How to Play Charades

Charades is a word guessing game. A player acts out a word or phrase (for example a movie or a book), while other players guess the word or phrase. The game of charades can be played in many different ways, but we have detailed the most common formats below; either teams or everyone against each other.

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  1. Equipment Required
  2. How to Play Team Charades
  3. How to Play Single Charades
  4. Acting out Charades - Clues, Signals and Gestures
  5. Charades Resources

Equipment Required

  • Notepad and pen to keep score (or you can keep score on your phone)
  • Charades phrases, either using an online generator (like this one) or write them out on paper
  • Stopwatch to keep time
acting out charades ideas

Image source: nigelpepper on Flickr

How to Play Team Charades

Preparation: Divide everyone into two teams. The players from the opposing teams pick the ideas that the other team will have to act out. The ideas can be anything from movies to books to songs to bands. Use your imagination or this online charades generator. If you have decided to write them out, place them in a container and pass it to the opposing team.

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Playing: A player from the first team selects an idea from the other team's container (or a phrase selected by the other team if not playing the written version). After reviewing the phrase, that player must act out the charade, while his or her teammates try to guess the correct answer. If they get it correct within the time limit, which is usually two or three minutes, the team scores a point.

A player from the opposing team then takes their turn and this continues until all of the ideas are used up.

The team with the most points wins. You can decide to play up to a certain score or set a time limit for the game.

Here is Bradley Cooper, Tim McGraw and Emma Thompson playing team charades with Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show!

How to Play Single Charades

Preparation: This is the simpler option where everyone is on their own! Simply decide who will start. There is no time limit, so whoever guesses correctly goes next.

Playing: The player who goes first picks a charade phrase (you can use this online generator) and acts it out for everyone to guess. The person who guesses correctly goes next, and so on.

Acting out Charades - Clues, Signals and Gestures

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Acting out Categories

  • Book: Open your hands and pretend you are opening a book
  • Movie or Film: Pretend you are using an old movie camera, holding with one hand and winding with the other
  • Person: Place your hands on your hips and stand tall
  • Place: Draw earth (a circle) in the air with your fingers and point to it
  • Play: Use your hands and pretend to pull down rope to open a theatre curtain
  • Song: Pretend to sing a song by cupping your hand to your mouth and then moving your hand away and up while opening your hand
  • TV Show: Draw a TV with your fingers - simply a rectangle in the air will do (you can add antennas if you like!)
  • Video Game: Hold your hands like you're gripping a video game controller and twiddle your thumbs
  • Action: Point two fingers down and wiggle them while moving your hand left or right (as if showing your hand is walking and your two fingers are the legs)

Basic Gestures

  • Signal the number of words in the phrase: Hold up as many fingers as there are number of words in the phrase
  • Signal the word or syllable you are about to act (if there is more than one): Hold up the corresponding number of fingers, e.g., one finger for the first word
  • Signal the number of syllables in a word: Hold the corresponding number of fingers against your forearm, e.g., two fingers against your forearm demonstrates two syllables
  • Signal a small word: Hold your index finger and your thumb close together
  • Signal a big word: Hold your index finger and your thumb far apart
  • Signal that someone guessed something correctly: Touch your nose with your index finger while looking at the person who guessed to confirm they're right
  • Signal that a word sounds like another word: Pull lightly on your ear
  • Signal the plural of the word: Hook your little fingers together
  • Signal the entire concept: Sweep your hands in a big circle

Here is a good video tutorial from Allyson McGough containing some of the gestures above:

Charades Resources

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