Monkey see, monkey do

What it is: A pretty simple, quiet, indoor group game that’s a lot of fun (and maybe just a little silly).

Best for: Group of at least 10ish.

What you need: Just a room for everyone to sit down in a circle (on the floor is fine). And enough people to play – I’d say about ten.

How to play: First, choose someone to be it. Let’s say it’s Bobby. Bobby leaves the room and closes his eyes and ears while everyone else in the circle quietly picks someone to be the Monkey. Once the Monkey is chosen, Bobby comes back into the room, but make sure everyone keeps the identity of the Monkey a secret!

Bobby stands in the middle of the circle. Then the game starts, and the Monkey starts making repetitive or continuous little hand motions or small movements (like patting their hands on their lap, rubbing their tummy, little dance moves, you know). Everyone else in the circle has to copy exactly what the Monkey does, but carefully, because Bobby’s job is to guess who the Monkey is, while the Monkey and everyone else tries to keep it a secret.

So a good strategy for the Monkey is to choose slow, quiet hand movements that give everyone else a few seconds to catch on. (If the Monkey starts clapping all of the sudden, for instance, it could be pretty easy for Bobby to pick out who the Monkey is.) It’s also smart for the Monkey to change hand motions when Bobby’s back is turned.

A good strategy for the rest of the players is to not stare right at the Monkey, but only glimpse now and then when Bobby’s not looking so he can’t tell who everyone is looking at. It’s a fun balance between being inconspicuous, but looking at the Monkey often enough so you can follow along.

Once Bobby guesses the Monkey, he or she is the new It and leaves the room and a new Monkey is chosen.

Variations: This game is a little like signs, but it’s better suited to younger players because it’s a little simpler. It can still be a lot of fun for older kids or teens, though!

The alphabet game

What it is: A car game for anywhere from one player to a whole carful of players.

Best for: 2 players or however many more you can fit in a car.

What you need: A car trip and someone to play. And you probably need the car trip to be at least partly through a populated area with road signs.

How to play: The came is pretty simple: players look out the car windows at passing road signs and try to spot a word that starts with the letter A. Then, once that has been found, a word that starts with the letter B, then C, and so on all the way until Z, when the game ends. My siblings and I played this game all the time on our family road trips. Sometimes we would have a game that would last hours and hours: we would start as we were leaving our city, dwindle as we drove through fields and mountains, and pick up again where we left off when we reached a populated area again. Some letters (like Q, X, and Z) get pretty tricky. I remember waiting for miles and miles to catch a glimpse of a Dairy Queen. For this reason, my sisters and I vowed that if we ever owned a restaurant, we’d name it something like this:

Rule Variations: You should probably set your rules before you begin, because (as I’ve experienced), many disputations can arise. For instance, does a letter have to come at the beginning of a word ? Or is it okay if just appears anywhere in the word? Either way, do license plates count? (This was our most common source of disputation.) Do you always have to find letters in order? Pick your rules, stick to them, and have fun!

Variations: You can play with everyone working together on one team, individually, or as two teams (maybe one team looking out the left windows and one looking out the right). And I’ve also played (in sparsely populated areas) where you have to just find an object that starts with each letter, not the actual word. This is kind of fun because it lets you get creative and use your vocabulary (for example, if you know what a Joshua tree is and you see one, you can use that for J). Any one else have any rules or variations to share?

Dibble dabble

What it is: A pool game my siblings and I loved to play (my mom taught it to us; I think she used to play with her siblings when she was a kid).

Best for: Group of 3 to 8 players.

What you need: A pool, probably at least 4 players, and a small white whiffle ball (one the size of a golf ball).

How to play: All players stand outside the pool, with their backs turned towards it. One player takes the whiffle ball, places it somewhere on the bottom of the pool, and then resurfaces. As soon as the other players hear the player resurface, they turn around and start watching for the ball – the goal is to be the first to find and grab it. A small white whiffle ball floats, but slowly, so it will take a while for it to come up to the surface. The players on the side don’t know where the ball might be, so they all watch for it carefully. The first player to spot the whiffle ball jumps into the pool to grab it. But as soon as he or she jumps in, the other players can jump in, too, and then whoever grabs the white whiffle ball first and yells “dibble dabble” (no matter if it’s the person who first spotted it or not) wins. The winner gets to hide the whiffle ball for the next round.

If you’re playing with a big group, chances are more than one person will spot the whiffle ball at the same time, but that’s okay. The rule just says that players are allowed to jump in the pool either when they see the whiffle ball or when they see someone else jump in.

A small white whiffle ball is very hard to spot in a pool (especially if people are jumping in and splashing around), so a lot of the game is usually spent searching for the ball, but still splashing around a lot to keep others from finding it, too. And that’s all part of the fun. :-)

Strategies: If you’re the one to see the ball first and jump in, it could be smart to jump away from where the ball is (if you’re fairly certain you’re the only one who’s seen it), because most likely the other players will be watching to see where you jump so they can jump in after you and grab the ball. While they’re splashing and searching, you make a break for it, grab the ball, and yell “dibble dabble!” Or, if you’re the one hiding the ball, you can get sneaky and place it by an edge, or even on the surface of the pool, just to throw the other players for a loop. You could also, when all the players are in the pool looking for the ball, pretend to see it on the far side of the pool to distract your opponents while you’re still searching.

Variations: We always played with a whiffle ball, but you can play with anything small, hard to see, and buoyant-but-not-too-buoyant, like a toothpick, a popsicle stick, a golf tee, a toothpaste cap, or 2-liter soda bottle cap.

Dodgeball

What it is: A way fun classic, one I mostly played in elementary school.

Best for: Big group of at least 8 players.

What you need: A big, open area indoors (like a gym). And lots of non-hard balls (like ones made of foam or rubber). And lots of people to play.

How to play: Divide your players into two teams, and divide your gym into two sides with a line (real or imaginary) down the middle. Place all the balls on the line and instruct the players on both sides to stand a designated distance away from the line.

The purpose of the game is to get players on the opposite team out by pegging them (from the neck down) with a ball. So when someone says “go” or a whistle blows, all the (brave) players rush to the line to grab a ball and start trying to get people on the opposite side out. If you’re pegged anywhere from the neck down, you’re out and have to go stand against the wall. But if you catch the ball or you get pegged above the neck, the person who threw the ball at you is out. Balls end up bouncing around on the floor, and you can pick one up at any time, but be careful no one pegs you in the process! Also, players aren’t allowed to cross the line in the middle.

The game turns into a big crazy melee, with balls flying and players running, throwing, and, of course, dodging, until one team has completely vanquished the other by getting all players out. There’s one catch, though: if everyone else on your team is out and you’re the last player in, and someone throws a ball at you to peg you, but you catch it, your whole team is back in, hooray! Then the game keeps going.

Variations: I’ll admit that I was never a huge fan of dodgeball – I’m just too afraid of things heading at high speeds aimed at hitting me, I think. But for some reason, I love glow-in-the-dark dodgeball, though it could be said that it’s decidedly more risky and intense.

Game review: Set

Games you don’t have to buy are fun, but I enjoy board games and card games, too. I thought I’d start writing reviews of some of my favorites. Maybe it’ll help you if you’re searching for the perfect game.

Game: Set by Set Enterprises (Wikipedia)

What it is: A card game played with two or many people (or even just you) that involves looking for sets of shapes, colors, and patterns. Cards are spread out twelve at a time on the table, and all players look at the cards and try to find sets of three, according to similarities and differences between the shapes, colors, and patterns on the cards.

My review: My first experience with this game was in sixth grade math class. I hate math, but I loved this game so much that I went home and made my own version with three-by-five cards and Crayola markers. I played with my homemade ghetto version for years, until my mom got me a real game for Christmas (when I was in college).

I love the concentration in searching for sets. The definition of a set is actually a little complicated, but once you get the hang of it, you can spot them quick. I think I like it so much because it involves colors and patterns, not numbers (bleh). The game is easy enough for older elementary-school kids to play, but it’s fun for adults, as well. It’s not loud or especially exciting (unless you’re playing with a big group and sets are spotted super fast), but if you’re looking for a thinking/perception game that’s fun for kids and adults alike, something quiet and brain stimulating, it’s perfect. I highly recommend it. :-)

(And if you buy the game through the link above, you help support the Game Gal :))