The great games - the famous ones that have been played (in one variation or another)
for a century or more - are still going strong. That's because they work so well. They have a
charm and character to them - also an excitement - and they keep players involved. They don't
require much (if any) preparation or any special knowledge. You can enjoy playing them whether
you all know each other or are strangers, whether you generally prefer quiet games or active
ones, whether you're 9 or 90. Here then are some of the favorite games of all time.
(Ages 6-8, 9-12, 13-18, Adult)
- Hot potato
(Ages 6-8, 9-12, 13-18, Adult)
(Ages 9-12, 13-18, Adult)
(Ages 9-12, 13-18, Adult)
- Charades-"The Game"
(Ages 9-12, 13-18, Adult)
- Up Jenkins!
(Ages 9-12, 13-18, Adult)
- In the Manner of the Word
(Ages 9-12, 13-18, Adult)
Line up the players at the opposite end of the room from the map and put several obstacles in the
center of the room (chairs, tables, wastebaskets, etc.). Give each player a minute to study the
location of the takeoff spot on the map, and the location of the obstacles before putting on the
blindfold. Each player in turn must then cross the floor without touching any of the obstacles and
pin the plane on the map as far as possible from the takeoff place. If anyone touches one of the
obstacles, it is a crash and the plane is OUT. If the plane is pinned in the water, it is LOST.
The pilot of the longest flight wins.
||A large map of the world to pin on the wall;
A "plane" cut from light cardboard for each player, with a thumbtack or pushpin in it;
A tape measure or ruler
||Pin or tape the map to the wall;
Write the name of a player on each plane;
Mark a central spot on the map for the takeoff
The players sit around in a circle facing inwards and one is chosen as leader. The leader steps
into the middle of the circle. Then an object, such "as a small potato, ball, stone or piece of
wood, is passed around from player to player. Each player must accept the object and pass it very
||A small potato, ball, stone, or piece of wood
As the object is passed, the leader closes his or her eyes or turns away. When the leader yells
"HOT," the player holding the potato is out. The game is played over and over again until every
player but one is out. The last one left in the game is the winner.
If more than 30 want to play, you can form two or more circles. Each circle must have its own
potato to pass around, but you need only one leader. The winners from each circle can then form a
final circle, to see who is the grand winner.
You can also play this game with music, like Musical Chairs, with the leader stopping the
music at intervals.
How long can you keep a feather up in the air, just by blowing it? Here's your chance to find out.
Keep a stop watch or check the second hand of your watch as players try.
The one who manages to keep the feather up longest wins.
||Unlimited - one at a time
Paper and pencil for recording scores
Forfeits is an old, old game. It has been popular for centuries because it's such fun.
The players each put a piece of clothing, jewelry or some personal belonging into a pile on the
floor. These are the "forfeits." One person is chosen to be the judge, and another holds up the
forfeits over the judge's head.
The judge sits in front of the pile and cannot see what is being held overhead. As the sock or
necklace or belt is held over the judge's head, the other player says:
"Heavy, heavy hangs over thy head.
What shall the owner do to redeem the forfeit?"
Then the judge (without looking up) commands the owner to do some act or stunt in order to get
back the property.
Some ideas for stunts?
Of course, the judge and the person who is holding up the forfeit also have articles in the pile,
and they must act out a command in order to get them back, too!
- Try to stand on your head.
- Answer yes to every question asked by every player in the group.
- Sing a song.
- Tell a ghost story.
- Make at least 3 people laugh.
- Dance a jig.
- Walk across the room on your knees.
- Tell a joke no one in the room has heard.
- Give a 1-minute talk about elephants.
- Say five times rapidly: "Three big blobs of a black bug's blood."
- Say five times rapidly: "Truly rural."
- Yawn until you make someone else yawn.
- Holding one foot with your hand, hop around the room.
- Crawl under the table on all fours and bark like a dog.
- Tell how to make a pie without talking.
- Kiss the wall backwards: standing about 20 Inches from the wall, lean backwards until your
lips touch the wall. Then straighten up without losing your balance. (Take off lipstick first.)
- Place a basketball in the middle of the floor. Try to sit on it, while writing your name
legibly on a card with a pencil.
- Place 3 strong straight backed chairs side by side. Lie with your head on the first chair and
your feet on the third, with folded arms and stiff body. Have someone remove the middle chair.
Hold your position for 10 seconds.
- For 2 players at a time: Both are blindfolded and seated on the Boor with a large towel or
napkin pinned around the neck like a bib. Each is then given a bowl of popcorn and a spoon and
told the feed the other player the entire contents of the bowl. For a messier (and funnier) game,
use wheat germ or bran.
- Same setup, but feed each other bananas.
Charades is a fast and exciting guessing game that you can play in many different ways-with just a
few players, with partners, with teams. One player (or more, depending on what version you play)
acts out some word or phrase in pantomime while the others guess what it is. The acting-out must
be done silently. Code movements can be used-ones that have been agreed on be-forehand-but the
person doing the acting-out is not allowed to speak.
||Scraps of paper (one for each player);
Pencils for all
Divide the group into two teams, each team with a captain. Pass out paper and pencils. The team
members are each to write out on their scraps of paper one of the toughest, most un-actable words
or quotations or names of movies, plays, books-whatever-they can think of. Then they fold up the
scraps of paper, the captain collects them and puts them into a hat or bowl or bag. The captains
now trade the scraps of paper, and the race is on.
Each captain rushes back to his or her team and lets the first "actor" select a scrap of paper
and proceed to act it out. Both teams may play at the same time, and the first team to guess all
the words on the scraps of paper wins. Or, if you prefer, the teams can take turns.
Let's say that Gordon is the first actor on his team. He dips into the bag and pulls out the
proverb, "A stitch in time saves nine." First he lets his team know that it is a proverb by a
pre-arranged signal. You can make up your own signals, but usually a proverb or saying is
indicated by bringing up your wrists to shoulder height and wiggling two fingers on each hand
to indicate quotation marks.
"Saying!" shouts Sally, one of the players on the team. Gordon nods and points to her.
Then he lets his team know there are six words in the saying by holding up six fingers in a definite motion.
"Six words!" yells Rick, another player on the team.
Gordon nods again. His next decision is which word to act out first. He decides on "stitch." He holds up two fingers.
"Second word," Sally says.
Gordon nods again. He makes believe he is sewing.
"Sewing," Kris says.
Gordon indicates the material in his hand.
"Fabric," says Sally, "cloth-material-"
Gordon tries to indicate a very little stitch on the imaginary material.
"Hole," says Rick, "tear, rip-"
Gordon isn't getting anywhere. He waves his hands back and forth in front of him to stop them and
show them that he's going on to something else. He holds up iwo fingers again.
"Second word, still," says Sally.
Gordon nods. Then he cups his hand to his ear.
"Sounds like," says Anne.
Gordon nods. Then he starts to scratch himself.
"Scratch," yells Kris, "itch-"
Gordon points to her and nods vigorously.
"Itch," says Kris, "sounds like itch-"
"Stitch," yells Rick. Gordon looks insanely happy, points to him and nods. "Stitch," Rick says
triumphantly. The second word is stitch."
Now Gordon holds up four fingers.
"Fourth word," says Sally.
Gordon points to his watch.
"Watch," says Anne, "clock, wrist-watch, what time is it-"
Gordon leaps toward her and points.
"What time is it?" Anne asks.
Gordon points and waves her on.
"Time," shouts Sally.
Gordon swerves and points to her and nods.
"Uh-stitch-uh-time," Sally sums up what they now so far.
At this point, the team will probably guess what Gordon's message is. If they don't he'll probably
go ahead to the last word, "nine," which is also easy to act out.
As soon as the team guesses Gordon's charade, the next team member rushes up to collect a charade
and act it out.
Here are some other signals you can work out ahead of time with your team. Most of them are classic
signals which are used all over the world by charades players.
Sounds Like: You may have noticed this already in the example when Gordon used "itch" for
the word stitch. To do "sounds like," you cup your hand behind your ear.
Book Title: Hold hands up in front of you, as if a book is lying in them.
Film: Put one fist up to your eyes so you can look through it like a camera lens and rotate
the other fist in circles as if winding up a handle (like an organ grinder).
Television Show: With one finger of each hand draw a rectangle in the air to indicate a
Play: Indicate an actor by placing one hand on your chest and the other out to the side as
Song Title: Starting at your open mouth, wiggle the fingers of one hand from there out to
the side as if a trill is coming out of your mouth.
Indicate the number of syllables in a word by holding out your left arm and placing fingers of
your right hand on your forearm. However many fingers you place on it is the number of syllables
in the word.
Indicate which syllable you are going to act out by following this movement with another of the
same kind-only this time, if you're acting out the first syllable, only put one finger on your
arm-two for the second syllable, and so on.
Indicate small words (articles, conjunctions and prepositions) such as "the," "an," "at," "a,"
"if," "but," "with," "for," "so" (any small thing) by holding up your thumb and forefinger about
an inch or two apart. Then the team will run through all the small words and won't stop until you
point to one of them.
To show the group that the word called was correct, Gordon, in the example, nodded vigorously and
pointed. Some people tap the side of the nose instead. Nodding is a more natural thing to do,
though, and speeds up the game.
For ideas for charade sayings, see the
Ways to Play
You don't have to have both teams playing at the same time, though it is a very exciting game if
you do. But you : miss watching your opponent struggling with the charade you thought up.
If you want, you can let the teams take turns, each • player taking as long as necessary to act
out the charade, holding a watch on the actor and jotting down the timeon the team's score pad.
Or you can give each player a time limit and they either get it or they don't. Decide for yourself
how much time to allow. Generally, 3 minutes is long enough. Use a stop-watch-or a kitchen timer.
As many players can take part in this game as there are places at the table. Form two teams with
an equal number of players and choose a captain for each team. The teams then sit along each side
of the table, facing each other. The captains sit at the ends of the table.
||12 or more
||A long table;
Chairs or benches;
The captain of one team gets the coin and passes it under the table to the second person of the
team. The players on that team pass the coin under the table back and forth from one player to
another. The object of the game is to do it so carefully that the opposing team cannot guess which
player has the coin.
At any time, the captain of the opposing team may call out, "Up Jenkins!" At this signal, the
players on the team with the coin hold their hands over their heads withtheir fists clenched.
The captain then calls out, "Down Jenkins!" and the players slap their hands with palms Hat on
the table, keeping the coin hidden under one of the palms. Be careful that there is no clinking
sound of the coin when hands are slammed down on the table.
Then the first two players on the opposing team guess which player has the coin. One of them
says "Show Up," to the player he or she thinks has the coin. This player must lift up both hands
to show if the coin is on the table. If it isn't, the second player gets to guess.
If one of the guesses is right, the opposing team gets a point, and wins a chance to hide the coin.
If the guesses both are wrong, the coin stays with the first team, who gets a point. Next time
around the third and fourth players on the opposing team get to guess. Set a time limit for play.
At that point the team with the most points wins.
In the Manner of the Word
While one player, say Joe, is sent out of the room, the others decide on an adverb which he will
have to guess. The clues will be acted out silently by the other players.
||4 or more
Let's say the adverb is "sweetly." When Joe comes back into the room, he asks Susie to do a dance
step, for example, "in the manner of the word." Or to walk with a book on her head "in the manner
of the word." Or to polish the table-or comb her hair or eat a chocolate or read a magazine-whatever
he asks her to do, she must do it "in the manner of the word."
When Susie has executed a dance step reeking with sweetness, Joe asks another player to do the
same thing, or a different action. There is no limit to the number of guesses Joe gets, and the
game goes on until the adverb is discovered. Then Joe selects a new guesser (preferably the one
whose act helped him to guess) and the game goes on.
Be sure to pick adverbs that are easy to act out, such as angrily, hatefully, heavily, sadly,
softly, uncomfortably, wisely etc.
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