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All-purpose party games

  • FamilyFun magazine
  • Published Wednesday, Sep. 12, 2012, at 7:09 p.m.

Check out these five indoor and outdoor activities that boost the festivities at birthdays, reunions, picnics and more:

Tacos and Bridges

A whole lot of silliness ensues in this crazy musical chairs-style game.

•  Great for: All ages

•  Number of players: At least seven, but not a number divisible by three

•  How to play: Choose one person to be the caller. At “Go,” the whole group mills about the play area, until the caller yells out “Tacos” or “Bridges.” All players, including the caller, must then scramble to get into a three-person taco or bridge formation. Whichever player is not in a trio becomes the new caller.

For a taco: Two players hold hands to be the taco shell, and a third player stands between them as the filling.

For a bridge: Two players make an arch for the bridge, and a third player crouches beneath them as the water.

Variation: Make spaghetti — two players are noodles, sitting with legs outstretched, feet touching; the third sits in the middle as the meatball.

Paper Dance

The dance floor gets smaller and smaller in a rocking contest that requires lots of energy to get your groove on — and lots of balance to keep it.

•  Great for: All ages

•  Number of players: Five or more

•  How to play: Select a playlist of fast-paced songs, then choose one player to be the DJ. Divide the rest of the players into teams of two and give each team a full sheet of newspaper. While the DJ spins the tunes, the players must dance only on the paper. If a player touches the floor beyond, the team sits down. Each time the DJ stops the music, any players still standing fold their papers in half, then boogie down again on the dwindling dance floor. The game continues until only one team is left shimmying.

Variations: Give a sheet of newspaper to each player. Or up the challenge by having the DJ call out specific dance moves, such as jumping into the air, dancing on one foot, or doing the twist, during each round.

Sing Down

You don’t have to be a rock star, but you’d better know the words in this game, which has players racking their brains to recall song lyrics, then clearing their throats to croon them.

•  Great for: Ages 5 to adult

•  Number of players: Five or more

•  How to play: Choose one player to be the judge, then divide the rest of the group into teams and give each a pen and paper. The judge makes a list of words found in songs the players might know (moon, snow, Christmas, happy, dog, and love are all good choices).

When he announces the first word, the teams have two minutes to list songs with that word in the lyrics. After time is called, the teams take turns singing songs from their lists; at least one person per team must be able to sing at least one line that contains the word. Teams get a point for each song on no other team’s list.

Variation: Teams must sing each song from the beginning and stop precisely at the chosen word. If they go beyond the word, the other team can try to sing it, if the song is on their list.


Moos and oinks fill the air as players race to find their fellow animals in this hilariously noisy menagerie matchup.

•  Great for: All ages

•  Number of players: Six or more

•  How to play: Choose one person to be the farmer. Her job is to think of two to four types of farm animals, then whisper one to each player. (To help younger kids remember their assignments, write or draw the animals on index cards.) At “Go,” each player belts out his or her animal’s sound (a goat’s bleat or a chicken’s squawk, for example) and runs to find other players making the same noise. The first group to herd itself together and sit down wins.

Variation: After a few rounds, mix it up with animals found in a zoo, jungle or pet shop so that players can make different sounds.


In this comical and competitive costume swap, eagle-eyed observers come out ahead.

•  Great for: Ages 4 and up

•  Number of players: Eight or more

•  How to play: Gather a bag of large and small accessories — jewelry, wigs, scarves, ties, ribbons, watches, mittens, sunglasses, sports equipment — then divide the group into two teams. The first team chooses two or three players to don as many accessories as they can in 30 seconds, in front of the whole group. The dressed-up players then immediately go into another room to trade some of their gear. When they return, their team members have two minutes to identify the switches, earning a point for each correct guess. When time is up, the other team can earn points for any switches they catch that the first team missed, before picking two or three players from their team to be the new costume swappers.

Instant fun

•  Make the Party Pop: Tape bubble wrap to the sidewalk outside your front door so that arriving guests can make a joyful noise.

•  Say Cheese: Set up a photo-shoot station with a digital camera and a festive background (try hanging a piece of fabric-wrapped cardboard). Later, e-mail guests their snapshots as an electronic favor.

•  Sign Off: For an easy keepsake, hang a poster board for guests to doodle on and sign in between games.

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