Monkey in the middle

monkey-in-the-middleWhat it is: A throwing and catching game for a small group. Players try to keep the ball away from one player (the “monkey”).

Best for: A small group, maybe 3 to 5.

What you need: You’ll need a ball to throw and catch. It could be a kickball or an inflated ball. You could even play with a soccer ball that you kick and receive, or a frisbee or some other object.

How to play: Monkey in the middle is one of those simple games that’s easily variable. Players toss or kick a ball back and forth between them, but one extra player (the “monkey”) is left standing in the middle. The other players try to keep the ball away from the monkey. The monkey tries to grab the ball, earning him or her a place on the outside of the circle. 🙂

When the monkey grabs the ball, the last player to have touched it is now the monkey. You can decide on more specific rules, too. Does the monkey have to grab the ball, or will simply touching it count? You can adjust the rules and playing size to the ages of your players.

This is often one of those games that happens naturally to pass the time or (unfortunately) to bully someone else by keeping something they want away from them.

Don’t play like that. We all know it’s not nice.

But when played with people who agree by common consent to play, it can be a fun game that lasts for a while. 🙂

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!

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. 🙂

Winks 2

What it is: A very similar game to winks, just more physically active, with more physical contact.

Best for: A big group of 9 to 21 players (ish).

What you need: You’ll need an odd number of players, and kind of a bigger group. Also somewhere to play. You’ll basically be wrestling on the floor, so keep that in mind. I most often played in a carpeted building with a big room (lots of space, not many breakables). I also played in a bouncy castle once. That was fun.

How to play: Divide your number of players in two (except, since you’re playing with an odd number of players, one half will have one extra person). The bigger half all sits cross-legged in a big circle. Then all the rest of the players sit cross-legged in front of someone already sitting, creating an inner circle. But one poor person, like Jeremy, will be left sitting cross-legged with no one in front of him. He’ll start the game.

When everyone is ready to play and attentively watching Jeremy, he chooses the names of two people sitting in the inner circle and calls them out loud, like “Stephanie and Charlie!” Then Stephanie and Charlie both try to race across the circle and tag Jeremy’s outstretched hand. Whoever does so first moves spots and sits in front of Jeremy, and someone else will be left without a parter. Then it’s his or her turn.

But here’s what makes it hard: The people sitting behind Stephanie and Charlie (we’ll call them Parker and Julie, respectively) do everything they can to keep their partners from making it to Jeremy. That’s where the wrestling part comes in. It’s basically anything goes, except mean behavior: hitting, scratching, biting, you know. Oh, and tickling counts as bad behavior. Play nice. 🙂

So let’s say Parker and Julie are both trying their hardest to keep their partners in place, and Parker puts up a good fight, but Stephanie is just too tenacious and wiggles away to tag Jeremy’s hand. Then she gets to sit in front of Jeremy and it’s Parker’s turn to call two names.

There are some other rules you could add to adjust your game to the skills and desires of your players. First, it’s fun if the people in the inner circle and outer circle get to switch places; then they don’t get too tired of always being called or always being alone. So you could say that each time someone gets a new partner, they switch places, and each time someone in the inner circle fails to get away from someone in the outer circle, they switch places, too. (So, in the above example, once Stephanie got to Jeremy, they’d switch places so now Stephanie is in the outer circle, and once Julie successfully kept Charlie as her partner, they’d switch places, too.)

Then, if two pairs are wrestling for a long time and it looks like no one’s getting anywhere fast, you could call it a draw and make the two inner-circle players switch with the outer-circle players. Then Jeremy calls two new people.

I played this game regularly with some friends in high school, and it was a lot of fun. Definitely lots of physical contact. But it could be fun to play with just family, too, if you’re family is bigger.

Cautions: Because you’re wrestling on the ground, make sure that everyone plays nice and doesn’t hurt each other. But be warned that a few small injuries (especially rug burns) might be unavoidable.

Variations: Winks is a similar game, just not as active or full contact. 🙂