Category Archives: Classic indoor party games

Pin the tail on the donkey game ideas



This classic party game can be traced back to Victorian times (late 19th Century) and is one of the many ‘blind fold’ type of party games. The game is simple in that a large picture of a donkey (without a tail) is stuck to a wall. The party guests are then given tails with a pin (or sticky tape) and they have to attach the tail to the donkey in the appropriate place. To make the game interesting the quests are blindfolded and (optionally) spun around a couple of times before they attempt to ‘pin the tail on the donkey’.

There are many variations of this classic game, including a wonderful game for a Princess Party, called Kiss the Frog. This version involves the ‘princess’ being blind folded and placing kisses (small pictures of lips) on a picture of a frog. As with the original game there is no real winner as participating is its own reward although technically the person getting nearest the ‘target’ is the winner.

It is also possible to make your own version of this game, and this could be a party activity within itself. What you need is a large ‘target’ area and some small objects to pin. The objects (tails, kisses etc.) are numbered so that at the end of the game each person can see where their object is pinned. An example of a homemade version of this game would be to ‘Place the nose on Santa Claus’. All you need do is make, or have the kids make, a large drawing of Santa Clause and give out the numbered red red noses (with double sided sellotape on the back (much preferable to pins, especially for the young).

The beauty of this game is that you can adapt it to fit any themed party, Pirates (pin the patch), Halloween (pin the witches hat) etc.

Blind man’s bluff style of party games


Blind mans bluff (also called blind man’s buff) is one of the oldest party games known as it can be traced back to circa 500 BC in China.

The basic game is similar to ‘tag’ but the person trying to tag the others is blind folded. A large room without many obstacles is ideal for this game (although it can be played out doors).

Before looking at the many variations of this game a word of caution to anyone invited to a party and asked to put on a blind fold so that they can ‘hit’ others and be hit. These variations are usually a party trick with ‘you’, being the unsuspecting victim. The trick usually begins with a genuine demonstration of the blind folded game, for example two people trying to hit each other on the head with wooded spoons in their mouths. After the game has been played ‘correctly’ a few times the ‘victim’ is selected and his opponent takes off his blindfold and commences to whack the victim over the head repeatedly (to the amusement of the others). Variations of these party pranks pre-date Victorian times and not surprisingly ‘boys’ usually played them.

Zombie blind mans bluff (which could be used at a Halloween party) is played by having the quests dress up as zombies (nothing too scary). It begins as the original game with a single person being blind folded (this is the first zombie). When the first zombie ‘tags’ another guest that guest becomes a zombie and joins the others (that are blind folded) trying to tag the remainder of the quests until all the quests have become zombies.

Other basic variations of blind mans bluff include the blind folded individual(s) trying to navigate a series of obstacles, for example some up turned plastic beakers. Half the guests being blindfolded and the other half shouting to the blind folded guests. Instructions such as “Susan there is a beaker in front of you about six inches” are shouted out.

Not the above variation (of guests navigating through a series of obstacles) is also a good opportunity for a party prank. Have the blind folded guests see the obstacles then (when they are blind folded) remove all the obstacles so the guests are being navigated through a clear area. In order to hide the noise of the beakers being removed the quests can be gently spun around a few times whilst first blindfolded (this is also done if the game is played properly). If you play this party prank variation have the unsuspecting team shout out instructions first to the blind folded group, that is play the game correctly first. Then switch teams and remove the obstacles so the blind folded individuals are tricked. If you have girls and boys in the party split the teams into girls and boys and have the boys being tricked (or visa versa if you think it appropriate).

On a side note I remember being tricked by the above game some 50 years ago and I am certain today’s kids will also be tricked and find it highly amusing. The advantage today is the whole trick can be video taped with blind folded kids, later seeing themselves, carefully picking their way through a maze of non-existent objects.








Beetle drive as a party game


The above Beetle Drive game is similar to a version (1950′s) I played as a child in England. This version, which allows the players to build an actual beetle model is extremely satisfying for a young child. Part of the fun of this version of the game is in the construction effort required for the little hands.

Beetle drive can also be played by large groups of people at a party. When played at a party, or as an alternative to the model, the game is played with a pencil and paper as the beetle is drawn (instead of being constructed).

The game, whether a model or paper version, is simple. Each player needs to throw a certain number (dice) to be able to draw (or construct)  a given part of the beetle.

You can associate any number to a body part, of the beetle, but here is one common suggestion.

6 is for the body, of which there is one.

5 is for the head, of which there is one.

4 is for the tail, of which there is one.

3 is for leg, of which there are six.

2 is for antenna, of which there are two.

1 is for an eye, of which there are two.

In this way a six is needed to start your beetle (drawing or construction). After the six (body) than any other part (except for the antenna or eye) can be attached to the body.  When the 5 is thrown then if the player has a beetle body (i.e. has previously thrown a six) the  head can be attached and they are then able to use a 2 or 1 for the head parts (antenna and eye).

Every player takes turns in throwing the dice until a complete beetle is drawn. For large parties the party can be split into groups of 4, as the dice can then be shared between 4 in the group. As you might guess throwing all those 3′s for the legs takes time, and if you get off to a quick start (with the six) then your chances also improve.

This game should be played at kids parties, for ages around 4 to 6. The beetles can be drawn anyway the kids like and some samples can be shown for guidance, the completed drawings (when shown to others) will also provide amusement for the party.

An old fashioned game of BINGO


There are many games that adults take for granted or as being boring or as not suitable for any occasion. Many of these overlooked games are in fact the highlight of many a kids party I have attended. I recall a couple of years ago, when my own children where 8 and 10, going to a Christmas party with a group of children their own age. At some point in the proceedings the hostess brought out this large wooden box and placed it in the middle of the dining table. The children began to gather around as the hostess opened the box to reveal a large game of Bingo (or Lotto as it is sometimes called).

The game, at the party, was not as elegant as the Victorian version pictured which includes cowrie shells to cover the numbers. What was interesting about the appearance of this game, at the Christmas party, was that about one half of the guests had played the game before and they were just as excited as the guests who had not seen this game before.

One of the attractions of this game, for the kids who knew how to play, was teaching the other kids who were unfamiliar with the game. For the younger kids, it was quite a challenge to keep up with the numbers and older children would assist (whether asked for or not!).  Apart from number recognition the game teaches (if that is the correct word) patience. In the party I attended the series of games did not end until every child had called Bingo and won a small prize. This is relatively easy to accomplish as you play until half of the guests have called Bingo, then start another game. On subsequent games you make a note of who has previously won a prize and that person cannot win another prize. Although to adults this arrangement seems condescending the kids understand and take pleasure in getting their prize after they have called Bingo for the first time, regardless of how many others are ahead of them.

The great aspect of this game is that a very large number of kids can play at the same time and the game is pure luck so kids can beat their parents (which is always entertaining to both of them).

Hunt the thimble party game


Hunt the thimble

This game is simple to play and involves your quests trying to find an object. The version of Hunt the thimble that I remember was played indoors and the party was split into teams (4 people in each team works well but smaller or larger teams can be formed). One team (the hunters) goes out of the room whilst the other team hides the thimble (or other small object). When the ‘hunters’ reenter the room they begin to search for the thimble.

Hot and cold clues (hints) can be given to the hunters if they have not found the thimble after a few minutes. The way this works is that the team that have hidden the thimble tell each of the hunters that they are hot, warm or cold. Being hot means the person is close to the thimble, cold means they are not close and warm is in between. For example if 4 people are hunting then: Susan is hot, Jenny and Simon are warm and David is cold. The hunters then look at their position (and the others) in the room and adjust their area of search accordingly. When a person is very close other terms could be used, extremely hot, white hot etc.

If the game is played outside then it could be played using the same guidelines as hunt the thimble (using the clues hot and cold) and the object could be slightly bigger. Eastern egg hunts are based on this theme and placing many similar items to be found is another way to play this game.

I remember attending a birthday party (many years ago) and the hostess had prepared individually wrapped small presents with each of the guests’ names on them and hidden them around the garden. The children then proceeded to find their own present as well as help each other during the search. With this particular game I recall the hostess (my friend’s mother) had to guide me as to where my present was. The presents were all small walking toys that would move down an inclined ramp, so that after we all had found our toys we started playing with them as a group activity.

For older kids a game of treasure hunt might be more suitable with written clues and maps being given out to teams. This activity, which I will describe in a later post, is ideal for a pirate’s themed party.


Pass the parcel party game


Pass the Parcel

This is another traditional party game that I enjoyed as a youngster, growing up in England. The game is very simple and for preparation you need to wrap a small present then put another paper wrapper around that and repeat with additional wrappers a dozen or so times. Then have the kids sit in a circle, start the music and instruct the kids ‘pass the parcel’ around the circle until the music stops. When the music stops the child who is holding the parcel takes off a wrapper and if the prize is revealed they get to keep it. As the host you need to make certain the parcel is being passed, as the children will develop ‘sticky hands’ when they are holding the parcel.

Other variations of this game are played that eliminate the person holding the object being passed around the circle. A large potato can be used as the object and this will move out of the kid’s hands quickly (like a hot potato).  If you don’t want to ‘eliminate’ the participants then a variation is to have the person holding the object (when the music stops) perform some activity (hopping, using one hand, standing on one leg etc.). This game ends after a certain time or when everyone is doing the activity.

All of these games can be played ‘blind folded’ with the kids holding out their hands to receive the object, but my experience is that cheating (peeping) usually takes place, but if this version is played correctly it can be a lot of fun.

Also if you are outdoors, passing a bucket of water (like the hot potato variation) is a lot of fun and, given the speed that the bucket will be passed at, will get the children soaked. A hosepipe or other method of refilling the bucket as it empties (spillage) is recommended. The fun (and water spillage) is increased if the activity variation (i.e. hopping after being caught in procession of the bucket) of this game is played.

Whatever the variation remember that as the host you can ‘control’ when the music stops, so as to give everyone a ‘turn’. But, in the case of the real “pass the parcel” you are recommended to turn away from the children as the package gets nearer to it’s end (prize) otherwise you will be criticized of playing favorites with your ever watchful quests!


A classic party game of musical chairs

Musical chairs

Growing up in Liverpool, England in the 1960’s I can vividly remember attending children’s birthday parties on the Street that I ‘grew up’ on. The parties were always hosted by the mother and took part in the child’s home, and/or garden, with all the food, (usually sandwiches, cake and jelly) being homemade.  The games we played were like rituals with hunt the thimble, Pass the Parcel, Musical chairs, London Bridge is falling down and others being played on all occasions and known by all the children. These games can be traced back to Victorian times and certainly would have been played by our grand parents.

The game ‘musical chairs’ was one of my least favorites, although I still enjoyed it. The game itself is quite simple and involves placing chairs in a circle (or oval) and having the children ‘walk’ around the chairs whilst music is playing. When the music stops (this was a parent lifting the arm off a vinyl record player) each child had to sit down. Given that there was one less chair than children one unfortunate child would not have a chair to sit on and would be eliminated. The game progresses with a child and a chair being removed at each round until two children ‘fight it out’ with one chair.

The game does need strong ‘policing’ as there is pushing and shoving so some form of rules and decorum need to be upheld. For all that it is an amusing game for the kids of today and will give them a taste of bygone days.

There are some less rambunctious versions of ‘when the music stops’ type of games that you might prefer. One such game is statues and involves the children walking (or dancing) in a circle until the music stops. When the music stops the children have to keep still (statue like), with the first child (could be more that one) to move being eliminated.

If you like the idea of the original musical chairs but don’t like the ide of a child being eliminated there is a so-called “non-competitive” version that is highly amusing. With this version a chair (but not a child) is removed after each round. This means that the children need to sit on each other if they can’t find an empty chair. One additional rule is that no feet have to touch the ground; this is to ensure that the children are indeed sitting. If you plan to host this version consider the strength of your chairs as well as the number in the party. The conclusion of this game is when someone’s feet touch the floor, or when the kids come crashing down off the chair.  For practice, if you are planning this game, see how many kids you can get on one chair and if the kids fall off, without hurting themselves, before the chair breaks you are all set. As always please respect the ‘safety first’ principle whilst hosting this game.