What it is: A funny variation of telephone, played on paper instead of out loud. It’s a great game for creative teens or adults and can be quite entertaining. It’s always been a favorite among my family and friends.

Best for: Group of about 6 to 10.

What you need: Each player will need a piece of paper and a pencil or pen to write/draw with.

How to play: First set up the game by sitting all of your players in a circle indoors. This game might be hard to play around a table because each player needs to keep their paper secret from their neighbors, so playing in a living room on couches and chairs works great.

Then hand out paper and writing utensils to all the players. Have everyone write his or her name in small print at the bottom right of the page.

Everyone starts by writing a sentence at the top of his or her paper. It can be something random, true, abstract, from a song lyric, or about someone in the room. Here are some examples:

  • The kids all danced around the large oak tree.
  • The dog chased the carefree butterflies to the end of the rainbow.
  • If all the raindrops were lemon drops and gumdrops, oh what a world it would be!
  • Ted can’t find the right shoes to wear to prom.

Once everyone has a sentence at the top of his or her paper, everyone passes their paper to the player to their right.

Then everyone illustrates the sentence give to them with a small picture right underneath the sentence. So, for example, if Mary were given the sentence “The kids all danced around the large oak tree,” she might draw something like this:

Once everyone has finished drawing their sentences, everyone folds the top part of the paper over so it covers the first sentence, but not the picture. Then again, everyone passes their papers to the right.

Now everyone receives a paper with just a drawing visible, and everyone writes the sentence that presumably could have led to that picture (usually with some humor thrown in). For example, Bob, given the above picture, might write this sentence underneath: “Once there was a family of tree huggers.” Then everyone folds over their paper so only the last sentence is visible and passes the paper to the right.

And that’s basically how the game works. Everyone continues alternately writing sentences and drawing pictures, always covering up everything but the latest sentence or picture and passing to the right. Continue writing and drawing until you run out of room, or until everyone gets his or her paper back (that’s why you wrote names at the bottom at the beginning).

After everyone’s done writing and drawing, everyone unfolds the paper he or she has and begins to read and laugh at all the sentences and drawings, especially how in the world the first sentence turned into the last one. Then you can go around the circle one by one as everyone reads a paper out loud, or you can just pass them around so everyone can see the drawings clearly.

And then play another round!

Strategies: Really, the point of the game is to evoke laughter, so good strategies include being creative and off-the-wall with your sentences and pictures. Oh, and don’t worry, no artistic talent is required. It’s always kind of funny (or against the rules, depending on your viewpoint) when someone writes a sentence about a picture and throws in something that wasn’t there before, just to heighten the random factor. And when we play, most papers inevitably end up about people in the room, even if they don’t start out that way.

Example game

This game might be hard to visualize if you’ve never played it before, so here’s an example from a real-live game, to show you how one sentence can turn into a picture that can turn into a totally new sentence and on and on:

The kids all danced around the large oak tree.

Once there was a family of tree huggers.

After watching Fern Gully, Mrs. Mullen’s fourth grade class hurried out to the playground for a live reenactment.

The boys saw a picture of a girl and ran frantically to the park.

Many thanks to my sister and cousins for letting me use their artwork. 🙂

You can see some other game samples here.


  1. We played this in college. One tip is, when we played we ripped (or cut) a large paper into small squares. Each person receives say 5 sheets. Then you write on one sheet. The next person sees it. Then they have a new square of paper to do their drawing. Repeat.
    It avoids all the paper folding. Since that seems difficult to me.

    1. Jackie, what a great idea! I’ve never played that way, but you’re right, the paper folding can get pretty difficult. Now I have a question for you: what did you call the game? I made up the title “paper telephone” because when me and my friends played, no one ever knew what the game was called.

  2. We played this as a family last night with our teens and adult children plus girlfriend. We had a blast, thank you so much for the idea.

  3. Thanks for sharing. This is a fun game but sometimes I forget how to play. It’s nice to have this resource to look back on.

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