How to Play Cootie

By James Holloway
Young kids are playing board games.
Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images

On the playground, cooties are something to avoid, but in the classic kids game they're lovable, multi-part plastic bugs. Children race to collect different parts, with the first child to assemble a complete Cootie being the winner.

Setting Up

Before starting play, lay out the game board on a flat surface. Place each body part on the corresponding board space. You should have enough parts for four bugs, with each Cootie consisting of a head, a body, six legs, an eyepiece, a headpiece (hat, bow or antennae) and a mouthpiece (teeth, lips or tongue). Place the die (or "Cootie Cube") nearby. Players roll to see who goes first.

Playing the Game

Starting with the player who rolled the highest, each player rolls to see if they can take a piece from the board. To collect a piece, the player must roll a number that matches the one on the piece's board space. The first piece of the bug must always be the body, which corresponds to the number one, followed by the head, which is in space number two. After that, players may roll for pieces in any order. If a player gets a new piece to add to his cootie, he can immediately roll again for another; otherwise, play passes to the next player.

Winning the Game

The first player to collect all the pieces and assemble a complete Cootie is the winner. Like many other games for very young children, there's no strategy component to Cootie -- winning and losing is completely random. The fun comes from assembling a weird, colorful bug creature.

About the Author

Dr James Holloway has been writing about games, geek culture and whisky since 1995. A former editor of "Archaeological Review from Cambridge," he has also written for Fortean Times, Fantasy Flight Games and The Unspeakable Oath. A graduate of Cambridge University, Holloway runs the blog Gonzo History Gaming.