I can’t begin to imagine how stressful it must be for those of you who suddenly have to entertain tiny persons at home. My entire state has cancelled school for three weeks, then until mid April in the hopes that it may slow the spread of COVID-19. While most schools are switching to an online learning platform, there is all the time when your students aren’t engaged in learning with their teacher that may need to be filled.
As a living historian, I often share games and education from the Civil War era as well as daily life with students when I visit their classrooms. Seeing as I am unable to do that as I usually would at this time, I thought it might a bit of help if I bring the classroom to you. I am going to share a series of posts with games and activities which can be done easily at home. Another plus is that these games do not require any electronics. Today I have a few of my favorite parlor games for you and your family.
During the Victorian Era, parlor games were a popular form of entertainment. Many games were designed to be played in the small space of the parlor or a sitting room within their home. Many of these games require little to no supplies to play. For the games that do, the items can easily be found in your home.
This may be the most obvious one to begin with. It is also the easiest to adapt to the ages the children who are home with you. If you like, before you begin you can create a list of words or phrases which can be acted out. One can either write the items on strips of paper or index cards. If this is not an option, one can simply pick a random action from out of thin air. Once you have a fair number of items, put the papers into a container from which each person can choose when it is his or her turn.
Should you desire, it is an option to create teams and have a friendly competition. if you have older/teenage children, perhaps Mum and Dad could go up against them. If younger children are present, best to make sure Mum, Dad or an older sibling are paired with them.
Each group or individual will take a turn at acting out the phrase which they have chosen from the container. This individual is the current mime.
No speaking is allowed by the actors, but clues can be given, Examples as such are below. These may not be necessary if you are playing this with younger children, as they may not understand.
Phrases and words can be broken down into smaller parts. As an example- football. One could start by pointing at the foot. Then the mime could indicate kicking the ball, or throwing and catching a ball. It is common to indicate with a show of fingers how many words are included. Syllables are indicated by tapping the correct number of fingers on the forearm.
A gesture of cranking a handle, indicates a film, a square drawn in the air, a TV program, and down on one knee and flinging out the arms in a theatrical gesture indicates a play. Cupping the ear means the word needed sounds like the word being acted, while holding the fingers out and close together means the word is a short word such as "an" or "in". There are several other conventions that can be used as the game is refined and improved.
In terms of scoring, a point is awarded to the team or individual that guesses correctly within three tries. As an added rule, let it be that if the first team or individual cannot make a correct guess in three tries, they forfeit to the other team or individual- who has one try to make a correct guess. If the guess is correct, then the point is awarded to that team or individual. If that team guesses incorrectly, then the mime reveals the words or phrase with no points awarded and the game continues to the next team or individual.
I would make a suggestion to set a determined limit of points for either teams or individuals. That is, unless you want the game to go on as is possible to release as much childlike energy as is possible.
To begin, choose a person to will be blindfolded first. He or she is the “blind man.” The blindfold can be made from a bandana, piece of cloth or a towel. The other participants shall be scattered around the room.
Now that an individual has been blindfolded, an individual must (gently) spin them around several times to disorientate him or her. The blindfolded individual must then attempt to catch one of the other players.
Should they capture a fellow player, the blind man must give the identity of the person they have captured. If they get it right then he or she who has been captured must take the blindfold and play continues.
If the blind man is unable to identify whom the individual they have captured is, the prisoner goes free and play continues. To make play more interesting players may call out to the blind man to attract his or her attention. The game can go on as long as is desired, or until every individual has had a turn as the blind man.
An individual may choose a small object and show it to everyone who is participating in the game. Suitable items might include a pen, teaspoon, or small ornament. One person is chosen to remain in the room. Everyone else leaves. The item is then placed somewhere unobtrusively. It must remain on view, but it could be placed low or high or put with other items.
The other players return to the room and look around to find the chosen item. As the players look around, if they should find the hidden item, they sit down without saying where they found it. It is usually best to move some distance away from where the item was found so as not to give it away. Play continues until the last player finds the item, and then it becomes their turn to hide the object and the game starts over again.
This is a simple memory game and is a good way of quietening things down after playing the more rowdy games.
A tray is prepared containing a selection of small articles, preferably unrelated items. The children are given a time to look at the tray and try to remember the contents. The tray is covered or removed, and the children then try to make a list of the articles. It is much harder than it sounds and the memory plays many tricks.
If you wish to keep score, give a point for each correct item identified. The game can continue for as many rounds as is desired.
If you have a chance to play any of these games, please share it with me in the comments or tag me on Instagram with hashtag #flyingvsfarm.
Next in the series I’ll share how to make and play an easy at home version of Pick-Up-sticks