What it is: A hilarious game! It’s quick-paced, low-strategy, and involves big groups, shouting, and finding your two teammates as quickly as you can.

Best for: A big group, I would say at least 12. You also need players in multiples of three.

What you need:

  • You will need specific word lists to play this game. But I’ve got you covered! At the end of the post are some free downloadable lists you can play with.
  • Other than that, you need a big area to hold all of your players and, depending on how you play, seats around the outside to sit in. There don’t necessarily have to be enough seats to hold everyone, and they can be couches, chairs, benches, anything.

How to play: To play three deep, first, make sure you have the correct number of players. You need players in groups of three, so 12, 15, 18, etc.

The word lists have words in sets of three, like pig, horse, cow (farm animals), or Spanish, French, Italian (languages), or square, circle, triangle (shapes).

Everyone will end up getting one word, and their goal is to find their two matching counterparts as quickly as possible. The last group of three to find each other is eliminated.

To start, cut your word list into paper strips and fold them. (There are instructions down below about the best way to cut up the word list.) Put the paper strips in a bowl and let everyone pick one.

Let everyone read their word quietly to themselves. Then call “go” and the pandemonium begins.

Everyone starts shouting their word as loudly as possible. Players can use hand motions, too. Inevitably all the players end up in a big clump as everyone mingles, trying to find their two matching buddies as quickly as they can.

As soon as a group of three has found each other, they move to the edge of the room and take a seat, but all in one chair on each other’s laps (this is where the “three deep” name comes from). You’ll notice on the paper slips there are letters next to the words: B, M, and T. These stand for bottom, middle, and top. The person with the B slip sits on the chair. The person with the M slip sits on that person’s lap. And the person with the T slip sits on that person’s lap, creating a stack, three deep.

Now, you might not want to play with players sitting on each other’s laps. That’s okay; you can do a variation. Instead of players sitting on each other’s laps, you could have them all sit at the edge of the room on the floor, cross-legged, back to back (to back). Or you could have them go and stand three in a row with their backs against the wall. The important thing is to give them a place to go and a position to stand or sit in that is easily recognizable as done. If you just told them to form groups of three standing up, for example, it doesn’t work so well because you can’t easily tell which group is last.

Anyway, if you choose to play with a no-sitting-on-laps variation, you can use this version of the word lists that have 1, 2, and 3 next to the words, instead of B, M, and T.

Once everyone has found their groups of three, eliminate the group that was last and go again! Prepare new word slips in a new bowl, yell “go” and start again. See if you can keep playing until only one group remains.

Preparing the game: Preparing the word slips the right way will make your job as host a lot easier. I made a video showing the easiest way to prepare these:

Alternatively, instead of handing out new words after each round, you can reuse them. Have everyone who wasn’t eliminated hand their paper slips back and forth to each other. Have them do this while mingling around, passing slips several times, trying to switch things up enough. The words won’t be new, but hopefully there’s enough randomizing to make a new unique round.

Printables: Here are the printable word lists you can use to play the game. There are two versions: one with the slips labeled B, M, T if you’re playing with sitting on laps, and one labeled 1, 2, 3 if you want to play with a variation with no lap-sitting. There are word lists divided by difficulty level (easy, medium, and hard) and some other categories as well.

Three Deep Printable Word Listthree deep game1
Three Deep 1-2-3 Variationthree deep game2

I also have a version of the game for Christmas, and one in Spanish!

Source: I found out about the game from this post from the blog 71 Toes. She even has a video that illustrates the game very well.


  1. I just found your awesome page. I can’t thank you enough for this compilation of games. It’s like an answer to prayers! HA! I am a second grade teachers, plus a cubmaster for a large pack of cub scouts. I promise to return this site plenty this summer and next school year. Please don’t go anywhere!

    1. Thanks, Donna, that’s super nice of you! I promise I’m not going anywhere. 🙂 I just got involved with a cub scout pack too. You cubmasters do a lot of work! Good luck!

  2. I’ve planned games for numerous occasions for years. This is the best compilation of my favorites I’ve ever seen. You did a beautiful job. This was done with a lot of extra work and detailed care. I’ve never found a site like this. You are so kind to share. Thank you beyond thank yous. Will be using them for teenage girls camp planning meeting next.

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