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How to Play Charades

Charades is a pantomine parlor game that can be played at whim. All you need is:

  1. a stopwatch or other timing device
  2. a notepad and pencil to keep score
  3. blank slips of paper
  4. two baskets or bowls for the slips of paper

To play, first divide the group into two teams of at least three people each. Have each team write titles of books, movies, TV shows, songs, or common phrases—one per slip. Fold all the slips so the words can’t be read and place each set in a separate bowl.

Whichever team starts, one player from that team blindly chooses a slip of paper from the opposing team’s bowl. This player reads what is on the paper to himself. He then proceeds to communicate the contents of the paper to his teammates through gestures and acting out. But he must do so without speaking, moving his lips, or whistling a song.

This person continues to act out the words on the paper until his teammates figure it out or the predetermined allotted time expires (usually 3 – 5 minutes). The score is for that round is the number of seconds it took for the team to decipher the correct word or phrase. The winning team is that team with the lowest score after all players have had an opportunity to choose a slip of paper and act it out.

Common Clues

Here are some clues that have become fairly universal. They are but a start. Part of the fun is coming up with ways to communicate different aspects of the clue. The only “bad” clues are the clues that no one gets.

  1. To indicate a book title, put your hands together as if you are praying, then unfold them flat.
  2. To indicate a film title, form an O with one hand to pantomime a lens while cranking the other hand as if you are operating an old-fashioned movie camera.
  3. Indicate a television show by making a box with your fingers.
  4. Make quotation marks in the air with your fingers to indicate a quote.
  5. Pose like Napoleon (with a hand on your chest and the tips of your fingers tucked partway into your shirt to indicate a famous person.
  6. Pull on your ear to indicate that the word being guessed sounds like another word.
  7. Hold up fingers to indicate the number of words in the title, quotation or name; hold up a number of fingers again to • indicate which word you want your teammates to guess.
  8. Hold fingers against your arm to indicate the number of syllables in a particular word.
  9. Pinch your thumb and forefinger or open them up to indicate a short or long word.
  10. Confirm that your partners have guessed a word correctly by tapping your index finger on your nose and pointing to the person or persons who made the correct guess.
  11. Wipe your hand across your forehead to let your teammates know that they are getting hot.
  12. Cross your arms and shiver to let them know that they are getting cold.