How to Play Charades

Charades is a fun game that any age level can participate in. The object of the game is to communicate a word without using any verbal communication. It requires a small need of preparation, a lot of imagination, and sometimes a good laugh!


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    Cut strips of paper and write different words or short phrases (usually nouns) on them (they can be things like: 'Walk a Dog' 'lizard' 'basketball player' 'beauty', or you may try harder ones like 'rug' 'sofa' 'fork'. Good words can also include popular movies, or TV shows. Start out with about 5 pieces of paper per person. This step is not necessary if you are playing without teams- players can think up their own charades. If you want a quick start, use a website to generate some cards for playing with instead, e.g. or
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    Realize that classic Charades uses the following categories:
    • Quotations: denoted by fingers of both hands making quote signs.
    • Movies: one hand held up to eye as if looking through a camera lens, one hand cranking like an old-fashioned movie camera.
    • Books: hands together in front of you, then opening like they make up a book.
    • Plays: down on one knee, arms out in a flamboyant gesture (think Shakespeare).
    • Songs: hands moving out from mouth.
    • TV Shows: index fingers forming a small rectangle.
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    Be sure the phrase or title you pick is likely to be familiar to everyone in the group.
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    Place the pieces of paper into a hat or bag. Just make sure that no one can see inside when they pull one out.
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    Understand that when playing with teams in Classic Charades, each team writes the phrases for the opposite team to act out, so two hats or bags are used.
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    Ask the first player or team to choose a piece of paper.
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    Communicate the number of words and syllables in the word or phrase.
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    When playing Classic Charades, begin by gesturing the category of the phrase or title followed by the number of words.
    • Raise your fingers to indicate the number of words. Two fingers equals two words, three fingers means three words, etc.
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    Start acting. The player must act out or otherwise communicate the meaning of that word to the audience - without speaking or vocalizing to the audience at all. (Frustrated groans are usually allowed.) Once you start acting, the audience can start shouting out their guesses.
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    Communicate the number of syllables by placing the corresponding number of fingers on your forearm.
    • Perhaps you'd like to act out the first syllable of the second word, which has three syllables total. Hold up two fingers to indicated the second word (someone will hopefully shout out "second word"). Tap three fingers in the crook of your arm for "three syllables total", then one finger for "first syllable". Act out the syllable.
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    Use common hints to communicate the type of word. Some non-verbal common hints include:
    • "Sounds like" - Cup your hand to your ear or pull your earlobe.
    • "Short word" - thumb and index finger close together. Commonly used for "a", "the", "of", "and".
    • "Shorter or longer version of the word you're guessing" - hands upright pushing together or pulling apart.
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    Let the audience know when they are getting close or farther.
    • "Getting warmer" - Hand on head to wipe away sweat, or nodding head and "come on" motion with hands.
    • "Getting colder" - Hands crossed and shivering or shaking head.
    • "You've got it!" - one index finger pointing to person who guessed word or syllable correctly, with other index finger on your nose. They got it right "on the nose".
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    Listen carefully to your audience. The turn is over when you acknowledge a correct guess of the phrase or title. At this point, you may say "yes". When the correct word or phrase is guessed or the allotted time runs out, the game stops and switches to the next player or team.


  • You may play as teams, as individuals, for points, for money, or just for fun.
  • Try using hand signals to help guide the others along. You might hold up two fingers to indicate a total of two words, subsequently following with one and two fingers to indicate the "first word" or "second word", respectively.
  • Be creative with your nouns! Movie titles, or characters work very well with Charades. Just make sure it's age group appropriate.
  • If you aren't having fun, or your nouns are a little dull, maybe you need to have everyone write down one or two without showing any one what they are, and then start again. You never know what will become an inside joke, and you can get a variety of ideas from this method!


  • Don't forget that it's a game! Have fun with it. There's no need to get too competitive.
  • If it does get competitive, watch out. Some people are really good at guessing the correct answer out of the blue.

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Categories: Party Games