How To Play Dreidel and Other Dreidel Games

11/30/23 - By Liz Baill

Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel! Whether you make it out of clay or buy it online, a dreidel is more than just a spinning top with a catchy song. Get some more mileage out of this classic Hanukkah toy by making dreidel decor, dreidel desserts, dreidel spin art, and of course learning how to play the game that children have enjoyed for thousands of years (really!).

We've got the rundown on the rules for dreidel, plus more ideas on how to put a fresh “spin” on your holiday season.

For more Hanukkah fun, check our our list of eight ways to celebrate Hanukkah with kids, which includes a kid-friendly history of the holiday plus gift ideas, children's books, festive crafts, and more. All of our favorite ways to make this holiday season a memorable one can be found in our Guide to Holiday Fun for Kids.

What’s a Dreidel?

"Dreidel" means “spinning top” in Yiddish. A dreidel has Hebrew letters on each side: nun, gimmel, hay, and shin. The letters are an acronym for the Hebrew words Nes gadol hayah sham, translating to “a great miracle happened there.” In Israel, dreidels feature the letter “peh” instead of “shin” so that the acronym becomes “a great miracle happened here" (or Nes gadol hayah po). Each letter represents its own rule in the dreidel game.

How to Play Dreidel

What You’ll Need:

  • 2 or more players
  • A dreidel
  • Gelt (Traditionally gelt are gold coins or chocolate coins. For the dreidel game, you can also use candy, chocolate chips, or even buttons. Just aim for each player to have 10 pieces of whatever gelt you choose.)

How to Play:

1. Divide the gelt evenly among players so that everyone has 10 pieces.

2. Begin the first round by having every player put one piece of gelt into the center (this is called "the pot").

A view of each side of a dreidel, hanukah fun, family games 
From left to right: Shin, Hay, Gimel, and Nun. Photo by Arina Habich, courtesy of Canva

3. Players take tuns spinning the dreidel. The letter that lands face-up represents an action for that player to take:

  • Nun: Do nothing!
  • Hay: Take half the pot. (If it’s an odd number, take half plus one.)
  • Gimel: Take the whole pot of gelt.
  • Shin: Add one piece of your gelt into the pot.

4. Once everyone has a turn to spin, players again contribute one piece of gelt to the pot to start the next round. If the pot is ever empty, players should also add one piece of gelt at that time as well.

If you run out of your own stash of gelt, you're out. The first person to get everyone’s gelt is the winner!

Driedel crafts for kids, spin art made with a dreidel, Hanukah 
Turn that spinning dreidel into a colorful work of art. Photo by Liz Baill, for Mommy Poppins

More Hanukkah Fun with Dreidels

1. Dreidel Spin Art

Our favorite way to use a dreidel is to make spin art. Grab a tray or box to contain the splatter and cut a piece of paper to fit inside. Dip the dreidel in some paint and spin it on the paper. Watch as your dreidel paints swirls and spirals right before your eyes.

2. Dreidel Decor

Make a simple dreidel garland by cutting out dreidel shapes from colored paper and stringing them together.

3. Dreidel Dessert

Concoct your own delicious dreidel our of a pretzel stick, a marshmallow, a Hershey’s kiss, and some icing.

Driedel craft activities, hanukah, playing dreidel 
Photo and craft idea by Sara Rivka, courtesy of

4. Dreidel Cards

Cards with pop-up dreidels in the center are surprisingly simple to make.

5. DIY Dreidel

Make your own dreidel using a simple piece of cardboard and a pencil.

Dreidel Songs

Whatever dreidel game you decide to do, learning the song "I Have a Little Dreidel" is a must. That said, when you’ve had enough of that “dreidel dreidel dreidel” refrain, mix it up with the Hebrew song "Sivivon Sov Sov Sov" ("Dreidel Spin Spin Spin").

Happy Hanukkah!