Here’s a game to add some revelry to a family game day or classroom activities! “Party Quirks” is a classic improv game with a theatrical structure that can boost endorphins, creativity, and self-directed play. It is a great imagination workout and super adaptable to whatever age crew you’ve got. It is super for birthday parties, family gatherings or to make meaningful social-emotional learning time at school.  

How to Play Party Quirks

  • Pretend there’s a party. Select who will be the host and all of the guests pull a “quirk” from a hat. Quirks could be things like: “You think you are Spider-Man,” “Every time someone smiles, you jump up and down.” “You can’t stop dancing.” I have more suggestions here. With kids in the 3K-1st grade set, it is fun to use animals and emotions.
  • The host makes the guests feel welcome in improvisational party-like behavior and then tries to guess their quirk. 
  • Once all the quirks are guessed, play again with a new host or hosts.

And with kids who aren’t reading, it’s just as easy to have the trait whispered into their ear, no problem. 

photo credit: Patrick Fleury

Setting the scene for Party Quirks

To help the “given circumstances,” there can be party hats, punch bowls, and nibbles to nosh – real or (my preference!) imaginary. Establish the entrance to the party (ding-dong!) and where the food and drinks are to keep the improv specific and grounded. I recommend playing actual music for that party vibe! 

Motivation, Competence, Self-direction

Kids get the hang of this game quickly and can get into that excellent autonomous zone. They can come up with… 

  • The type of party (birthday, NYE, graduation…keep changing it up!).
  • The music at the party.
  • The quirks (they can write on notecards which is super for imagination and penmanship – a win-win). Or have a designated “quirk-er” whisper it in the ear of the guests right before they enter. 

Best of all, they can host the party themselves. Hosting is an awesome opportunity to practice kindness and inclusivity. As Host, you have to welcome your guests, ensure they have food, and drink and are comfortable (even if their quirk is that they can’t quench their thirst!). It is an improv delight, and when kids ultimately take this over, they use play to reinforce empathy and active listening. From an acting perspective, hosts are also driving the scene, asking questions of their guests to discover their traits and then keeping the scene flowing. Once the host guesses, the “party” can last as long as you like. 

Kids are practicing those Executive Function skills, multi-tasking in their play: holding their character trait in their head while still adhering to the “rules” of a party. The “air traffic control center” of their brain gets a workout, and you get some laughs. 

Play Party Quirks in the Classroom

For my classroom teacher friends: have ⅓ of the kids go at a time. Instead of the host guessing the quirk, involve the others and have them observe their classmate and conjecture about the quirk. You can call out freeze or (Museum Challenge, as I saw my son’s teacher do when I played it in his 5th-grade room last week!). And then, from that excellent tableaux, call on kids to guess who might have what trait!

I wish you a playful, restful, and healthy New Year. Thank you so much for being a part of the beautiful and quirky party that is Child’s Play NY.