Not every second of your ILP semester is going to be full of teaching kids or traveling around … which leaves plenty of time to play these games with your group.
ILP volunteers have a lot of free time. Yes, you’re going to be volunteering in an orphanage or teaching English for part of your day, but that still leaves loads of free time during the week, plus free weekends when you’re not out traveling. It’s probably more free time than you are used to, which means you’ll need to be prepared with things to do during your semester. Luckily, you have a group of volunteers who are typically living with you, so you can all hang out and have some fun.
We’ve brainstormed the ILP staff’s favorite games you can play in any country, with minimal supplies. These ideas will really come in handy when you’re in after curfew, times when the WiFi just won’t cooperate, or even when you’re waiting for a flight on a long layover:
Our Favorite Group Games
- Likes + Dislikes
- Time’s Up
- Who’s Name?
- Head’s Up
- Doo, Doo, Doo
- Pen Partners
- Don’t Laugh
- The Bowl Game
- The Actor Game
Likes + Dislikes (4+ people, but the more the merrier)
Things you need: Paper + pen for everyone playing
What you do: Try to match the likes/dislikes to the right people
The Goal: Be the best guesser
Roles: Take turns guessing
Everyone writes down five likes and five dislikes on small strips of paper. Mix up the strips and pass them around (in a bowl, baseball cap, whatever you have). On your turn, pull out a strip and read it aloud — try to have everyone guess which person the like or dislike goes to. Take turns until all the papers have been read.
Bank! (4+ people, but the more the merrier)
I love this game. It's easy enough to explain in 1 minute and takes just a few minutes to play (making it an easy one to play again and again). Essentially, you play 20 rounds, where everyone rolls two dice. Everyone gets points when someone rolls (scores are doubled when someone rolls doubles), but there's a catch — if someone rolls a 7, you lose all of your points. The goal is to end the 20 rounds with the most points.
The tricky part is to know when to "bank" your points (freeze them) so you don't lose anything next time someone rolls a 7 ... but you may lose out on doubling your score. It's a fun, quick, risky, chance game that everyone loves.
Time’s Up (4+ people, but the more the merrier)
Things you need: 1 full sheet of paper and 1 pen for everyone (or 1 pen you can pass around if you're short some). A timer on your phone.
What you do: Get your team to guess as many names as possible
The Goal: Win.
Roles: Take turns guessing and acting things out
Tear the paper up into squares, so there's about 5-10 squares per person (more for a longer game, and less for a shorter game). Everyone will write the name of one person on each square of paper (think real life celebrities, or characters from your favorite movie — anyone from Cinderella to Abraham Lincoln, really).
Sit in a circle, then break up the group into teams (2 or 3 people per team). Typically you're teamed up with whoever is across from you in the circle.
There are 3 rounds:
Round 1 is all about description. Set the timer for 30 seconds and put all the names in a bowl, or a hat, or just in a stack in your hand - whatever you have on hand. One person on your team will stand up and pull out one name and describe the person on the paper. Your team has to guess the name you’re describing. When they guess correctly, move onto the next name. Get as many as you can in 30 seconds. Once your time is up, pass the bowl to another team. Play until all the scraps are guessed. Even if you don't know who the person is or they're having trouble guessing it ... do your best because there's NO skipping on this round!
Round 2 is played using just 1 word per name. Mix up the same papers and set the timer for 30 seconds. Have someone on your team stand up to be the reader. This round, you can only use one, single word to describe the name on the piece of paper in your hand. Think carefully! You might want to say “scar” for the name Harry Potter for example, or “slipper" for the name Cinderella. When your team guesses correctly, move onto the next name. When 30 seconds is up, it’s another team’s turn. Hopefully you payed attention to the names during the first round!
Round 3 is totally silent! You know the drill — 30 seconds on the timer, and get your team to guess as many as possible, but you cannot use any sounds. You must use actions or superb acting skills to act out the name on the piece of paper.
The team who guessed the most names in all three rounds is the winner.
1-100 (3+ people, or more)
Things You Need: 2 dice per person playing, and a piece of paper for everyone. You all share 1 pen or pencil. (You can also use this dice app)
What you Do: Roll the die and try to write down numbers 1-100 the fastest
The Goal: Make it to 100 before someone else does
Roles: Everyone plays
Sit at a table with your piece of paper and your dice in front of you. Put the pencil in the middle of the table. At the count of three, everyone will try and roll a pair of doubles. Whoever rolls doubles gets the pencil and will start writing down all the numbers from 1-100 (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, etc). But remember … there is only one pencil.
The minute someone else rolls doubles, it’s their turn with the pencil — when you roll the double, snatch the pencil as fast as you can (literally right out of their hand) and start writing on your own paper, starting with 1 and on up to 100. Once the pencil is taken away, you have to go back to rolling to try and get doubles again. When you roll doubles the next time, you start writing numbers from wherever you left off (not back to 1 again).
The winner who writes down every number (with no mistakes!) from 1-100 first is the winner.
Who’s Name (6+ people)
Things You Need: Pens and slips of paper. Pens can be shared, but you must have 1 paper slip for for everyone.
What You Do: Write down a name on a piece of paper
The Goal: Pick a person in your group, and try to guess which name they wrote down.
Roles: 1 person is the reader (They write down a name, but do not participate). Everyone else writes down one name and tries to guess on their turn.
Decide who is the reader this round. Then, everyone takes a slip of paper and writes down one name (could be anyone - fictional, real life, actors, public figures, etc). Fold up the paper and give it the reader. Once everyone has turned in their name, the reader will read aloud the names. Try and remember every single name. If you want, the reader can read the names twice.
After reading the names once (or twice), the reader will choose 1 person to go first and start the round. On your turn, you try to guess which name someone in your group wrote down. If you guess correctly (“Jen, did you write down Steve Jobs?” “yep!” ) you and Jen are on a team! Hooray. Your team gets to continue guessing, but when you guess wrong (“Kelsey, did you write down Harry Potter?” “nope!”), then it would be Kelsey’s turn to guess.
You want to guess correctly as many people as possible to grow your team. Once everyone’s name has been guessed, the game is over. Remember, there will be one name that belonged to the reader just to keep it interesting!
Pro Tip: if you are playing with people you know well, you can strategize the name you write down. if someone in your group LOVES The Office, writing down “Dwight Schrute” might make people guess them, not you.
Ghost (2-4 people is best)
Things You Need: No supplies
The Goal: Be a fantastic speller
Roles: Everyone plays
2 (or more) people say a letter, alternating to spell a word. You have to be working towards a real word (nothing made up!), and if you complete the word, you lose. Here's an example:
Player 1: S
Player 2: Q
Player 1: U
Player 2: A
Player 1: S
Player 2: Is doomed. The only playable letter is H, and that completes a word.
When you lose a round, you earn the letter "G" — the first people to lose five times (to spell out GHOST) is the loser).
Smurf (5+ people, but best with a big group)
Things You Need: No supplies
The Goal: Guess what Smurf is
Roles: 1 Person is the “guesser”. Everyone else answers the guesser’s questions
Choose a guesser for this round. They leave the room. Everyone else sits in a circle, and picks an action (like eating, swimming, raking leaves, sleeping, kissing, etc) to be the word “smurf”. The guesser will now enter the room. The guesser will question people in the group to try and guess what word you guys chose for Smurf. Guesser, ask questions like “Do you like to smurf”? “Does everyone smurf?” “How many times a day do you smurf? Do you smurf in the morning?” etc. to help you figure it out. At any point, the guesser can ask the group; “is Smurf _____?”.
This game gets hilarious, but the round is over when the guesser properly guesses which word the group picked!
Heads Up (Minimum 3 people, or play on teams with 4+ people)
Things You Need: 1 person needs the Heads Up App ($0.99 on IOS and Android with the option of paying more for more packs of topics).
The Goal: As the guesser, try to guess as many topics/subjects/items as you can
Roles: Each round, someone is the guesser. The other group members act out the word on the app. You can also play on teams.
Download the Head’s Up app. You’ll pick categories (like movies, foods, music from the 80’s, etc) for your turn. Hold the phone on your forehead and when the timer starts, a word will pop up on the screen. You can’t see it, but your teammates can. They will act out and say clues to help you guess the word. If you guess right, tilt the phone down. If you have no clue, tilt the phone up to pass (when the phone is tilted, a new word pops up). Guess as many as you can before time runs out.
Play another round, with a new category and a new guesser.
What If? (6+ people, better with more)
Things You Need: Pens and paper for everyone
The Goal: Come up with the craziest “What if” situation. Also, laugh the hardest.
Roles: Everyone plays.
Write down “What if” on your paper … and finish the sentence. The weirder, the better (“What if … avocados ate us for breakfast?” “What if … you could taste colors?” “What if … Brad Pitt had feet for hands?” ) Get creative! Fold your paper in half and pass it to the person on your right. Alright, now unfold the paper, and write a response to that wacky “What if” question. Now, you should have a piece of paper with a “What if” question you did not write, and an answer you did write.
Once everyone is finished writing their response, choose one person to start. They will read the “What if” question on their paper …. but the person to the right of them will read the answer on their paper, creating a crazy Q&A. Once the giggles die down, that person would read the “What if?” question on their paper and the person to their right would read their response, until everyone’s question and response have been read.
Doo, Doo, Doo (4+ people. Can be played on teams or not)
Things You Need: Paper and pens, plus a timer on your phone. A bowl/hat/empty suitcase to put the slips of paper into is helpful, too
The Goal: Sing well enough that people can easily guess that tune
Roles: Everyone plays. 1 person is the “singer” at a time, the rest are guessers
Either splits up into teams (teams of 2 or 3), or not depending on how many people you have. Assign one person to start as the singer. Start the timer for 60 seconds (or longer, or shorter … whatever you’d like). The singer must choose a song from the slips of paper in the bowl, and start singing the tune, but can only sing using “doo” — no words, no humming, only “doos”. The players have to guess the song correctly before the singer can choose another song.
You want to have the guessers guess as many as possible in that 60 seconds! Once all the song titles are gone, whoever has the most slips guessed during their collective turns is the winner.
Tip: Here’s a list of Christmas songs if you want to play around the holidays.
SPORCKLE (4+ people)
Things You Need: Your creative brain
The Goal: Be the last person standing
Roles: Everyone plays
As a group, brainstorm a category. This could be anything you want — things in Thailand, things from Harry Potter, books made into movies, songs by the Beatles, foods at an Italian restaurant, etc.
Stand in a line and start with the first person in the line: Within 5 seconds, they have to name something that falls in that category. If they do, they can keep standing If they can’t, they’re out and have to sit down. Keep playing until there is only one person standing. No repeats; you can’t repeat something someone said earlier!
This is a killer good game to play while hiking or while waiting for a flight.
Pen Partners (4+ people, but you must play with even numbers to have equal teams)
Things You Need: Paper and Pen for the “artist”, a timer on your phone.
The Goal: Work as a team to describe and draw the objects the best you can
Roles: Two teams of two (or multiple teams of two). Trade off as the artist and the describer.
Divide into teams of two. Someone is the artist — sit with your paper and your pen … and get ready to draw.
Your teammate is the describer. They will make a list of several common objects to describe to the artist. Set a timer for 60 seconds. The describer will then describe the object or thing to the artist, and the artist must draw what’s being described — you cannot tell the artist what you're describing! If your object is a table, you have to describe it ... a long flat top, with four shorter rectangles to hold up the long top, etc.
The describer can't look at what the artist is drawing. All teams are off describing and drawing at the same time, so you're not really paying close attention to what another team is describing.
When the time is up, switch papers with all the teams and try to guess what the drawing is.
Play multiple times, and the team who drew the best (who got the most correct guesses) wins.
Oink (5+, but the more the merrier)
Things You Need: A good oink
The Goal: Try and guess someone by their oink
Roles: Someone is “it” and the rest of the players oink
Whoever is “it” sits in the middle and keeps their eyes closed. Silently, have everyone else sit in a circle around the guesser and decide who starts. That person will “oink” and the guesser will try and see if they can guess who it was. If they guess wrong, the “oinker” points to someone else in the circle to “oink” next. If the person who is “it” guesses correctly (Kat, was that you?) then Kat is now “it”. Try not to laugh while playing, I dare you.
Don’t Laugh (4+, but the more the merrier)
Things You Need: No supplies
The Goal: To keep a straight face, no matter what.
Roles: Everyone plays
Sit or stand in a circle. One person starts — players take turns saying either “Ha” “Hoo” or “Hee”. Anyone who starts laughing is out. Keep playing until there’s just one person left.
The Bowl Game (4+, the more the merrier)
Things You Need: Strips of paper, 1 pen for everyone, a bowl
The Goal: To make everyone else realize they have no idea who you really are
Roles: Everyone plays, but 1 person reads each round
Everyone gets 2 strips of paper. Write something true about yourself that no one else in the circle knows — maybe something you've done or something you love/hate (anything you want really) — but keep it anonymous, don't write your name on it. Then everyone puts their paper strips in the bowl.
1 person draws a piece of paper and reads it out loud. The person to their right says who they think wrote it. Then the person to their right says who they think it was ... and go all the way around the circle. If you actually were the one who wrote it, just keep a poker face and guess someone else in the group to throw everyone off. If you're reading the paper you'll just sit this one out since you can probably recognize their handwriting. After everyone guesses, the person who actually wrote that statement fesses up that it was them! Anyone who guessed it right will get 1 point. If no one guessed it right, the person who wrote the statement gets 5 points! For the next round, the person to your right will be the person who draws a strip of paper to read ... and so on.
So, strategy is you really want to get creative and say true things that will be totally surprising to everyone in the group. This game is still way fun no matter how well you know everyone in the group, or even if you just met.
The Actor Game (2+, the more the merrier)
Things You Need: Lots of actor/actress/movie knowledge
The Goal: Stump everyone else playing
Roles: Everyone plays
Divide everyone up into Player 1, Player 2, Player 3, etc. Player 1 names a movie. Player 2 names an actor/actress in that movie. Player 3 names a different move that actor/actress was in. Player 4 names a different actor who was in that movie. You go around until someone is stumped. Whoever is stumped loses, and doesn't play the next round. Play until there is a winner.
Things To Pack For All These Games
We've put together your 'mini packing list' for all of these games so you have the supplies you need:
- Pens and a notebook (Helpful to keep score, or for games like What If, and the Who’s Name game)
- Your phone (helpful for games like “Heads Up” or for any games that need a timer, like “Pen Partners”)
- Dice (You’ll need multiple pairs, or you can virtually roll dice via an app on your phone: there are several free apps).
Heads Up: If you all you have is a deck of cards, we love playing these games!
One More Thing
Pretty consistently, our ILP volunteers come home from their semester abroad saying that the friends they made in their group were one of the most rewarding parts of the experience for them.
We love that! You really don't need to sign up with a friend (although you can!), because you'll be placed with a group of other volunteers that are your age, have standards like you, and are SO fun. I mean ... anyone who wants to go live abroad for 4 months has got to be pretty rad.
We think you're ready for a semester abroad
Come join one of our teams of volunteers! Click that button below if you have any questions about a trip with ILP and we'll be in touch.