This isn’t about school really, I thought I’d delve into the world of party games.
Admittedly, I found parties a bit of an ordeal, at least in prospect. Having to spend an afternoon joining in was not easy for me and meeting my friends’ parents was a test too. But I think I enjoyed them once they started. Some of the party games are still played, I know, but I’m not entirely sure about others. The same with nursery rhymes – I sang them to my children all the time, but I don’t think my grandchildren know nearly as many.
Some that are still played are the ‘when the music stops…’ sort.
Musical bumps – when the music stops, everyone drops to the floor. Last one down is out, until there’s only one left.
Musical statues – exactly the same except the children freeze and the first to move is out. This can be better if there are a lot of children because several can be out at the same time. The more fun-loving ones make a point of dancing exuberantly so that they have to remain with their limbs akimbo. The competitive ones are more conservative, because they can freeze their position longer.
Musical chairs – one fewer chairs than there are children, until there are just two children and one chair. You need a sturdy chair, two hefty kids landing on it almost simultaneously can test its joints.
Pass the parcel – wrap a small present in lots of layers of paper. As the music plays, the parcel is handed from one child to the next as they all sit in a circle. When it stops, the child holding it can take off a layer and the very last child keeps it. Nowadays, there are usually additional small gifts, such as a balloon or a sweet, between the layers. It’s up to the person managing the music to make sure that everyone has at least one go, which can be difficult if there’s a competitive grabber.
Then there are others for where there’s more room and the parent doesn’t mind having children rummaging through the house.
Hide and seek – can be a straightforward version, with everyone hiding and one person looking for them, or Sardines, where one person hides and each child joins him as he discovers him, until there’s one person looking for all the other children. This works well in the dark.
Murder in the dark – each child is given a card, which they mustn’t show anyone. One is the murderer, another is the detective. The lights are turned off and the children scatter. The murderer taps one, who screams and drops to the floor. The detective then has to ask questions to try to get evidence and solve the crime. I enjoyed that game, as I remember.
If you have a big room, there’s Grandmother’s Footsteps. where one child stands with her back to all the others and at the other end of the room. The children try to creep up to her and she swings round periodically and tries to catch them moving. A variation is What’s the Time, Mr Wolf? where the question is asked and the Wolf says an hour – “It’s three o’clock” means that they can walk forward three paces. When he judges that they’re getting close, he shouts “It’s dinner time!” and turns and tries to grab a child as they all run away. Of course, if he misjudges it and someone touches him before he says it, he loses.
Blindfold games – these can be active, such as Blind Man’s Buff, where the blindfolded child has to try to catch the others, or quiet, like Pin the Tail on the Donkey. Each child in turn is blindfolded, turned round three times and then pointed towards the picture of the donkey on a board. They try to judge where the donkey’s tail will go and pin it, the spot is marked with the name and the closest at the end wins.
They don’t all have to be competitive, there’s Follow my Leader, where everyone goes in a line and the one in front has to be copied by everyone else, running, hopping, clapping or whatever. Or Simon Says, where the leader (adult or child) gives commands to the others. If he starts “Simon says…” they must copy him, if he just gives the command they mustn’t.
There are team games, like Oranges and Lemons, which I described yesterday, or relay races, which can have various tasks (such as dressing up, hopping, throwing a beanbag at a target) as part of them, or there are obstacle races, either individually or in teams. Some involved passing objects from one to the other, such as a balloon without using your hands, or a dried pea using a straw.
Small children used to have singing games, like The Farmer’s in His Den. They all were in a circle around one child, the Farmer, who chose a wife after the first verse, the wife chose a child, the child chose a nurse, the nurse chose a dog. It should end with “We all pat the dog,” but it was often prolonged by the dog choosing a bone, when all the children patted the bone (or rather the child playing it), which is a bit odd really. There are lots of singing games, I’ve forgotten most of them.
Older children who were reasonably biddable and good at concentrating might play Kim’s Game, which comprised looking at objects on a tray for a minute or two, then it was covered and you had to write them down. I was pretty useless, being very unobservant.
I’m losing track. You might have an object put in a bag and each child has to feel it and write down what they think it is. A few of those should be a bit startling, such as peeled grapes or cooked spaghetti, some should have to be carefully felt, such as a screw or a bottle opener.
How am I doing here? Are these the sorts of games you used to play or organise? I think Pass the Parcel is still a given – every party I’ve ever known has that, largely because it engages everyone all the time and makes all the children sit down. You have to be good at marshalling children whilst engaging their interest – it’s no wonder many parents hire an entertainer or have an outing after the first time. The party bag thing can get competitive, too, if you don’t watch out.