A game of charades can be chaos, but when playing with young kids the game goes to a new level of silliness!
Not only do you have to teach them how to play the game of charades, but you also have to make sure the ideas are simple enough for kids of mixed ages to comprehend, and act out.
Helping children understand the basics of charades will take some explaining. But follow our step by step explanations and it will be a breeze.
We will walk through of all the fundamental gestures of the game, with examples and illustrations to help you explain this to your teams.
Also included is a long list of ideas for charades that are suitable to kids of young ages, across eleven topics and categories friendly for kids. All downloadable for free in a PDF game pack.
Preparing To Play Charades With Kids
Before you get started you will need to prepare some basic materials:
- A timer or a stopwatch – you can use your phone for this of course
- Pre-cut blank slips of paper for making charade games cards (or just download the above printouts!)
- A notepad for scorekeeping
- Two baskets, hats or any container for the pieces of paper containing the charades ideas for kids
After you prepared the materials, follow the steps below:
1. Pick Team Members
Divide the kids into even teams.
The larger the teams the better, and ideally you will have at least six kids in each team. This may not be possible on family game night so work with who you have.
If you have a mix of ages and genders, then keeping the teams as balanced as possible will make for a closer game that should stay enjoyable for both teams for longer.
2. Prepare The Topic Ideas for Kids
If you want to get the children involved and DIY your game preparation you can follow these steps to gather your charade ideas for kids.
Put the two teams in two separate rooms and give them equal number of blank strips of paper. Each team will write their ideas on blank strips of paper that will serve as charades cards.
You can involve the parents to guide the kids and make sure what they are including is manageable for the age group of the players.
You can suggest favorite movies, cartoon characters, television shows, superheroes, songs. Anything goes, but it will help to set some general rules on what to write on the charades cards.
Here’s some example of the rules that you may want to consider for playing charades:
- Set the maximum number of words that’s allowable. It could be seven words or two or three, depending on the age of the children.
- Names that are not familiar to all of the kids should be excluded. For example, a family member one of the players.
- Keep it to fun stuff!
As much as possible use super popular names that any kid would know; The Lion King, Harry Potter, Frodo… you get the idea.
If you are working with young children, it is best to show them some examples, or prepare some kids charades cards that the children can readily use.
For young children, you may be better off having all prepared picture flash cards for the game and some easier charades topics.
3. Fill Containers with Charades Ideas
After the topics have been decided, place the charades cards inside the designated containers.
Label each container if needed, or color code it to avoid any confusion.
If you have gone the DIY route you will need to have separate containers for each team. Remember to ensure that each team has approximately the same number of topics to choose from.
4. Show Examples And Practice
Now that you have all the materials ready – charade cards, timer, and notepad, you and the kids need to actually to review hand gestures commonly used in playing a game of charades.
If this is the first time the children are playing, it is best to show them how to use hand gestures in charades.
You act out an example yourself or provide the illustrations we have included below. You can hang these up to be used as reminders throughout the game.
This is a big help for new players and ensures a fun game!
How To Play Charades With Kids
Now that you have ideas for kids, and all the materials ready – charade cards, timer, and notepad. You and the kids need to actually to review hand gestures commonly used in playing charades.
This game can get overwhelming quickly for children who are new to it. So walking through each element of the game at a pace that suits the group will ensure everyone feels included and is enjoying themselves.
We will start with the Categories – which are the easiest to act out.
Charades Category Actions
The first step when acting out any word is to indicate the category for the phrase you will be acting out clues for.
There are six actions that should cover off most categories, and learning these first can build some good momentum with a group of children who could be a little confused at the concept before they try things.
By having the group act out each of these category actions it will help build confidence and some momentum in the game.
Action phrases are the exception here. You can skip this step as just doing the action will be the fastest way to guess the word. For example, moving your arms in a freestyle swimming motion is a quick and easy way to guess swimming.
Songs & Nursery Rhymes
Hold an invisible microphone and mouth the words to a song
Draw a TV shaped box in the air
Imitate a cameraman holding and cranking an old fashioned movie camera
Open both palms up as if you are holding and reading a book.
Place Or Location
Draw a circle on your palm and point on it as if you are pointing to a specific location.
Character Or Person
For non-specific person such as a teacher, doctor, fireman and even a witch. The actor just needs to stand properly and put his or her hands on the hips.
Charades Word & Syllable Actions
Once the category has been identified, the next step is to set the parameters of the word to make it easier to guess.
This can take some practice to get everyone thinking in a way that will make the game flow smoothly. As we work through each gesture below, we have included an example that seeks to build on each step.
If you are with a new group of children that have never played before, being able to introduce these one at a time with examples at each step should get enough repetition in so that it is easier to remember.
How Many Words?
Hold up your fingers facing outwards.
Keep the number of fingers lifted that match the number of words in the phrase you are acting out.
Example: Itsy Bitsy Spider
Hold up three fingers indicating three words
Which Word To Act Out?
Your raised fingers indicate how many words there are in your phrase.
We can then indicate which word to act out by assuming the words are in order from left to right.
If we point to the first finger, then we are going to act out the first word.
Example: Itsy Bitsy Spider
Point to your third finger from left to right
Begin to act out the word Spider
You can indicate a big word by stretching your arms or hands out wide.
This is a great third step to help give clues for what you will act out and can be used for anything with multiple syllables.
Example: Old McDonald
Following the above flow we could use the actions:
And then act out the phrase.
For single syllable words we can use an opposite gesture indicating a small word.
All you have to do is hold up the thumb and index finger as close as possible to each other without the fingers touching.
And then act out the phrase.
This means that the word that the actor is about to act sounds like a more common word.
There are two common ways to do this. First, you can tug your earlobe or cup your whole ear as indicated in the picture.
Example: The Wheels on the Bus
Point to your ankle to indicate Heels, as a clue for Wheels.
When your approach is working the guesses from your team can get off track fast!
To start again with a new word, or idea to act out a clue you can raise your palm facing outwards.
This will slow your team down and stop the frantic guesses.
Check out the video below for a demonstration for some of the most common hand gestures:
General Rules To Play Charades
- No talking, lip movement, or other verbal hints while acting out a word.
- Acting out or pantomiming similar sounding words is allowed.
- Set a time limit – be generous here with children playing (2-3 minutes)
- Each member of the team needs to be given the chance to act out a topic or word. No member is allowed to act out twice unless all members have had their turn. But don’t be too rigid here. Its just a game…
- Every actor is allowed to act each phrase with any gestures that they like.
- Decide on a signal to make when a member of the team guessed the correct word.
- Avoid making any unnecessary noise such as booing, clapping or whistling.
- The guessers of the team are allowed to ask the actor but the actor can only confirm “yes” or “no” by nodding. Any extra hints can mean the end of their turn.
- An equal number of charades cards for each team is necessary.
- The actor cannot tell the other members of the team what is written on the charade cards.
Charades Ideas For Kids
Here is a full word list under possible categories, with charades ideas for each. All are great ideas for kids!
Enough to keep a charades game going for hours!
Songs & Nursery Rhymes
- The Wheels on the Bus
- Twinkle Twinkle
- Im a Little Tea Pot
- Little Bo Peep
- Old Mcdonald
- The Ants go Marching
- Humpty Dumpty
- It’s Raining It’s Pouring
- Itsy Bitsy Spider
- Row Row Your Boat
- Happy & You Know it
- Baa Baa Black Sheep
- Jack and Jill
- Mary had a Little Lamb
- Rockabye Baby
- Brushing Teeth
- Harry Potter
- Angry Birds
- Finding Dory
- Sleeping Beauty
- Captain America
- Beauty and the Beast
- Finding Nemo
- Iron Man
- Alice in Wonderland
- Peppa Pig
- Sesame Street
- Doc McStuffins
- The Muppets
- Paw Patrol
- The Wiggles
- Winnie the Pooh
- Bob the Builder
- Dora the Explorer
- Sofia the First
- PJ Mask
- Lion Guard
- Thomas the Tank
- Fireman Sam
- Goldie & Bear
- Mickey Mouse
- Minnie Mouse
- Donald Duck
- Peter Pan
- Captain Hook
- Princess Jasmine
- Roger Rabbit
- Bugs Bunny
- Daffy Duck
- Buzz Lightyear
Books And Stories
- Where the Wild Things Are
- Cat in the Hat
- Wind in the Willows
- The Little Prince
- Red Riding Hood
- The Secret Garden
- Charlottes Web
- Wizard of Oz
- Jungle Book
- The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe
- Huckleberry Fin
- Never Ending Story
- Treasure Island
- My Friend Flicker
- Oh the Places You’ll Go
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
- Truck Driver
- Swimming Pool
Purchased Alternative –
If you just want o buy something off the shelf then this game pack puts a different spin on charades with the whole family.
This is a high speed game of charades so it may not be as suitable for younger kids, which is who our word list is mostly aimed at. But you can modify the words used in the game to make them beginner-friendly anyway.
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The possibilities for a charades game are endless. Of course, it is best to keep it simple and use words and phrases that are appropriate for the child’s age.
You don’t want to have a dozen kids that are frustrated because they cannot guess anything correctly.
Remember that the game needs to be entertaining, fun and educational at the same time. So while it might be a challenge to get started, by preparing as we have outlined it will be easy to get charades for kids up and running.
More Fun Activities For Kids
After you have mastered kids charades you should check out some of our other posts with some fun stuff you can do with your kids.
We have put together a list of fun brain teasers and riddles for kids that will get them scratching their heads.
But if you are looking for something easier we also have a stack of simple jokes for kids that will be sure to get a laugh!
If your little one has a new stuffed toy you can have a lot of fun, and also teach some ownership and responsibility by going through a bit of a process to think of a cute teddy bear name.
Also, check out this fun Would Your Rather question game for kids for some great ice breakers and interesting conversation starters.