 7 had chosen someone, they moved to the front of the room and they or the teacher would call “Heads up, 7 up!” Everyone would lift their heads looking around to see who had been picked and the chosen 7 would stand up. Then everyone would watch as each of those selected would try to guess who picked them.


Photo By Sheree K

Photo By Sheree K

How to Win

Apparently the reason why I hated this game so much was because I didn’t know the secret to winning– you had to cheat! (which is another thing I hate doing– to this day I believe that if you have to cheat to win its just not worth it) Anyway… someone recently told me that you would have to look at everyone’s shoes as they were near you. Then when they stood up at the front, you would just look to see who was wearing the the matching pair of shoes. Genius.

So I guess you could say that the only real way to win was if you were never discovered as a thumb presser and got to stay on as one of the 7 for the next round.

Other good ways to be a good guesser was obviously using your senses of touch and hearing. Was someone wearing a loud bracelet? Bingo. Another good way was of course to guess your friends.

Other Versions

While doing research on this game I found out there were other ways to play it than I always had. Apparently some people play it opposite so players put their thumb up instead of down when “tagged.” There is also a more complicated version you can play that is explained in these more detailed instructions on how to play Heads Up, 7 Up.

What was your Favorite way to Play?

Please leave us a comment and share your memories of Heads Up, 7 Up

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8 Responsesto “Heads Up, 7 Up”

  1. Theresa says:

    If you were very good, you knew that once you got up there and it was your turn to pick some one, you would approach from someplace else loudly and then quietly reach over several people from another angle to touch someone’s thumb so they couldn’t see your shoes.

  2. [...] Heads Up, 7 Up – I always loved this game at summer camp because I thought I was so smart when I found out who picked me or tricked others into thinking I picked them. I later used this game when I was a camp counselor to keep kids quiet for just a little while. [...]

  3. sheila rosenberg says:

    well i think that cheating is unfair i just guess! if you guess it makes the game better

  4. srinivas says:

    [...] Heads Up, 7 UP [...]

  5. ej says:

    i love the cheating because u be up every time.

  6. ej says:

    well it is not good to cheat every time did you know that ej hejeheje

  7. ej says:

    I no understand.

  8. Katherine says:

    Well I figured this out on my own. The problem is: my school got bigger desks. Now I can’t slide my head to the side or anything.

  9. Juliety says:

    Now I know how to play the game! I played it back In the 6th grade and it was fun and a challenge. I will suggest this to my counselor and the teacher! Funny comments these days that people put on here. Lol

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