Homemade Charades for Kids

by Suzanna Didier
Charades takes the art of pantomiming and turns it into a game.

Charades takes the art of pantomiming and turns it into a game.

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If you have a group of friends or family over and you're looking for something to do, think charades. You can play it almost anywhere a group of six or more kids fit -- on the porch, in your living room or even at the beach. It's an energetic game where players take turns acting out phrases while their teammates try to guess what they're doing. It sounds simple, but it can be tricky -- and really funny -- to act out a movie title like "Megamind."

Getting Started

Divide yourselves into two teams. If there's a wide age range of children, make sure each group has roughly the same number of younger and older kids. Send each team to a separate area to make phrases for the opposing team to try acting out. These can be titles of movies, books, songs, video games, or TV shows, but no longer than six or seven words. Write them on slips of paper and make a stack for the older kids. Create a separate pile for the younger kids which includes simple actions like "getting into a sleeping bag," and funny nouns like, "windshield wipers."


Gather the teams back together and flip a coin to decide who starts. The first player draws a phrase from one of the piles the opposing team created. Pick a time keeper from the opposing team, give the actor a little time to look over the phrase and when she's ready, give her two minutes to act it out. She can't point to anything in the room as a clue or make any sound. If her team guesses correctly before the time runs out, they get one point. If not, the point goes to the other team. Play now moves to the second team and continues until all players have acted out a phrase for their teams.

Finer Points, Part 1

Since the actor can't make any noises, everything is pantomimed -- you can't even hum or growl as a clue. There are a few shortcuts, though, that can tip your teammates off to the type of phrase you're acting out: pretend to crank an old movie camera for a movie title, indicate a book title by acting as if you're reading, dramatically mime singing for a song title, for a video game move your thumbs around as if you're playing, and draw a rectangle in the air for a TV title.

Finer Points, Part 2

There are a few more tricks players should have up their sleeves. Indicate the number of words in your title by holding up the same number of fingers. You don't have to act the words out in order, but indicate which word you're working on by holding up that number of fingers. If you want to work on a word by syllables (foot -- ball), lay the correct number of fingers on your forearm. Sometimes a word is too hard to act out ("things"), but rhymes with an easy word ("wings") -- tug on your earlobe to indicate that what you're acting "sounds like" the word in your phrase. Other shortcuts: form your hands into a "T" to indicate "the" and steeple them for the word "a. " When a teammate guesses correctly, point to him with one finger and to your nose with other -- the guess was "right on the nose."


When a younger child can't understand or read a phrase, select a player from the opposing to coach her. If you get really stumped during the game, try asking the actor questions -- he can respond with a shake of her head. Finally, draw on the physical language that develops during the game; if one of your teammates acted out "bee" earlier and your clue has "bee" in it, use the same motions.

Photo Credits

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