Hot lava

hot-lavaWhat it is: The wonderful game every child thinks he or she invented.

Best for: A small group, or a group to fit however big your playing area is.

What you need: You’ll need a place to play. For me and my siblings and cousins, this was always an indoor game, played in a large living room or bedroom (much to our parents’ chagrin). You could easily play outside as well. A playground would be ideal.

How to play: There’s one rule. THE FLOOR IS LAVA! Don’t touch it!

Ah, this is such a fun game. Kids just love to climb and jump, and pretending the floor is hot lava gives you an excellent excuse to do so. So jump from couch to couch, throw down couch pillows to use as stepping stones, step on the coffee table, just don’t touch the floor!

If you play outside, you can make the grass lava, or the concrete, or whatever you want. You can have some spots of ground be safe spots.

Too bad this game, when played indoors, always makes grown-ups so mad. It’s so fun! I remember playing with my siblings and cousins at my grandparents’ house all the time. We played in the upstairs kids’ room, a room with four sets of bunk beds and couches and a chair: a truly perfect setup for hot lava. But if we were too loud as we leapt from furniture to furniture, our parents would hear the banging downstairs and tell us to stop. Once I remember playing in college (you’re never too old for the classics) in our dorm common room, where we took off couch cushions and made paths across the floor, until a resident assistant told us to stop. So much fun!

Variations: Lava monsters are a great variation to have. Either start with one or two at the beginning of the game, or make any player who accidentally touches the lava become a lava monster. The goal of a lava monster is simple: drag other players into the lava, mua ha ha! (This can be literally dragging, or a simple one-hand tag will do.) When players are captured by the lava monster, they become lava monsters, too!

I know you played this as a child, so do you have any variations to share? Or favorite experiences playing? I’d love to hear; leave a comment!

Sardines (or backwards hide and seek)

sardinesWhat it is: A reverse game of hide and seek where, instead of one person seeking while everyone else hides, you have one person hiding while everyone else seeks.

Best for: At least 6 players or so, up to a group maybe twice that size.

What you need: A place to play. This is an ideal indoor game, but could also be played outside in a yard or park as long as there are lots of good places to hide.

How to play: First, set the boundaries for your playing area. Then choose one player to be It. We’ll call him Tim. Everyone else but Tim closes their eyes and counts out loud together to a predetermined number, like 50. (The larger your playing area is, the higher the number can be.) While everyone is counting, Tim goes and hides. He can choose anywhere he wants, like inside a blanket closet, for example. Then he sits quietly and waits.

After the rest of the players are done counting, they call out, “Ready or not, here we come!” And then they start to seek. The seeking is done every-man-for-himself style: no teams, just individual players looking for Tim by themselves. Everyone tries to find Tim first.

Say Anna is the first player to open the blanket closet and find Tim. First of all, she’ll want to make sure no other player is watching her. Then as quietly as she can, she slips into the blanket closet and hides along with him. Now Tim and Anna both are as still and quiet as they can be, still trying to avoid being found.

Maybe Louis is the next player to happen along and find Tim’s hiding spot. Now he squeezes in, too, and the three of them hide until they’re joined by a fourth, and a fifth… And everyone hides right along with Tim. If the blanket closet runs out of room, players do their best to hide close by, but it’s best if everyone can fit into Tim’s original hiding spot. (Are you seeing why the game is called sardines now?)

The last person to find Tim is the new It, and a new round starts!

It’s a fun game and (good for adults needing some peace) a quiet game. It’s kind of eerie in a way, too, which I guess is part of the fun. But when there’s 10 of you and you’re all searching for one hiding person and you’re looking and looking and start realizing the other players searching with you are dwindling and dwindling, and you have no idea where they’re all disappearing to, and you keep searching, and finally you open the blanket closet to see all 10 of your friends crammed in there – yeah, all part of the fun.

It’s also kind of hilarious, trying to fit as many people as you can into what’s usually a small hiding place. Sometimes the hiding place is larger, though, like in a walk-in pantry, and that’s perfectly fine too (and a little easier). It’s always, fun, too, to hide along with a group of your friends and cover your mouths and try not to giggle. It takes some of the lonely suspense (which I’m not a fan of) out of the normal version of hide and seek.

Variations: For some other games along the theme of hiding and seeking, check out the classic hide and seek, as well as kick the can, hit the dirt, and capture the flag.

Man, typing all of this up is making me want to go and play! I haven’t played sardines in far too long. :)

Happy hiding!

Photo scavenger hunt

cameraWhat it is: A version of a scavenger hunt where you take pictures of things (and often yourself doing fun things).

Best for: A small to large group, maybe 4 to 10 people.

What you need: A camera and a list of things to take pictures of! (see bottom of the post for my free printable list).

How to play: Just like other scavenger hunts, the goal is to go down the list and cross off as many items as you can. Other than that basic rule, the game is super easy to customize however you’d like. Let me show you an example.

Photo scavenger hunt mall thumbnail

This is a scavenger hunt list I made for the mall. I might use it for a birthday party for a group of 13-year-old girls. If the group is smaller (say 5 girls), I’d give them all one list and set them loose in the mall to take their photos, telling them to meet back at the foot court in two hours or something like that. If the group were bigger (say 10 girls), I’d make two smaller groups of 5 and give each team a copy of the list. Then I’d make a contest out of it. The team who crosses off the most items in the allotted time period wins (with quality of the photos taken into consideration).

A great way to end a photo scavenger hunt is a photo slideshow at home. With technology today, it can be relatively easy to show pictures on an iPad or a laptop or even a TV, and then everyone can watch all the pictures and laugh and comment.

So basically, you need a list of things to take pictures off. Slightly embarrassing photo setups are always fun (like take a picture of your group dancing in the middle of the food court). Use my printables below or get creative and make your own! Then you set your ground rules, including things like:

  • Duration of the game
  • Boundaries
  • Teams
  • Whether you’re going for quality or quantity

Then play and have a blast! I think photo scavenger hunts work great for date nights or youth activities. Ha, actually, one of my and my husband’s first dates was a photo scavenger hunt that was such a phenomenal success, we realized how much we liked each other and ended up where we are now. :)

Happy photographing!

Photo scavenger hunt listPrintables: The photo scavenger hunts I’ve included are for different settings: at the mall (designed for teens or older), at the park (designed for kids or older), at home (designed for younger children), and an alphabet hunt (suitable for anyone). If you have a requests for another list, leave a comment and I’ll see what I can do!

Oh, P.S., for the alphabet scavenger hunt, what I was thinking is you take pictures of objects that happen to look like letters of the alphabet, either objects that you set up or that you just find (like two sticks crossed to make an X, or a door handle that looks like an S).

Duck, duck, goose


What it is: A perfect, easy little kid game that’s popular and often learned in preschool or kindergarten.

Best for: A group of young kids (maybe age 5 to 8).

What you need: Just people to play and a large, flat area big enough for everyone to sit in a circle with no obstructions around.

How to play: First, have all your players sit in a circle. Choose one player – we’ll call her Mary – to be It. Mary stands outside the circle while everyone else sits.

Mary starts the game by walking around the outside of the circle. As she passes each player, she touches his or her head and calls them either a “duck” or a “goose.” If Mary says duck, nothing happens. But if Mary touches Jane’s head and says goose, then Jane (the goose) must immediately jump up and try to tag Mary. Mary runs all around the outside of the circle (no cutting corners or changing directions) back to Jane’s empty spot and tries to sit in it. If Mary makes it back before Jane tags her, Mary sits in Jane’s spot and Jane becomes the new It, walking around the circle and calling duck or goose. If Jane happens to tag Mary, then Mary is still It and must try again.

Play continues for as long as you want to play!

Variations: We always played with the mush pot variation. In this variation, the middle of the circle is called the mush pot. Say Mary is running around the outside of the circle, trying not to be tagged by Jane. If Jane does tag Mary, then Mary has to go sit in the mush pot. When we played, everyone would then pat the ground of the mush pot together and yell out “Mush! Mush! Mush!” Yeah, super humiliating. Then Mary has to stay in the mush pot until someone else gets sent there.

Also, just because it’s a little kid game doesn’t mean it can’t be fun for older players, too. The chasing and tagging could get more extreme in this case, and more fun. I guess the classic games are just always classic. :)

I Spy Bingo: Halloween version

scarecrowWhat it is: I Spy Bingo is a version of classic bingo. In classic bingo, everyone has a 5 x 5 grid of randomly placed numbers. Someone reads off a number at random, and players look for the number on their playing card and mark it off if they find it. Players try to get 5 marked-off squares in a row. First person to get 5 in a row (horizontally, vertically, or diagonally) shouts out “Bingo!” and wins. In I Spy Bingo, instead of listening for numbers called out loud, you’re watching for things you might see in real life.

Best for: 1 to 6 players.

What you need: Everyone will need a game card. You can make your own or use my free printable ones! (see end of post). Everyone will also need a pen or something else to use to mark off squares (like candy, especially M&Ms, which are our favorites). You also need somewhere specific to play: in this case, a Halloween costume party, or the day at school when everyone comes dressed up, or trick-or-treating night…basically anywhere you can see lots of people in Halloween costumes.

How to play: Halloween costume I Spy Bingo is pretty simple. Everyone gets a 5 x 5 grid of squares. In each square, write a costume you think you might see someone wearing this Halloween. (My free printable cards already have costumes written out.) Once you’re at your party or school day or wherever you’re going to play, just keep a lookout at all of the cool Halloween costumes going by and cross off any costume you see on your card. First player to get 5 in a row (horizontal, vertical, or diagonal) shouts “BOO!” (instead of “bingo”) and wins!

You can also play the blackout version – where you have to cross off all your squares, not just 5 in a row, to win. Other than that, you can set up your own rules however you’d like! Here are some suggestions.

On the printable cards I made below, some of the costumes might overlap (e.g., fairy and Disney character; if you saw someone dressed as Tinkerbell, that could count for both). But I say you can only use each individual costume to cross off one square on your card. However, it’s up to you if you want to use Tinkerbell to cross off fairy or Disney character, bringing in a slight element of strategy. But if you do see two or more Tinkerbells walking around on Halloween night (from what I can gather, it’s a pretty popular costume), you can cross off both. You might have to settle some disputes as you play (like whether Princess Leia counts as a Disney princess), but that’s all part of the fun.

You can set a time limit, or just make the game last the duration of the party. You can play at a costume party, at school, or Halloween night (especially if you’re the one stuck at home alone handing out the candy. Why not call up another friend at home and have them play, too? Text each other pictures of your finished card when you win). Play by yourself or with a small group; it’s a very adaptable game. You can even have prizes for the winner(s), like pre-purchased candy bars, or some sweet deal like winner gets all the Snickers bars of the Halloween candy haul. Make it fit your group and make it fun!

Variations: There are lots of variations to I Spy Bingo. In addition to holidays or holiday parties, you can play on a road trip, in the airport, at the mall while people watching… I have some other ideas I’m working on that I’m excited to post, so stay tuned!

Printables: To make your Halloween Bingo easy, here’s some free printables! The first one comes with 6 unique cards already filled out. (But even if you want to play with more than 6 people, it would probably work just fine as long as there’s enough variation in the costumes you all see). The second one is blank so you can fill in your own costumes. This would be a great way to play and encourage creativity. Just come up with some basic rules, especially if you’re playing with a lot of people, and let the fun begin!

Halloween Bingo thumbnail

Halloween Costume Bingo

Halloween Bingo blank thumbnail

Halloween Costume Bingo: blank cards

Happy Halloween! I hope you all enjoy!