Pass the parcel

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Children celebrating at a birthday party
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For toddlers and above.

Most suitable for preschoolers and primary schoolers. As kids get older, playing pass the parcel will continue to develop their motor skills and hand eye coordination as well as test their ability to think on their feet. It also exposes them to situations where patience and waiting their turn is important.

Pass the parcel is also a good activity for toddlers. Sit them on your lap during the game and help them participate- this way younger siblings won’t be left out of the fun!

Number of participants

This game is the most effective and the most fun when there are larger groups of children playing, say 5 to 6 or more. This makes it perfect for children’s birthday parties or even family events and holiday celebrations to entertain the kids.

Duration of game

The game generally lasts until all the layers of the parcel have been opened and therefore is dependent upon how many layers there are and how many children are playing.


  •     Wrapping paper, a few different colours is preferable to make it easier to distinguish each layer
  •     Sticky tape
  •     An assortment of small prizes, such as stickers, a small colouring set, key rings, food treats (see Tips for more suggestions)
  •     Music
  •     A device to play the music e.g. a CD player or iPod dock, depending on your source of music


The cost will depend on a number of things, such as what kind of wrapping paper you use- tissue paper is always a good idea as it is inexpensive and also easier for the kids to rip into! But make sure you use darker colours so they can’t see the prizes! Or you could just use newspaper and alternate using the coloured photo pages of the newspaper with the no-picture directory pages.

The cost will also depend on what prizes you choose. An alternative to a prize on every layer is to have the winner of that round do a particular action such as jumping on the spot or pulling a funny face. You could have the action inside the layer written on a piece of card or paper.

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The cost will also depend on what kind of larger prize you choose for the middle of the parcel which goes to the overall winner.

PreparationTwo hands passing a gift

To prepare for this game all you need to do is wrap the presents up!

  • Whether you’re playing the game at a birthday party or a family gathering, it is best to buy roughly the amount of prizes as there are kids playing. This way everyone can have a turn at opening a layer and receiving a prize, and hopefully no one will get more than one so it is fair and keeps everyone happy!
  • If you’re using food treats as prizes it is a good idea to prepare the parcel on the day of your child’s party, otherwise it can be done beforehand.
  • Generally the ‘best’ prize or larger prize is the prize that is opened last, at the very end of the game (the child who gets this prize is the winner of the whole game!). Therefore it is wrapped first. It could be a good idea to put a sticker or label on this first layer so that when you are playing the game later, you will know you are at the end.
  • Then place this wrapped prize on a new piece of wrapping paper of a different colour, add one of the smaller prizes to the package, and wrap the original prize and the new prize up together.
  • Repeat this step until all the remaining smaller prizes have been wrapped around the large prize.
  • Don’t forget to alternate the colour of your wrapping paper each time so it is clear which layer is which when the kids ripping it apart later!
  • Also make sure your music is set up and ready to go!

How to play

  1. Have all the kids sit in a circle facing one another. 
  2. Give the parcel to one child (often the birthday boy/girl) to start.
  3. Then you need someone to play the music, whether it be you or another parent, it just needs to be someone who can stop and start the music fairly throughout the game.
  4. As the music plays the kids pass the parcel around the circle until the music is stopped.
  5. Whoever is holding the parcel when the music stops gets to open a layer of the parcel and collect their prize (or perform their activity).
  6. This continues until all the layers have been opened.
  7. Originally the person controlling the music wasn’t allowed to watch the game so they couldn’t interfere with who won each round, but it is a good idea to keep an eye on who has received a prize so that everyone gets one and no one gets more than one if it can be helped.
  8. If you are worried about the game being unfair and have a bit more time, you can prepare snippets of music to stop and start at their own accord so you don’t have someone in particular controlling who gets what.


Some good ideas for prizes to include in the parcel:

  • Bouncy balls
  • Noise makers
  • Bubbles
  • Multipacks of plastic toys such as plastic animals or dinosaurs
  • Small containers of play-dough
  • Sheets of stickers
  • Squeezy bath toys

If you’re thinking of using food treats as prizes…

  • Be sure to find out about any food allergies or foods that aren’t allowed from the other parents
  • Healthier treats are always a great option such as boxes of raisins or some homemade treats pre-wrapped in plastic bags

Also make sure your prizes are age appropriate

If you are doing the game for younger children with short attention spans, you may want to either:

  • have two parcels being passed around the group at once, with the parcels starting at opposite sides of the circle so that kids only have to wait half a circle until they get to ‘pass the parcel’ rather than waiting for everyone in the group to each have their turn; or
  • have smaller groups of children playing the game (e.g. two groups with 6 kids in each and each group has a parcel rather than one group of 12 with one parcel being passed around).
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Date Created: April 8, 2013 Date Modified: October 16, 2013