Parlor Games

Dressing Room
Sewing Room
Photo Album
Favorite Links

As the Victorians happened to have an etiquette for nearly every aspect of life, so were there rules and advice regarding parlor entertainment.  There was an overabundance of advice manuals during the era, and by the 1850s, entire books were written on the subject of proper entertainment for the parlor.  For the
most part, most of these books focused on participatory games such as Charades, Twenty questions, Tableaux, Musical chairs, Blind man's bluff, Tiddly Winks, Taboo, and I spy.  However, one could as easily be advised about quieter activities such as piecing together jigsaw puzzles, solving riddles, or reading aloud.  Playing cards and betting money, especially in Whist or Bridge, was also common among the ladies.
The Human Alphabet
Cut out squares of card and attach a cord, long enough to go over a child’s head, to the top corners (it should hang down like a breastplate). In the centre of each card, write a different letter of the alphabet. If there are fewer than 26 children, then some will need 2 letters on their board. Getting the children warmed up by marching them around in the order of the alphabet may help them to relax and when ready line them up. Words are then called out to them and those with the appropriate letters must step forward and make the word (remember not to use words that have a letter or player more than once). Simple words can be used with younger children, or to warm up older ones, such as cat, dog, fish, bird, progressing to harder such as flower, bridge, cabinet. The possibilities are, of course, endless and it can be made to suit all levels of learning.

This game consists of counting, with the peculiarity that every time the number seven is come to, or any form or combination, or possible division, the word ‘buzz’ must be substituted for it. (Seven is the tradition number used for the game, but may be substituted with, say, five to make it easier). When anyone makes a mistake by mentioning seven, or seventeen, or twenty-one etc., they have to leave the game. A leader begins by saying ‘one’, the next ‘two’ and so on: 1 2 3 4 5 6 buzz 8 9 10 11 12 13 buzz 15 16 buzz 18 19 20 buzz 22 23 24 25 26 buzz buzz 29 30 etc, until there are no players left in. Fizz Buzz may be played by substituting all fives with ‘Fizz’ and sevens with ‘Buzz’

Judge and Jury
Draw lots for a Judge and five Jury. All other players are prisoners. Each prisoner must think of the name of a famous band, footballer, television personality etc (you may like to decide in advance the limits of what type of person they can be). A prisoner stands before the Judge, who is allowed to ask six questions to them. When the judge has finished his questioning, the Jury has to guess who the prisoner is pretending to be. If the Jury’s guess is incorrect, the prisoner goes free, but if correct, the prisoner takes the place of one of the jury, who in turn must join the queue of prisoners (you can draw lots to decide who is to go). The next prisoner then goes up in front of the Judge. After, say, three trials, the Judge must swap places with one of the Jury.

Hunt the Thimble
This game is suitable for all ages from the very young upwards. All players must go out of the room whilst a thimble or other small object is put is a conspicuous place. There is no need to hide the thimble – it should be in a place where everyone can see it without touching anything (it is amazing how hard this can be to find – we regularly put thimbles in top on candles, right in the middle of a table or on a chair and it can take some time to be spotted). The game can then progress in one of two ways – either the game ends when the object has been spotted, or the players, on spotting it, must go and sit down quietly and give no clues as to its whereabouts to the others, until everyone has found it.

Hunt the Slipper
Players sit in a circle with their hands behind their backs. One player is left in the centre to guess where the ‘slipper’ is. The player in the centre shuts their eyes whilst a slipper or shoe is dropped behind one of the players in the circle. Players start to pass the slipper between them behind their backs and the person in the centre, with eyes open, must now guess where the slipper is. It is best fun played when the slipper is kept moving around the circle and players make false moves to confuse the guesser or tap the shoe occasionally on the floor. If the location of the slipper is guessed, then the person caught with it must take the place of the player who guessed correctly.

Pass the Laugh
All players sit in a circle. The player to start says ‘Ha’ loudly. The second player then says ‘Ha Ha’, the third ‘Ha Ha Ha’ and so on. Not only is it increasingly difficult to count the number of times one must say ‘Ha’, but it is very hard not to start laughing or smiling as this progresses, but any player who is seen to smile or laugh is out of the game.   
The Potato Race
The potato race is very amusing and can be played with balls if no potatoes are to hand. Two people compete at a time in this race to pick up potatoes. Two rows of potatoes, with a dozen in each row, are placed on the ground, about three feet apart and a basket is placed between the rows at one end. The race is to be the first to pick up the potatoes in your row with a teaspoon and deposit them in the basket without touching them with your fingers. It is difficult to get the potatoes onto the spoons and then rather a feat to run with them to the basket without dropping them on the way. If they fall off the spoon, they must be picked up again by it, without touching them with your hand as before.
Follow the Leader
Players all form a line behind the leader, who marches, halts, jumps, stoops, kicks, dances, whistles and poses in as many different ways as they feel, whilst the followers have to imitate them exactly.
Oh Great Queen/King
One player stands on a stool, box, or anything that will suffice as a throne. The other players must pass before the throne one by one. Each player stops in front of the queen/king and must say ‘Oh great Queen (or King), I worship thee and bow down before thee’ in a very solemn manner. The Queen then makes the most ugly faces and strange poses to make her subject laugh. Should she succeed in upsetting the gravity of her subject, the player who laughs takes on the role of the next Queen/King.
Hunt the Ring
The players form a circle, leaving one at the centre of it. A long piece of string, with a hoop (such as a curtain ring) threaded on it, is tied in a circle around the inside of the players. The players take hold of the string circle and pass the ring about from one to another. The player in the centre must guess who has the ring. His task is made as difficult as possible by all sorts of hand movements on the part of those who are hiding it in their hands. When her guesses correctly in which hand the ring is concealed, he joins the circle and the player who has been caught holding it will take his place.
 Marbles have been used to play games for thousands of years. The first ones were made of clay, stone or real marble. The Victorians loved to play marbles - their favourite marbles were made of real marble and were thought to be the best for shooting, but they were very expensive. Marbles made of glass were cheaper and for the people with very little money, ones made of clay. The Judge’s Lodging has sets made of glass and clay on display.
In some games with marbles you throw your marble, but most games use shooting. To shoot properly takes some practice but is done like this - put the knuckle of your forefinger on the ground with the marble balanced in the bent forefinger. Put your thumb behind the forefinger and then release with whatever force you like. Too hard? Well, you could always flick it instead.
The first player throws forward a marble to wherever he chooses (usually people throw it to about where they think they could hit it). The next player then shoots at this marble. If he hits it, he captures it and he picks it up and the one he shot with. He then throws out another marble to start the game again. If he misses it, however, he has to leave his marble where it is. The next player then shoots at either marble, capturing whatever he hits, but leaving his marble where it is if he misses. This game can carry on until one player has all the marbles.
Hint - if you shoot your marble with force, it may bounce off more than one marble - then you capture all that you have hit.
For this game you throw marbles, not shoot them. You use bigger marbles which are called bouncers. The first player throws his bouncer forward about five feet. The second player throws his to try and hit it. The third player throws his to hit either of them, and so on. If a bouncer is hit, the owner must pay the thrower one marble. Bouncer marbles themselves are not given up in payment.
A game for two players. Draw a circle a few feet away from you. Both players shoot a marble towards the circle. If both or neither marble stops in the circle, then both players must shoot again. When only one player’s marble stops in the circle, that player scores 10 points and has another go. He keeps on shooting until he misses the circle. Every time his marble lands in the circle he gets another 10 points. When he misses, the turn passes to the other player. The first player to reach 100 points is the winner.
Odd or even
One player closes in his hand a certain number of marbles. He asks his opponent whether it is an odd or even number. When he guesses correctly he receives one of the marbles, when incorrectly he has to give one. He then takes a handful of marbles and asks, in his turn, ‘odd or even?’ The game goes on alternately, at pleasure, or till one wins all the marbles.   

Parlor Games of the Victorian Era

Toys and Games for Adults and Children

The Soldier's Respite


*All pictures are curtesy of eBay, other websites, and our own production. Copyright 2005*

Bitcoin Plus