Archive for the ‘Table Games’ Category


Here’s a fast-paced card game for two players that will draw a crowd. It’s simple to play and fun to watch. I forgot about this game until I saw some campers playing it at Camp Sunshine in Culver City.


Objective: Be the first to use all your cards.

Equipment: One complete deck of cards, minus the jokers.

Number of Participants: 2

Set-up: Players sit opposite each other at a table. Shuffle cards and deal as follows: Count out six cards to the left pile, face-down. Count out the next six cards to the right pick-up pile, face-down. Deal out 20 cards to each player. Players place their 20 personal cards in a pile directly in front of them, face-down. This is their personal draw pile. Each player then picks up the first five cards of their personal draw pile and arranges them fanned out in their hand. Players must always have 5 cards in their hand – no more, no less. When they don’t have 5 cards in their hand, they need to pick up from their personal draw pile until that is exhausted. When one player has exhausted all the cards in their personal draw pile and their hand, they win.

How To Play: On “go”,  players turn over the top card from the draw pile on their left and put it just to the right of that draw pile, face-up. There should now be 4 card piles in the middle of the table as follows: 5 cards in the left draw pile, one card face up next to it, one other card to the right of that, and 5 more cards in the right draw pile. There should also still be one personal draw pile in front of each player with 15 cards in each.

Once the first cards are simultaneously flipped and placed in the middle, the game begins. Players must put a consecutive card from their hand on top of one of the face up cards. Players can build up or down but must never skip a number or place the same card on top of another. For example, if a face-up pile has a “6”, a player can place a “5” or a “7” on top of it, regardless of the suit or color of the card. The only thing that matters is the number or face card value. Players place their cards as quickly as possible on the face-up piles, trying to exhaust their personal draw pile and the cards in their hand before the other player. Play happens quickly. When neither player is able to play a card, they must flip a “starter” card from one of the side piles to get unstuck.


When kids have very little equipment to play with and lots of play time, they get pretty creative. Here’s a game I watched evolve over the course of the last three months at Farragut Elementary School in Culver City, CA.  It’s active, fun and addictive. Give it a try if you’re looking to add a new active game to your repertoire.


Materials: One picnic table, one playground ball (a handball works best)

Area: A picnic table that is unobstructed on the long ends by about 30 feet.

Number of Participants: Two teams of 2 – 3 players each.

Set-up: None

How To Play: Teams stand opposite each other at the long ends of a picnic table (“long end” means the part you don’t sit at). One team starts by bouncing the ball off the table top towards the other team. If the other team doesn’t catch the ball before it hits the ground on their side, the throwing team gets one point.  If the ball doesn’t hit the table top first, the receiving team gets the point. Players may throw the ball as hard or as soft as they want. Play continues until one team reaches 15 points.

I’ve seen kids throw the ball as hard as humanly possible without injury. I’ve also seen spectators sitting at the table on the bench part without incident. Once a team wins, the next challenging team may step in to play against the the winners.

Mental Simon Says

Here’s a new twist on an old game. Great for situations where you don’t have much room to move around such as in a line at an amuzement park or on a bus.

Materials: None

Area: Any

How To Play: Instruct all players to sit or stand still while this game is going on. Do not move. Rather, perform the actions in your mind and only if they are preceded by “Simon Says”. They will need to perform the action at the end when you say: “Simon Says, show me the result”.

Here’s a sample of what to say:

-Simon Says put your hands on your head.
-Simon Says to pull your left leg to your chest.
-Put your right hand over your right ear.
-If your right leg is on the ground, Simon Says to put your left hand over your left ear.
-If your right leg is behind your head, Simon Says cross your eyes.
-Simon Says, stick out your tongue.
-Simon Says, put your left leg out in front of you.
-If your right leg is on the ground, put it out in front of you like the left leg.
-Simon Says, show me the result.

All winners would get into a stance with their left leg out in front of them, their left hand over their ear, right hand on their head and their tongues sticking out. The tricky part is not actually doing the action until the very end.

Atomic Number

I learned this one from Sarah I., who was President of the Culver City Teen Center Youth Commission back in 2004. This game is a lot like Polar Bear in that the answer to the riddle is a bit deceptive. This game is great for high school students and adults who think they can do math.

Materials: None

Area: Table or room

Objective: Given any number, relate it to the “Atomic Number” which is always “4”.

How To Play: The leader of this game knows the secret. Someone calls out a number, any number. For simplicity at first, keep the numbers between zero and 99. The leader must relate that number back to the Atomic Number. The game ends when everyone in the group can demonstrate that they know how to reach the Atomic Number. The following is an example of how to play, then I will tell you what the trick is.

Example: A participant calls out a random number between 0 and 99. In this case, they call out “11”. The leader says, “11” is “6”, “6” is “3”, “3” is “5”, “5” is “4” and “4” is the Atomic Number. As you try to figure this out, here is the trick. There are no advanced math equations going on here. The trick is in the number of letters in each number. “11” has six letters– E-L-E-V-E-N. That’s why “11” is “6”. “6” has three letters– S-I-X. That’s why “6” is “3”. You get the idea. Everyone who plays thinks there is some deep pattern they need to decipher.

Polar Bear

Here is a game to keep the kids guessing. This can be played with any number of participants.

Materials: Four dice

Area: Table

Objective: Guess how many polar bears,  0 to 5.

How To Play: The leader annouces the following rules for play: “The object is to determine how many polar bears are around the ice hole. The answer will be in front of you on the table. There will be between zero and five each time.”

One staff person is the dice arranger. Arrange the dice in any random pattern; it really doesn’t matter.  The number of polar bears is actually determined by the number of fingers the staff slyly puts down next to the dice, not the arrangement of the dice.  The staff person puts their hand down on the ground next to the dice, displaying zero to five fingers. The game ends when everyone understands the trick.


Sounds gross. Real easy. This game is like splitting a wishbone.

Materials: groups of pine needles from a tree with long pine needles

Area: small sitting area

How To Play: Pine needles occur in small groups of three attached at the end. If you grab a handful of pine needles you will be playing for a while.

Get togehter in a group of two or three. Each person grabs one of the pine needles in the group and pulls. The one who has the “booger”-like attachment at the end of their pine needle, wins.

Have You Ever…?

Be careful not to let this game degenerate into nasty talk.

Materials: peanuts or chips or pennies

Area: table large enough to accommodate at least 6 players

How To Play:
One player starts by putting a penny into the pot in the middle of the table and telling one truthful statement about themself that they don’t think everybody at the table has done such as: “I ran a 4-minute mile”. Play goes to the person on the right who puts in a penny if they have run a 4-minute mile. If they haven’t, they dont’ put a penny in the middle. Once it has gone all the way around the table, the person to the right of the first person makes their truthful statement such as “I have a dog”. Everyone who has a dog puts a penny in the pot.

Play continues until one person has gotten rid of all their pennies first.