Marshmallow toss

What it is: A game invented by my very own mother for our family nights when I was growing up. It’s a simple tossing game (kind of like a bean bag toss) you can set up with things you have around the house. Good for little kids, but can be adapted for older kids, too.

Best for: A group of 3 to 6.

What you need: First, you need a metal muffin tin. If you have an old one that you wouldn’t mind sacrificing, that would be best. (If not, that’s okay, too.) Then you’ll need a bag of marshmallows, not the mini kind. It’s also helpful to have some way of marking a boundary on the floor (masking tape works well) and a way to keep score (like pen and paper). Finally, if you have some sticky labels, like the small neon circle kinds, and a black Sharpie, you’ll be set.

How to play: The game is really simple: players take turns tossing marshmallows towards the muffin tin, scoring points based on where the marshmallow lands.

To set up the game, you’ll want to assign a point value to each row or each hole in your muffin tin. That might look like this:

 Or like this:

Whatever you want. You can use the sticky labels to assign the point values or, if you don’t want to put stickers on your muffin tin, just write down or remember which points correspond to each row (shoot, you could print out one of those pictures right above) or just make sure the stickers will come off.

Then set the muffin tin up, either flat on the floor or propped up slightly on a book or something, and mark a line on the floor a few feet away. The distance of the line will depend on the age/skill of your players. In my family, where players ranged from my parents to my youngest sister not yet in Kindergarten, we had a few lines for varying ages.

Then to play, just have your players take turns tossing the marshmallow towards the muffin tin. If a marshmallow lands in a hole and stays there, that player gets that number of points. Each player might get three marshmallow tosses, and you can cycle through your players as many times as you want. The player with the most points in the end wins and gets to eat all the remaining marshmallows, mua ha ha! Or, just…win. Either way. 😉

Variations: It’s a really simple game, but you could add some of your own rules if you wanted to make it more exciting. For example, you could give some of the muffin holes negative point values for added variability.

Hot or cold

What it is: A really simple hide-and-seek type game. It’s a good kind of quiet, not-too-disruptive game for little kids. We used to play in primary (Sunday church class for little kids).

Best for: 5 to 10 players.

What you need: You’ll need something to hide, but this can be anything: a toy or stuffed animal, a piece of paper, a trinket. For a harder game, pick a smaller item. For an easier game (or for really young kids), pick a bigger item.

You’ll also need somewhere to play. This game is ideal indoors, like in a living room where there are lots of places to hide the object. You could also play in another enclosed area, even a backyard.

How to play: Let’s say you’re playing with a small group of young kids, and the object you’re hiding is a bouncy ball. First, choose someone, like Joe, to leave the room. Then choose another person in the room, like Kylie, to hide the bouncy ball. Make sure everyone sees where it’s hidden.

Then call Joe back into the room. He tries to find the bouncy ball, and everyone else gives him hints. The hints work like this: as Joe gets closer to the bouncy ball, everyone says, “warmer…” As he gets further away, everyone says, “colder…” You can use other temperature-describing words, too, like lukewarm, ice cold, burning hot, etc. The closer Joe gets, the hotter the temperature gets. The further he gets, the colder it gets. (The clues can also get more frantic as Joe gets closer and is about to find it: “You’re cool…getting warmer…warmer…okay, really warm! Ooh, hot! Hot, hot! Ooh, on fire! You’ve got it!”

Then once Joe successfully finds the object, it can be his turn to hide it while someone else leaves the room. :)

Strategies: It’s pretty fun to hide the object in creative places you wouldn’t expect. Ooh, the best is somehow on a ceiling fan because then someone could be in the middle of the room getting clues, “hot! hot!” and there won’t be anything nearby, haha!

Variations: There are tons of variations to this game. If you’re playing with a pretty small group, you could even have all the players leave the room while one person (like the adult) hides the object and gives the clues. And, though hot and cold words make good clues, you could use other clues, too. When we played in primary, the teacher would use the game as a way to get us to practice our primary songs. One person would leave, and the rest of us would sing to let him know if he was close or far. When we sang loud, he was close. When we sang quietly, he was far. (Our teacher helped us know when to sing loud or soft.) You could do the same thing with music played on speakers, if you wanted.

When my sisters and I were really little, we loooved playing this game with our uncle Jason, but we called it “where’s rabby?” because the hidden object was a little stuffed toy rabbit. My sisters and I would leave the room, my uncle would hide the rabbit, and we’d have a ball coming in and trying to find it with the help of his clues.

First word

What it is: A fun, easy, and often revealing talking game.

Best for: Smaller groups, maybe 3 to 6 people.

What you need: Nothing! But a word list might be helpful.

How to play: This game is really simple, and you could make up more complicated rules if you wanted to. But basically someone says a word, any word, and another player has to respond immediately with the very first word that pops into his or her head (no thinking allowed). So a sample game between Mack and Jane might go like this:

MACK: Apples.

JANE: Caramel.

MACK: Christmas.

JANE: Lights.

M: Spider.

J: Eww.

M: Groundhog.

J: Bill Murray.

M: Slow.

J: Snail.

It’s supposed to be very fast, with only a fraction of a second between Mack’s prompt and Jane’s response. It’s best if Mack responds quickly, too; that gets Jane in the habit of responding quickly. The fun of the game comes in learning possibly interesting things about your friends or family (“Crush.” “Andrew–I mean,…uh…” “What?!”), or in laughing at the interesting, creative, or (il)logical associations our minds come up with. Your game might be interrupted with questions, explanations, or laughter, and that’s all part of the fun. :)

To help in thinking up quick prompts, feel free to use my online word generator.