NRICH: Incey Wincey Spider

You’ll need two dice to play this game against a partner. Will Incey Wincey make it to the top of the drain pipe or the bottom of the drain pipe first?

Age 5 to 7

This game is designed to get children used to moving along a track either side of a central point. This makes it a great precursor to negative numbers. It also introduces children to a vertical number track, which they may not have seen before.

Possible approach

A possible starting point is to remind children of the rhyme, saying it through and getting them to move their hands up and down appropriately.

Incey Wincey Spider
Climbing up the spout;
Down came the rain
And washed the spider out.
Out came the sunshine
And dried up all the rain;
Incey Wincey spider
Climbing up again.

Real dice will be needed to play the game.
Children need to understand that one of them is the sunshine and one of them is the rain. Sunshine moves the spider up the drain pipe and rain moves the spider down. Sometimes one child will claim to be the spider! If the spider gets right to the top of the pipe, sunshine wins and if it gets to the bottom, rain wins.
Once the way to play the game is understood, children can play in pairs, taking turns to be the sunshine and the rain so they get the experience of moving both up and down.
You can print out a paper version of the game which could be laminated for long-term use. Here is a black and white copy, and here is a colour copy. Both have a spider picture on the second page which could be cut out and stuck onto an ordinary counter.
Those who master the idea quickly can move on to the a second version of the game using two dice. (See possible extension below.)

Key questions

Are you the sunshine or the rain?
Do you move up or down when it is your turn?
How many spaces are there between the spider and your end of the drain pipe?

Possible extension

There is a second version of the game in which players throw two dice and choose which number displayed to use. In this way, the players can move the number of spaces that suits them best. This is therefore at a higher level as a decision has to be made, rather than relying solely on chance.
The game Tug of War is based on very similar ideas but uses a horizontal number line rather than a vertical track, and introduces further decision making.

Possible support

Encourage children to say the rhyme moving their hands so they understand which way the rain and sunshine make the spider move.
If players are still experiencing problems, try using a more familiar horizontal number track.

Math Topics
Negative Numbers, Number Values & Counting
Kindergarten, 1st Grade, 2nd Grade
Descriptions of PDFs

Paper version of the drainpipe.

What are you looking for?


NRICH (University of Cambridge)

Website URL

Type of Resource

Board/Card Game
Dice & Dominoes
PDF File

Assigned Categories