Parlour Games for Modern Families

With social distancing and keeping us indoors much more than before, some (old) new games and activities might be just the thing to keep you entertained. Parlour Games for Modern Families by Myfanwy Jones and Spiri Tsintziras is full of activities to bring some mental stimulation, silliness and laughter, joy and connection back into your living room.

The book is bursting with games of logic and memory, wordplay, card games, role-play, and rough and tumble. Every game uses equipment you’ll easily find in your average home: a pack of cards, a dictionary, an hourglass, dice, paper and pen.

Have a look at some of our favourites (we get very competitive when it comes to Flip the Kipper!).


Also known as Fictionary, Spoof Words, or the trademarked Balderdash, this great game not only helps you learn new words but also tests the ability of players to devise and deliver wacky definitions for obscure words while keeping a straight face.

For two to 12 players (ages nine and up). You will need a dictionary, pen, and identical pieces of paper. Playing time, 10 minutes per word. 

Object of the game: To pull one over your opponents with plausible definitions for obscure words.


One person (the 'reader', if you like) uses the dictionary to look up a word that they believe will be unknown to most people. He states the word to the group, and if anyone knows what the word means, a new word is chosen. He writes down the real definition on a piece of paper. All the other players then set about making up a definition for the word, which they write down on their piece of paper. For example:

Word: mirza 
Jo: 'A mermaid crossed with a pizza.' 
Marian: 'A person who sleepwalks.' 
John: 'A person who smells.' 
Actual meaning: A royal prince

All the definitions are given to the reader and mixed in with the real definition. He then reads all these out to the rest of the players, while trying to keep a straight face. Each player then has to guess which de nition they believe is the correct one. The game is scored as follows:

If a player guesses the correct meaning, they get two points. If a player's definition gets a vote from others, they get one point. If no one guesses the real de nition, the reader gets two points.

Play then rotates around the group, giving everyone a chance to be the reader. The player with the most points at the end wins.

VARIATION: There are a number of ways to play this game, but one simple way is to have a player choose an obscure word from the dictionary and make up three definitions on the spot. Then, they share these with the other players, along with the real definition. The person with the dictionary gets one point for every guess that is incorrect, and the dictionary is passed on to the next player. The person with the most points at the end of the game wins.


After studying a tray full of objects, these objects are hidden, and players have to seek, in the recesses of their brains, to remember what on earth they were. It is also known as Kim's Game, because the main character played it during his spy training in Rudyard Kipling's 1901 novel, Kim. Fun and competitive, the Memory Tray is also a great exercise in observation and recall.

For two to six players, age five and up. You will need a tray, a cloth, between 10 and 20 small objects, paper and pen, and a stopwatch. Playing time, 10 minutes. 

Object of the game: To remember as many of the objects as you can.


One player is nominated the conductor, and he gathers together between ten and 20 small household objects and places them on a tray. Absolutely anything will do: a pencil, an orange, a paperclip, a mobile phone, a pair of spectacles, etc. 

He should adapt the number of articles to suit the ages of the players, and increase it as they get better at the game. 

Players are then given one minute to study and memorise the items, before the tray is covered with a cloth. They are then given two minutes to write down as many items as they can remember from the tray. 

Players submit their lists, after which they can look again at the Memory Tray to see what they got wrong and right. 

For each item remembered correctly, one point is scored. However, if a player writes down an item that was never there, they lose a point. 

The conductor then conceals the tray again and secretly removes a single item. When he brings it back, players study the tray, and the rst person to work out what is missing wins three bonus points.


We love this game. It is absurdly simple, and yet children and adults seem to take equal pleasure in it and become hilariously competitive. We learnt it from an octogenarian named Rose at the Norfolk Bowling Club in England, who was taught it by her grandmother.

You will need newspaper and scissors, pen, books for flapping. Playing time,10 minutes

OBJECT OF THE GAME: To get your kipper over the finish line first.


To make the kippers, draw a simple fish shape onto an old newspaper and then cut around it (through the layers). The fish should be roughly 40cm long. 

You should now have a nice stack of newspaper kippers; give one to each player and have them write their names on the fish, for later identification. 

You will need to have a decent-sized floor space cleared of any obstructions. Create a start and finish line at either end of the room. Make it as long as you can. 

Players each need a book to flap: this creates the wind to propel their kipper along. Try to use books of roughly the same size to make it fair. (We use matching books from a set of school readers; magazines would also be good.) 

Players line up in a row with their kippers. At 'go', they flap their books wildly to race their kippers across the oor and over the finish line. The first kipper over the line wins.

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Parlour Games for Modern Families

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