Alphabet chant

What it is: More of an activity or chant than a game with a winner and loser, but a perfect activity to occupy long car trips (especially for girls; I don’t think this game would appeal to boys as much).

Best for: Smaller group of 3 to 6 players.

What you need: Just people to play!

How to play: Players take turns going through the alphabet and saying the following sentence:

My name is ___, my husband’s name is ___, we live in ___, and we sell ___.

(Or, if you are playing with boys, they could say “My name is ___, my wife’s name is ___, we live in ___, and we sell ___.) The first two blanks are always filled by names, the third blank by a place, and the fourth blank by anything you could sell (which often leads to silly results).

So, the first player would start with A and say something like this:

My name is Abigail, my husband’s name is Adam, we live in Amsterdam, and we sell apples.

Then the next player would take the next letter, B, and say something like this:

My name is Bridget, my husband’s name is Brandon, we live in Bermuda, and we sell bouncey balls.

Players just take turns, going in a circle, until you go through the whole alphabet. I suppose you could play this game competitively: If a player takes longer than three seconds to fill a blank, they’re out. But me and my sisters always just played for fun and helped each other think of words when we got stuck. It’s a nice, calm activity, if you want one of those. :-) And it can help younger kids with their phonics skills, too.

Variations: Hmm, I can’t think of any variations. Anyone have any to share?

Twenty questions

What it is: A guessing game for two or more players.

Best for: 2 players or however many more you want.

What you need: Just your brains. :)

How to play: One player (let’s call her Tasha) first gets to think of a noun (a person, place, or thing). Once Tasha has a noun picked out, the other players then get to guess by asking questions that can be answered with a yes or a no. If you’re playing by the strict rules, players only get to ask 20 questions, and if they haven’t guessed by then, Tasha wins. If someone does guess what the object is, that person gets to think of the next thing to guess.

So here’s how a sample game might go: Tasha picks the noun “fire hydrant.” Say she’s playing with one person, her friend Leroy. The game might go like this:

Leroy: “Is it a person?”

Tasha: “No.”

Leroy: “Is it a thing?”

Tasha: “Yes.”

“Is it alive?”


“Could I hold it in my hand?”


“Is it made of metal?”

“Yes.” …

And the game would go on like that until Leroy uses up his 20 questions or until he guesses what the object is. It’s a great game for filling up long hours on car rides or for playing on walks. And you can go by the 20-question limit if you want, but I never really have. We just ask and guess until someone guesses right, then it’s their turn. And if you’re playing with little kids or just playing for fun, you could allow hints, too, especially if it’s taking a long time to guess something.

We also usually play with concrete nouns, things that you could see, touch, or feel. If you want to allow or disallow abstract nouns (like honor, love, capitalism…), you should probably specify beforehand, either way.

Some of the hardest-to-guess objects I’ve played with are confetti, trash bags, stop signs, and…oh, fire hydrant. :)


What it is: Awesome! That’s what it is. This game is so fun and I love it so much, it gets an exclamation mark in its title.

Oh, but what it is: A fast-paced, fast-moving card game, good for big or smaller groups of people, and always a crowd pleaser.

Best for: 4 to about 10 players.

What you need: You’ll need a deck of playing cards (two if you’re playing with a big group. It’s okay if they don’t match). You’ll also need spoons, either the metal or the plastic variety, enough so that every player minus one can have one.

How to play: Set the game up by sitting all players down in a circle on the floor. Put all the spoons carefully in the middle of the circle, with handles facing outwards, like this:

Shuffle the cards, then deal four cards to each player. Put the remaining cards face-down next to one player that you designate as the starter (we’ll call the starter Max for this game).

The final object of the game is to grab a spoon from the middle of the circle and not be the one player left without a spoon. You can grab a spoon when you either have four cards of the same kind (four aces, four kings, four twos, etc.) or when you see another player grab a spoon.

Play starts with Max, who draws a card from the deck, looks at it, and then either discards it or switches it for a card in his hand and discards that one. So remember: the goal is to collect four of a kind. If Max is holding an ace, a king, a two, and a six, and he draws another two, he’d probably want to keep it, so he could exchange the two for the six and discard the six.

Max discards the card face-down into a pile in front of the next player in the circle (say it’s Annie). Annie then picks up the card, looks at it, and either discards it or switches it for a card in her hand and discards another. She discards in front of the next player, and play moves like that all the way through the circle. Each player can only pick up the cards directly in front of them. The last player in the circle starts a discard pile near Max, which he will draw from when the original deck runs out.

So that’s basically how the game works, with each player trying to collect four of a kind. And all players are drawing and discarding at the same time, moving as fast as they can or want. Each card must go though every player’s hand, though, so if Annie is slow, she might have a pile build up in front of her (while the other players urge her on).

So the goal is to collect four cards of a kind. Remember Max with his two twos? Let’s say he finds the other two twos in the deck, so then he’s holding four cards of a kind. He can immediately grab a spoon from the middle of the circle. And as soon as the other players see Max grab a spoon (or, really, see Max starting to grab a spoon), they can grab a spoon, too, but one person, like Annie, will be left without a spoon. Then Annie would get a letter S. Next time she gets left without a spoon, she gets a letter P, then O-O-N, and then when you get all five letters, you’re out of the game.

When a player leaves, take one spoon away, too, so the number of spoons is still one less than the number of players. Play until one player remains: the winner.

Strategies: The “right” way to play this game is to carefully watch your cards, so you can collect four of a kind, but also always keep one eye on the spoons so you’re never left without one. If you wanted, you could also just watch the spoons and forget about your cards (but you still have to go through the motions of picking up each card and putting it in the discard pile).

When collecting cards, sometimes if you see two of one kind go through the deck, you might want to pick up the third one, so the people on down from you don’t collect four of a kind, or so if the other two cards make it through the rest of the circle unwanted, you can collect them.

If you’re the first to have four of a kind and grab a spoon, it’s fun to take it as quietly and as secretly as you can, and then hide the spoon and pretend to keep playing. If no one saw you, it might be a few minutes until someone looks at the spoons, counts them, and realizes there’s one missing. I’ve played sometimes when all but one or two spoons were taken, and the last two or three people in the game kept playing, searching for four of a kind, not even realizing that the spoons were gone. ;-) Those times are fun.

Variations:  If you want a faster game, do single elimination: a player is out as soon as they fail to grab a spoon one time (no more counting S-P-O-O-N). You also don’t have to put the spoons in a neat circle. Sometimes we pile them all messy, like this:

Then (especially if they’re metal spoons), it’s harder to take a spoon without making noise, which makes the grabbing-for-the-spoons moment at the end more rowdy and rough.

If you really like rowdy and rough games, try putting the spoons not in the middle of the circle, but somewhere else, like in the next room, behind a couch, up the staircase…. That sure leads to some rowdy games. Then it’s pretty impossible to sneak away from the game to grab a spoon, so everyone ends up running and jumping over each other to get a spoon at any cost. It’s a lot of fun, usually something kind of like this:

Oh, and one more thing: if one time you really really want to play this game, but you can’t find any spoons anywhere, so you think, “Hey, why don’t we just play with forks instead?” … um, don’t do it. Just don’t.

Green glass doors

What it is: A talking, thinking game for anywhere from two to a busload of players. This is also one of those games where you need someone who knows the “secret” and other players who are clueless.

Best for: 2 players or however many more you want.

What you need: Nothing! :-) Well, just people to play, at least one who knows the “secret” and at least one who doesn’t.

How to play: The object of the game is for players to discover what can be taken through a hypothetical set of green glass doors. Players who know the secret give other players hints (or further confuse them) by saying “I’m going through the green glass doors and I’m bringing ___, but not ___,” filling in the blanks with an object than can go through the green glass doors and an object that can’t, respectively.

So players who know the secret might say things like this:

I’m going through the green glass doors and I’m bringing a poodle, but not a dog.

I’m going through the green glass doors and I’m bringing the moon, but not the sun.

I’m going through the green glass doors and I’m bringing a puddle, but not water.

I’m going through the green glass doors and I’m bringing boots, but not sandals.

I’m going through the green glass doors and I’m bringing Harry Potter, but not Ron Weasley.

Have you figured it out yet?

Players who don’t know the secret to the game can then try their own sentences, maybe something like, “I’m going through the green glass doors, and I’m bringing a lamp shade, but not a light bulb?” To which the in-the-know players would respond with, “Nope, you can’t go through the green glass doors” while shaking their heads sympathetically. The game can continue indefinitely, and pause and resume as needed, until all players know the secret. It’s perfect for filling long hours during car trips.

So do you know the secret yet? Do you know what can be taken through the green glass doors? ;-) (I’ll give you one hint: the fact that you’re reading this post and not playing this game out loud should be a huge help to you.) Oooh, I know! How about, if you still don’t know the secret, leave a comment in the form of “I’m going through the green glass doors and I’m taking ___ but not ___,” and I’ll respond with a yes or a no! And, if you already know the secret, you can post mysterious, enigmatic sentences to confuse all the clueless people! It’ll be like a massive online, ongoing version of green glass doors! Awesome!

Or…since you’re probably reading this blog to figure out how to play, and if you really really really want to know and have no will power at all, or any desire to experience that awesome “a-ha!” moment when you figure out the secret yourself, click here to find out.

Variations: My mom and sister play the same game but call it Fanny Dooley, where Fanny Dooley a made-up lady and phrases take the form of “Fanny Dooley has ___ but not ___.” I’ve also heard the game called “deep but not profound” (which I think is clever, funny, and awesome).

Also, for a very similar game with more flexible rules, check out going on a picnic.


What it is: Originally a board game, but it’s become a common classic, and you don’t need to buy the game to play your own version. It’s a drawing word-guessing game for groups of any age.

Best for: Group of at least 4 players.

What you need: You’ll need something to draw on, like a big pad of paper and marker, a chalk board and chalk, or a wipe-off board and dry erase marker. Or even just a stack of blank paper. You’ll also need slips of paper with words written on them and a hat or bowl to put them in. (Or, you can use my online word generator!) Optional: a stopwatch/hourglass/clock, and a piece of paper to keep score.

How to play: The game is pretty simple: players take turns silently drawing different things while their team tries to guess what the drawing is. Teams compete against each other to have the most guessed words and win the game.

The way you set up the game can vary; pictionary allows for a lot of flexibility. For this post, let’s pretend you’re going to play with a big group divided into two teams.

Before the game starts, you’ll want to come up with some things to draw and write them on slips of paper (see the end of this post for some pre-made lists). The objects can be as hard or as easy as you want. If you’re playing with little kids, easily illustrated nouns like sun or bear would probably be good; if you’re playing with teens or adults, throw in some abstract nouns like honor, some adjectives or verbs like upset or dance, or maybe some idioms like have a cow.

Once you have your slips of paper ready, fold them up and put them in a bowl or hat. Then divide your players into two teams.

If you have one drawing surface, have teams take turns sending up a player to pick a word from the hat and draw it in a pre-designated amount of time. If the team guesses the word before the time runs out, they get a point. (Or, if you want to designate hard and easy words at the beginning, you could assign different point values to different words.) Then the other team takes a turn.

If you have two drawing surfaces, you could have each team send up a player and have them draw the same word at the same time (hiding their drawings from the other team). First team to guess the word wins the round.

At the end, tally up points and announce a winner!

Variations: Instead of having a player draw one word before the time runs out, you could let team members draw as many words as their team could guess before the time runs out, if you like that sort of fast-paced action.

You also don’t have to keep score or keep time if you want. You don’t even need two teams. You could just play with a big group of people and take turns drawing, with slips of paper or with players thinking of their own words to draw. Players take as long as they need to draw. The first player who guesses correctly gets to draw next.

Printables: Want some ready-to-go pictionary word lists? Click any of the links below, print out the lists, cut into strips, mix and match, and enjoy! Or, if you want word lists you don’t have to print out, check out my word generator.

And if you really like playing pictionary beyond the occasional class or family party, I’d highly recommend buying the real game. It has a lot more words, a board, and a better way to keep score; it’s an awesome way to play. (And if you buy through that link, you’ll help support the Game Gal :))