Five Fun Parlour Games To Play With Your Pre-Teen

… and create some precious family memories - off-line!

“Parlour Games” is such an antiquated term isn’t it?  You can almost feel your kids’ deep sigh and eye roll before you’ve even made the suggestion, can’t you?!

But let’s be very honest here - kids don’t stay kids forever and most of us only holiday once or twice a year.  That leaves many of us with perhaps a dozen more chances to create some lasting holiday memories before they’re off back-packing, gap-yearing and flying the nest. Time to get ruthless!

Here’s a radical suggestion: try booking your next family holiday somewhere remote.  Hiking, cycling, exploring villages or vineyards or simply setting out to find a particularly deserted stretch of beach, are all the sort of activity that give the family an opportunity to work together, to do things as a team.

When back at the hotel for down time, even if there is wifi available, try to limit access to it.  Pack the ipod/pad/phone/watch in the room safe for the hours between dinner and bed and reconnect with each other rather than the internet.

Are you breaking out in a cold sweat already?! Consider these very pertinent points:

  • Parlour games are free. You don’t need boards or little bits of plastic that somehow disappear almost as soon as they’re released from the box.
  • Parlour games are sustainable. No “stuff” required.
  • Parlour games engage body and mind. And require active participation, whether it be using maths or language skills, deductive thinking, problem solving, strategy, memory, fine or gross motor skills, hand-eye coordination or simply general dexterity.
  • Parlour games teach life skills. You learn all about winning, losing, taking turns and following rules, within a safe and fun environment.
  • Parlour games nurture creativity.
  • Parlour games bring us together.
  • Parlour games are FUN!

Now that you’re a little more persuaded, let us suggest some good old fashioned games to ease your family’s transition out of the Matrix.

  Spoken Game: It Could Be Worse Your pre-teens may find this one appropriate upon learning that the wifi is unavailable.
Players: 2 or more
Ages: 7 and up
Required: a healthy sense of catastrophe
Playing time: 5 mins
Object: To think of the worst thing you can explosion
How to Play:
The starting player describes a fairly unassuming event, for example: “I was late for school this morning”. The second player tries to top that by proposing how the event could have been worse; for example: “It could be worse, you could have tripped on a log on the way to school”. The next player proposes something worse again, such as, “It could be worse, you could have hurt yourself and been taken to hospital”, and so on until the worst possible scenario has been thought up.
  Card Game: Pig A nice way to introduce younger children to playing cards.
Players: 3 to 10
Ages: 4 and up
Required: Four equally ranking cards (ie four ones) per player. For four players you might use 4 x aces, 4 x twos, 4 x threes and 4 x fours = 16 cards.
Playing time: 10 mins
Object: To collect a full set of one rank in order to end the game - or to not be the last person who notices when someone else does! pig
How to Play:
Shuffle the small deck well then deal out four cards to each player, one at a time. At an agreed signal, and assuming no one has been dealt four of a kind, all players pass one card to their left and receive one card from their right. It works well to have the youngest player set the pace by saying “pass” when they are ready to pass, so no one is left behind.
Play continues thus, until someone has collected four cards of equal rank, for example 4 x aces, at which point they silently place their finger on their nose. At varying speeds, other players will notice and silently follow suit. The last person to put their finger to their snout is “Pig”. Oinking noises are optional.
  Games of Motion: Flip the Kipper Absurdly simple yet such a giggle and great for those with a competitive streak
Players: 3 to 10
Ages: 3 and up
Required: Newspaper, scissors, pen and magazines or books for flapping. You will also need a decent sized floor space, clear of obstructions.
Object: To get your kipper over the finish line first   fish
How to Play:
To make the Kippers, draw a simple fish shape, roughly 40cm long, onto an old newspaper, then cut around it through all the layers. You should now have a nice stack of newspaper kippers. Give one to each player and have them write their names on the fish for identification later.
Create a start and finish line at either end of your space. Make it as long as you can. Players each need a book or magazine to flap: this creates wind to propel the kipper along. Try to use books of roughly the same size to make it fair - or try a selection of magazines, brochures or menus from the hotel reception.
Players line up in a row with their kippers. At “go” they flap their books wildly to race their kippers across the floor and over the finish line. The first kipper over the line wins.
  Game of Motion: Whomping Willow A variation on Blind Man’s Buff that should be familiar to any child of the Harry Potter generation.
Players: 3 to 10
Ages: 4 and up
Required: blindfold, 3 pairs of long socks, a sticker or a picture and some sellotape.
Playing time: infinite
Object: to avoid the Whomping Willow’s branches and get the sticker. tree
How to Play:
Ball up two pairs of socks. Take the two remaining long socks and place one balled up pair into the toes of each. The result will be two long, very soft clubs.
The first person chosen to be the Whomping Willow - usually a parent - fixes the sticker or picture to their torso and sets the blindfold in place.  The remaining players attempt to sneak up to the Whomping Willow and retrieve the sticker/picture without being Whomped. Expect much shrieking.
  Game of Deduction: Code-Breaker Also known as Bulls and Crows, is known commercially as Mastermind, but there’s nothing wrong with the pen and paper version.
Players: 2
Ages: 7 and up
Required: pen and paper
Playing time: 10 minutes
Object: to be the first to unscramble the “code” key
How to Play:
Player 1 must write down a 4-digit code using numbers between 1 and 9, for example: “1,5,7,2”. Suffice to say, their opponent is not allowed to see what the code is. Player 2 must then make a series of deductive guesses to work out what the code is, by suggesting possible combinations that are written down on a grid, such as the one below.
Player 1 code 1 5 7 2
Player 2 guesses 3 ㄨ 5 ✓ 7 ✓ 1 ㄨ
1 ✓ 5 ✓ 7 ✓ 4 ㄨ
1 ✓ 5 ✓ 7 ✓ 6 ㄨ
1 ✓ 5 ✓ 7 ✓ 8 ㄨ
1 ✓ 5 ✓ 7 ✓ 2 ✓
For example, Player 2 might suggest “3, 5, 7, 1”. In this instance the numbers 5 and 7 are correct. Player 1 places a tick next to these. He or she also places a dot next to any numbers that are present but not in the correct order - in this instance the 1. He or she places a cross next to any numbers that are wrong, in this case the 3. Player 2 now knows not to include that number in their next guess. The game proceeds as above. Player 2 receives information at each guess that helps him to break the code. As you get better at the game you can try duplicating numbers or making the code longer. You can also try playing with coloured counters, chocolates, sweets, shells… whatever you have to hand.

And don’t forget, there are always the old stalwarts, such as HangMan, Eye-Spy, Guess Who, Snap, Knuckles, Whist, Gin Rummy….. The list goes on! We highly recommend “Parlour Games for Modern Families” by Myfanwy Jones and Spiri Tsintziras, Penguin 2009 for further inspiration.

11 Feb 2016, 12:55