Traffic Jam Game: How to Play

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I get a commission if you decide to purchase through my links, at no cost to you. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Read the full disclosure here.

Traffic Jam Game

The Traffic Jam Game is a cooperative ice breaker game that helps participants learn more about each other while having some fun. Once all players understand the rules and begin working together it is quite exciting. This guide will share the rules for the Traffic Jam game.

How To Play Traffic Jam?

Instructions on how to play traffic jam.

Traffic Jam is a life-sized brain-teaser, where participants must discover how to successfully move across a series of squares on the ground. The rules of Traffic Jam are fairly simple, which means it can be enjoyed by both children and adults.

What do you need to play Traffic Jam?

The only requirement to play this game are:

  • Some way to mark out squares on the floor (piece of foam, coloured carpet, or chalk)
  • At least 8 players (however if there are less, you can use an inanimate object to represent a player)

Playing Traffic Jam

The goal of Traffic Jam is move the players on the left side of a line, to the right side; and to move the players on the right side of a line, to the left side. Sounds easy right? Well, there are several rules which dictate how players are allowed to move, which makes things tricky. To set the game do the following:

  1. Count players
    Start by counting how many players you have. If you have eight players, form them into two teams of four.
  2. Prepare the playing area
    Lay out 9 squares on the floor in a straight line. This can be differently coloured carpet squares, chalk outlines, pieces of foam and so on. Whatever you have on hand. 
  3. Arrange teams
    Have the players stand on a square each, opposite each other like they are preparing to play tug of war. The empty square should be between the groups.

You are now ready to start playing traffic jam. So, the goal is pretty simple, moving players to their opposite side. However, when they move they must follow these rules:

What you CAN’T do

  • Players cannot move backwards and they cannot turn around 
  • You cannot move past more than one player in a single move
  • You may not pass anyone who is facing the same direction
  • You may not move more than one person at a time

What you CAN do

  • Players can move into an unoccupied space in front of them (remember, they cannot move backwards)
  • You can move past a player who is facing the other direction in order to get to the empty square behind them
  • Players can only occupy one space at a time

Most groups will start out scratching their heads and wondering how to solve the puzzle. There will be a lot of attempts and failures, but most teams will eventually get it right.

Solving the puzzle

One easy way to visualise the solution to this puzzle is as follows. Imagine each square is has a number, with the left-most square being 1 and the right-most square being 9. 

When the first person moves, notice if they move into an odd or even square. If they moved into an odd square like 5, then their teammates must continue moving into odd squares until they all reach their final destination. If the first person on a team moved into an even space like 2, then their team must stick with evenly numbered spaces.

So, this pattern would work like:

  • Square 4 moves into square 5 (team A now stays in odd squares)
  • Square 6 moves into square square 4 (team B now stays in even squares) Square 7 (team B) moves into square 6
  • Square 5 (team A), square 3 (team A), square 2 (team A) all move to odd squares
  • Square 4 (team B), square 6 (team B), square 8 (team B), square 9 (team B), all move to
  • Square 7 (team A), square 5 (team A), square 3 (team A), square 1 (team A) all continue moving into odd squares
  • square 2 (team B), square 4 (team B), square 6 (team B), square 8 (team B) all continue moving into even squares
  • square 7 (team A), square 5 (team A). square 3 (team A) all continue moving into odd squares
  • Square 4 (team B), square 6 (team B) all continue moving into even squares
  • square 5 (team A) moves and the puzzle is solved

This video shows this solution in action. Of course, the teams playing won’t think of the solution in this way, they will use deductive reasoning to figure it out, but knowing the solution in this way can help instructors, teachers and parents show how it works.

Why is the Traffic Jam Game worth playing?

It’s a great icebreaker

The Traffic Jam game can be quite funny and an enjoyable way for people to interact with one another for the first time. As players discuss potential solutions, they learn each other’s names and have some fun together. 

It builds problem solving and critical thinking skills

Although the Traffic Jam game appears simple at first, it does involve some serious problem solving and critical thinking. Players must think ahead to see how each of their choices plays out, which is the same style of thinking you would use when playing chess. It also tests the ability of players to utilise group thinking, where several people discover the solution to the puzzle together.

It helps a group communicate better 

The Traffic Jam game is a great activity for classrooms and children’s camps as it helps participants communicate with one another. There will be debating, negotiation, and many other forms of communication expressed during the game. This makes it the perfect way to encourage children to come out of their shells and interact with others.

It’s a lot of fun!

You will be surprised by how much fun can be had as players work together to solve a problem. Each participant will be curious to learn the solution to the puzzle and laughing when a teammate’s solution fails!

It helps teachers discover which students are doing well

When playing this game in a classroom environment, teachers will be able to see which students are problem-solving and communicating well with one another. This can help them determine which kids need additional help.

I hope you found Traffic Jam Game: How to Play useful. For more game instructions, bookmark our site. 

Want to learn how to play traffic jam? Get detailed instructions on game play. Traffic jam will teach cooperative play and entertain.