Some two dozen slim wooden sticks or rods, each one metre long, have been dropped into an interlocking heap on the ground.
A dozen players are seated in a circle around the rods, clapping in rhythm. Each time the singing and clapping stops one of the players moves forward to extract a rod from the pile. If the rod is extracted from the pile without any of the other rods being disturbed, then the player stands the rod in a box of sand to one side of the circle of players. If the extraction of the rod causes any disturbance in the pile of rods then the player stands the rod in an identical box of sand to the other side of the circle of players.
The game continues until all the rods have been extracted, and stood in one of the two boxes. The players may then regard the two 'gardens' of dowelling rods and reflect on the number of rods in each box.
- the group activity around the pile of rods and the actions of individual players following the removal of a rod may be changed to suit the circumstances in which the game is being played and the abilities of the players : variations may include singing for the group activity, and contributing to the creation of a shape, word, or pattern with the rods for the for the individual activity.
- the choice of the player moving forward to the pile of rods may be left to chance and self selection, or may be pre-determined ; generally, no player may step forward for a second time until all players have had a first turn ; sometimes the players may take turns to invent and lead a clapping rhythm, with the player taking the lead being the player to step forward to the pile of rods.
- in one variation of this game each player moving forward to the rods may remove as many dowelling rods as possible until there is movement within the pile : the removal of these rods is then celebrated in some way, say with a circular dance, and the rods are put on display : this variation generally requires many more than two dozen dowelling rods
- players using wheel-chairs may direct another player as to which rod/s is/are to be removed on their behalf.