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Party Games For Kids: How To Play Charades

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by Helen Petrovic (subscribe)
Full-time mum, part-time writer, avid fantasy reader and wannabe novelist. My articles focus on family and fun. Visit my site:
Published April 26th 2012
Charades originated in France in the 16th Century and is still a popular party game for kids of all ages (including the big kids). Adult charades is fun for family gatherings, silly dinner parties or even kitchen teas. Kids charades is good for birthday parties and whenever you need to keep the kids busy.

The popularity of charades is how flexible it is. You can use timers and charade cards and tally points, or for smaller gatherings and a more relaxed approach you can just get one person to think up something and act it out and everyone else has to guess what it is. Whoever guesses correctly gets to be the next "actor.

What you need for team charades:

- A timer (a watch will do)
- A piece of paper and pencil for scoring
- Charade cards (these will list things such as movies, popular phrases, famous people, places, books etc)

Aim of the Game: The goal is to act out a word or phrase to your team members within a specific time frame. Your team must guess the word or phrase correctly by means of the signals or clues that you provide, before time runs out!

How it works: Players split into two teams. Place the charade cards face down on a table. Decide on a suitable amount of time to solve each charade, eg: 4 minutes. Team A chooses a person to be their "actor". The timer starts as soon as that person picks up their card, and they then have 4 minutes to act out their card while their team mates guess the answer. A correct guess within the 4 minutes scores one point. Team B then takes a turn, followed again by Team A (who must choose a different person to be their "actor" until everyone has had a turn). The game is over when you have reached the bottom of the deck of cards, the amount of rounds agreed upon, or when people start to get bored and wander away, whichever comes first.

Rules: Rules are flexible, but the main one is no talking or lip movements!

Other Considerations: Topics can be as easy or convoluted as you want (you might remember a popular news-oriented TV show that made their guests act out bizarre news stories from around the world), and can therefore cater to all ages. You can find plenty of websites which list topics for charades. For little kids, try to make the ideas simple eg: animals, occupations, tasks we do around the house.

Popular Signals: There are a number of popular signals that are used in charades which make it much easier to play. Here are just a few:

To indicate the general category of a word or phrase:
- Person: Hands on hips.
- Book title: Unfold your hands as if they are an opening book.
- Movie title: Pretend to crank an old-fashioned movie camera.
- Play title: Pretend to pull the rope that opens a theatre curtain.
- Song title: Pretend to sing.
- TV show: Draw a rectangle to outline the TV screen.
- Quote or phrase: Make quotation marks in the air with your fingers.
- Location: Make a circle in the air with one hand, then point, as if pointing to a dot on a map.
- Event: Point to your wrist as if you were checking the time on a watch.
- Computer Game: Use both hands and move thumbs like using a game pad.
- Website: Make a sweeping motion side to side, as if moving a mouse then stop and tap index finger as if clicking

To indicate other characteristics of the word or phrase:
- Number of words in the phrase: Hold up the number of fingers.
- Which word you're working on: Hold up the number of fingers again.
- Number of syllables in the word: Lay the number of fingers on your arm.
- Which syllable you're working on: Lay the number of fingers on your arm again.
- Length of word: Make a "little" or "big" sign by holding your hands close or far apart
- Almost There!: Point at your nose with one hand, while pointing at the person with your other hand.
- "Sounds like" or "rhymes with": Cup one hand behind an ear, or pull on your earlobe.
- "Longer version of": Pretend to stretch a piece of elastic.
- "Shorter version of": Do a "karate chop" with one or both hands.
- "Plural": Link your little fingers.
- "Past tense": Wave your hand over your shoulder toward your back.
- A colour: Point to your tongue, then point to an object of the color you're trying to convey, or pantomime an object that is usually that colour.
- "Close, keep guessing!": Wave your hands about frantically to keep the guesses coming
- "Not even close": Wave hand as if to say "go away!" or shiver, to indicate "colder."
- "Stop yelling at me! I can't hear your guesses." Use your fingers to plug your ears, and shut your eyes until order is restored
- "Stop, start again": Hold both arms out in front of you, palms of your hands waving, facing your teammates, while simultaneously shaking your head.

Signals for common words
- "A" is signed by steepling index fingers together. Following it with a stretching rubber band sign will often elicit "an" and "and".
- "I" is signed by pointing at one's eye, or one's chest.
- "the" is signed by making a "T" sign with the index fingers. The "close, keep guessing!" sign will then usually elicit a rigmarole of other very common words starting with "th".
Pretending to paddle a canoe can be used to sign the word "or."
For "on," make your index finger leap on to the palm of your other hand. Reverse this gesture to indicate "off." The off motion plus a scissor-snipping action makes "of".
Other common small words are signed by holding the index finger and thumb close together, but not touching.

Image: photostock /

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