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!

Would you rather

What it is: A hypothetical talking game where players choose which of two scenarios they’d rather do.

Best for: Any number of players. It’s a great two-player game.

What you need: Nothing! Aren’t those games the best? It can be nice if you have a pre-made list of “would you rather” scenarios. Guess what? I made one! You can download it for free below.

How to play: Basically players take turns asking each other questions starting with “Would you rather…” and ending with two different scenarios. Like, “Would you rather have to wear ski goggles for the rest of your life…


…or have to wear a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle mask?”


(p.s. is Donatello your favorite?)

As demonstrated, the questions are usually a little wacky/silly/absurd. (In some variations, they’re also gross/weird, but I don’t like those questions as much.)

Some other examples of would you rather questions:

  • Would you rather live to be 90 with great health or live an extra ten years past 90 with not-so-great health?
  • Would you rather live off of bread only or live off of anything but carbs?
  • Would you rather be respected but feared or laughed at and loved?

The questions can be thoughtful, silly, or completely hypothetical. It’s fun for players to think up their own questions, too.

Once someone asks a question, everyone else must answer the question. Then another player gets to ask a question.

Another variation for a large group is to have one player draw a question (like from the list I made below) and answer it alone. Then another player draws another question and answers it for themselves, and so on. This could work well if you have so many people, it’s hard to have everyone answer each question.

Printables: Here’s the list of Would you rather questions I came up with. It’s two pages long, so not a ton, but definitely enough to get you started or get you thinking of ideas. Once you get playing with a good group, the ideas usually start coming to players. It’s a fun talking game to play.

Printable-markerWould you rather


skittlesWhat it is: A game about cramming as many skittles candies into your mouth as possible. Kind of silly and maybe, depending on your point of view, a little gross, too.

Best for: A big group, like at least 8. And probably best played late at night at a party or sleepover.

What you need: All you need is a bag of skittles candy, the big kind, one you can reach your whole hand into.

How to play: First, have everyone sit in a circle (in chairs or on the ground, it doesn’t matter). Pull out your bag of skittles, open the top, and hand it to your first player (we’ll call her Ashley). Ashley reaches her hand into the bag and pulls out two skittles without looking, no peeking allowed.

If Ashley’s skittles are two different colors, like red and orange, she pops them in her mouth and leaves them there. No chewing, swallowing, or spitting out allowed. Then she passes the bag to the next player, Anthony.

Anthony draws two skittles and the same rule applies. He draws two different colors, so he puts them in his mouth and leaves them there, no chewing or swallowing.

Let’s say the whole first round, all around the circle, proceeds like this. Each player pulls out two skittles of different colors and must hold them in his or her mouth without chewing.

Now it’s Ashley’s turn again, and her skittles are all soggy and she’s really wishing she could chew them up. She reaches her hand into the bag and pulls out…two reds! Two skittles of the same color! It’s Ashley’s lucky day because two skittles of the same color means she’s allowed to chew up and swallow everything in her mouth: the two red skittles and the ones from the last round (and any other rounds).

The catch is, Ashley doesn’t have forever to chew and swallow. She has to stop chewing when it’s her turn again, or when someone else draws two skittles of the same color, whichever comes first. That may not seem like a big deal, but when you’ve been playing for a few rounds and you’ve got eight skittles in your mouth, trying to speed-chew them isn’t the easiest thing in the world. Then if your chew-and-swallow time is over because someone else drew two of the same color, you’re stuck with a wad of half-chewed-up skittles in your mouth to hang onto until you’re lucky enough to draw two of the same color again.

The player who lasts the longest without gagging or spitting out their skittles wins! (Or, this is one of those games that’s kind of played without a winner.)

OK, I admit it, typing this up is kind of making me gag. But it’s one of those gross silly games that can be fun under the right circumstances. Just don’t play around my grandma, who doesn’t approve of candy and who once claimed she could hear our teeth rotting as the game progressed.

Which brings me to, brush your teeth after.

[whispered creepily] Taste the rainbow.

Happy playing!

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).

White elephant gift exchange

What it is: A gift exchange party activity, usually played at Christmas parties, where guests bring gifts and, through a series of complex rules, exchange them. Lots of laughs are usually involved. Be advised, it’s also a better game for teens or adults than kids, because, yes, some people are bound to end up with better gifts than others, and adults are less likely to cry and throw fits when that happens. 😉

Best for: About 15 to 20 people.

What you need: First, you’ll need little slips of paper with numbers written on them, one number for each guest. Start at 1 and work up from there. Put the slips of paper in a bowl or hat for guests to draw from.

Next, instruct each guest who wants to play to bring a wrapped gift to the party. It is important that the gift is wrapped. It’s also often a good idea to set boundaries ahead of time for what the gift might be. In lots of white elephant exchanges I’ve been in, used gifts are fine (and even encouraged), but you could rule out used gifts if you wanted to. You can also set a monetary limit (like no more than five dollars).

If you’ve never done a white elephant gift exchange before, there seems to be a general perception of what makes a good white elephant gift. It’s often something quirky, random, regifted, and/or funny. That ugly fur hat you’ve had in the back of your closet but never worn, for instance, is sure to get a few laughs. Or a pair of ridiculous fuzzy slippers. Maybe a backscratcher shaped like a claw. Once I saw someone bring a live hermit crab (that was a surprise when it was opened). The point is, it doesn’t have to be expected or normal; the quirky stuff is often the most fun. There always seems to be a selection of more normal gifts, too (candles, bath salts, chocolate and candy…) and that’s fine and great. Personally, the only type of white elephant gifts I don’t like are obvious junk or trash (like dirty socks). To me, that’s just plain mean and you feel sorry for the person who ends up with it.

How to play: To start the game, have everyone put their wrapped gifts in a pile in the center of the room. Then have everyone else sit in a circle around the gifts.

Go around the circle and have each guest draw a number. Have them hold onto their slips of paper because it will be important to remember which number everyone has. The person who drew number 1 (we’ll call her Julie) goes first.

Julie starts by picking a gift, any gift she wants, from the pile in the center and opening it in front of everyone. As Julie is picking, no one else is allowed to say which gift they brought (but they can say after she’s chosen and started opening the gift). After she opens the gift, she holds it up for everyone to see and either admire (woah, awesome vintage Star Wars poster!), covet (I must have that five-pound bag of gummy bears!) or laugh at (haha, a Superman snuggie!).

Then whoever has number 2 (we’ll call him Jack) gets to go next. Now Jack has two options. He can either “steal” Julie’s gift, if he really wants that snuggie, or he can choose a new unopened gift from the pile, open it, and let everyone see. Let’s say he opts to open a new gift and gets a board game.

Now it’s number 3’s turn (let’s say her name is Katelyn). Katelyn gets the option of stealing Julie’s snuggie or Jack’s board game, or choosing a completely new gift. Say she wants Julie’s snuggie. All she has to do is walk over and take it (Julie has to let it go). But then Julie gets the option of stealing a different gift or opening a new gift from the pile. If she chooses Jack’s board game, then Jack gets the option to steal a gift or open a new one…and the round ends when someone finally opens a new gift from the pile.

That’s the basic game play, and you continue until the last gift from the pile is opened. Then everyone gets to take home the gift they’re holding, either excited (yes, I always wanted a snuggie!) or maybe a little bummed (man, I think I’ll just save this fake potted plant until next year’s white elephant and give it away then) or possibly full of regret (why didn’t I steal that bag of gummy bears when I had the chance?), but such is the nature of a white elephant gift exchange, and hopefully everyone still had fun. Now, to make the game possibly a little more fair and less likely to result in disappointment, read on to some of the rules and variations below.

Rules and variations: I think one universal rule is that there are no immediate steal-backs. So, for example, if Katelyn stole the snuggie from Julie, Julie couldn’t steal it back right away. If you wanted, however, you could allow Julie to steal it back during the same round, just not right away. (So say if Katelyn stole Julie’s snuggie, then Julie stole Brian’s Disney princess lunchbox, then Brian stole Ashley’s chocolate truffles, then Ashley stole the Disney princess lunchbox, then Julie would have the option of fairly stealing the snuggie back if she wanted.) That rule could be debatable, though…

Another pretty universal rule is that there’s no hiding of a gift after you’ve opened it. All gifts must be kept out and in plain sight of everyone. (This keeps that sneaky guy who opened the $10 gift certificate to Coldstone from hiding it under his chair undetected the whole game long just so no one will steal it.)

Another very common rule I’ve played with is to “freeze” a gift after it has been stolen a certain number of times, usually 2 or 3. So let’s say in your circle you have a super desirable gift, like a five-pound bag of gummy bears, that everyone wants. If you have a rule that gifts can only be stolen 3 times, whoever is the third lucky person to steal the gummy bears gets them for keeps. It would work like this: if Julie opened the gummy bears, then Jack stole them a few rounds later (one steal), then Katelyn stole them the round after that (two steals), then Isaac finally stole them after that (three steals), Isaac would get to keep them for the rest of the game; no one would be allowed to steal them away. This rule kind of also adds an element of strategy to the game. If you really want something, try to be the third person to steal it and you’re set.

Another rule I’ve played with is to, at the very end of the game, let whoever drew number 1 choose to steal any un-frozen gift in the circle if they want, because this person is kind of at a disadvantage, especially if they just happen to pick a lame gift (a ball of yarn? really?) and no one ever picks it from them. So let’s say Julie was the first person to go and picked a ball of yarn. At the end of the game, she would get the option to steal any un-frozen gift: say the nice boxed set of dominoes from Jack. Then you have two options. You can either have Julie and Jack do a straight-up trade, so Jack is stuck with the ball of yarn (sorry, Jack), or Julie can put the ball of yarn back in the middle of the circle, steal the dominoes, and then another round of stealing starts, with Jack choosing whatever un-frozen gift in the circle he wanted, until someone in the circle ends up taking the ball of yarn again and the game officially ends. The first option ends the game quicker; the second option can drag out the game longer.

Additionally, because in every game there usually is at least one gift that’s just kind of sad, and some poor guest opens it and gets stuck with it for the rest of the game, my mom always played with a twist that I liked; it makes the “loser” feel less jipped. My mom always prepared ahead of time one or two wrapped “consolation prizes,” usually just simple, ordinary things like candy or maybe a small gift card. Then at the very end of the game, everyone votes on the one or two worst gifts to end up with, and those people get the consolation prizes and feel not so bad about life.

I’m sure there are other rules you could play with that I’m forgetting or not aware of. Anyone else have another rule or variation to share?

(Oh, and side note if you’re curious, none of the sample people mentioned in this post are real people I’ve played with, of course…but some of the gifts are ;))