How to Play Charades

By Carol Finch
Charades is more fun if you ham it up.

If you've always suspected that you belong on Broadway or just enjoy getting silly with friends or family, then Charades is the game for you. Players take turns to act out words, phrases or other things without speaking, in the hope that someone guesses what they're trying to signify. Charades works for small or large groups; if you have a lot of people to entertain, say six or more, then you can add some competitive fun by playing in teams.

Get the Game Ready

Decide what kinds of things players will act out. For example, you can use words, items, films, famous people, books, TV shows or songs. You can also set a theme, such as action movies or cartoon characters. Players can choose what to act out or can write down suggestions and draw them from a pool. If you follow the suggestion route, cut up enough small strips of paper for everyone to have at least one turn.

For a team game, divide the papers between the teams, give each team a bowl and have them write suggestions that then go in their bowl. It's a good idea to set a time limit for turns -- three minutes is about right -- and ask for a volunteer to be timekeeper.

Get Players Ready to Act

Make sure everyone knows the gestures they can use when they're acting. For example, these moves show categories:

  • Book -- put the palms of your hands together and open them.
  • Movie -- make an "O" with one hand and move the other hand round in circles like you're cranking an old-fashioned camera.
  • Person -- put your hands on your hips.
  • Play -- pretend to pull a rope to open a theater curtain.
  • Quotation -- make quotation marks in the air.
  • Song -- put both hands in the air and pretend to sing.
  • TV show -- draw a rectangle in the air.

You show the number of words by holding up fingers and the number of syllables in a word by putting fingers on your arm. Tugging your ear means you're acting something that sounds like a word; putting one finger on your nose and using another to point at someone means they're guessing something right.

Step Up to the Stage

Ask for a volunteer to start the game or choose someone at random. If you have written suggestions, tell the player to pick one. In a team game, players should take papers from the other team's bowl and not their own.

You can't talk or make noises during your turn -- just use gestures and show off your acting abilities. For example, if you picked the movie Titanic, you would use the movie gesture and might then lean forward with your arms outstretched and hope that someone remembers Jack and Rose's iconic pose. In individual games, anyone in the group can guess what you're acting; in team games, only members of the actor's team can guess.

Scoring and Winning Charades

You don't have to score Charades, but it's more fun if you do. If you have a single group, give players two points each time they guess a charade correctly and one point to actors if they are guessed correctly; if nobody gets it, nobody gets any points.

In a team game, a point goes to a team if they guess correctly. If they don't get it right, you can give the other team a chance to steal the point -- if you do this, add a rule that the player who wrote the suggestion has to sit out this part of the game.

About the Author

Carol Finch has been writing technology, careers, business and finance articles since 2000, tapping into her experience in sales, marketing and technology consulting. She has a bachelor's degree in Modern Languages, a Chartered Institute of Marketing.certificate and unofficial tech and gaming geek status with her long-suffering friends and family.