Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Windows and Mirrors: A Program about Diversity for Grades 4-5

Activity 3: Victorian Parlor Games

Activity time: 10 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • For Lookabout: A small object
  • For Charades: Scrap paper and pencils for all participants, two baskets or bowls, a timepiece with a second hand

Preparation for Activity

  • Arrange chairs or identify a carpeted area for children to sit in a circle.
  • Optional: For Charades, you may wish to prepare a list of Charles Dickens book and story titles, a list of phrases from the Unitarian Universalist Principles or a list of names of congregational members and staff for children to act out. If you prepare the phrases, you need not form teams; instead, invite one volunteer at a time to mime for the group.

Description of Activity

Gather in a seated circle. Tell the children:

In Charles Dickens's day, in England , indoor games were popular with all ages. There wasn't much equipment needed so the very wealthy or the very poor might have played the same games. Let's play a few now to experience how Charles Dickens and his family might have spent a Sunday afternoon.

Lead as many games as time allows.


Ask a volunteer to be the hider and give them a small object. The hider shows it to the others, who then leave the room. Ask the hider to hide it someplace the lookers can see it without having to move anything out of the way. Bring others back and invite everyone to look for the item in silence. When they spot the item, they should sit down. The last one looking becomes the next hider.


One person volunteers to be the auctioneer, and leaves the room. Each of the others "forfeits" a special item that belongs to them and sets it in the center of the circle. Then, the auctioneer returns and chooses an item to "sell." In order not to forfeit their item, the owner must claim it and do something the auctioneer or the group requests. Owners may choose to forfeit an item instead of complying with a request; auctioneers might say "Going once, going twice, not sold!" and move on to another item.

To give multiple participants a chance to be the auctioneer, invite each child who reclaims an item to auction off the next item. However, allow the original auctioneer to continue choosing the items for "sale," as they are the only child who will not know who forfeited which item.

Set parameters for requests ahead of time; participants might be asked to sing, dance, balance a book on their head, tell a riddle or a "knock-knock" joke, etc.

Make sure items are returned to their owners after the game.

The Minister's Cat

Choose a participant to go first. Move clockwise around the circle to continue.

The first player describes the minister's cat with an adjective beginning with an "a;" for example, "The minister's cat is an awkward cat." The second player describes the minister's cat with an adjective beginning with a "b," the third uses an adjective beginning with a "c," and so on. When the alphabet is done, start again with "a."

A player is "out" when they cannot think of an adjective or they say one already used.

You can set a pace and time limits by having the group clap on their thighs throughout the game; players who miss their rhythm cue are "out."


Charades is the quintessential parlor game. Form two teams and ask each to gather on opposite sides of the room. Distribute paper and pencils to all participants and give each team a basket. Instruct each person to write down a common phrase, famous person's name, book title or movie title on paper, fold the paper, and place it in the basket.

Teams alternate turns. For each turn, one team member chooses a paper from the basket and acts out what's on it so their teammates can guess the phrase, person, book title or movie title. Common charades gestures are:

  • Miming opening a book or cranking an old-fashioned movie camera
  • Fingers held up to indicate the number of words in a phrase
  • Fingers placed on forearm to indicate the number of syllables in a word.
  • Fingers held up to indicate which word or which syllable will be mimed
  • Miming stretching a string to indicate a longer version of a word that has been guessed.

Including All Participants

If the group includes children with vision impairment, do not play Lookabout or Charades.