The Politics of Pass the Parcel

laurajane021 November 3rd, 2016 No Comments
The Politics of Pass the Parcel | NWC Parties

Possibly the most famous of all of the party games. Read on as I attempt to break down “The Politics of Pass the Parcel” – loved by children and loathed by many parents. Why, you ask?  It’s merely passing a wrapped present around a circle? Simple! Oh no, it is so much more– in truth, pass the parcel is a game of quick wit, negotiation, tactics, cunning, tears and of course tantrums. How can we avoid this I hear you cry? Let me tell you….

The perfect parcel

No one loves an anti-climax – no one, thus selecting the perfect gift for the centre of a pass the parcel can be a challenge. I tend to select two small gifts (from Poundland or any pound shop) that are easy to wrap and look good! Combine this with three packets of sweets (the optimum number in my experience as the children usually care the most about the sweets) and you have the beginnings of a perfect parcel. Then, inclusive of the prize layer, wrap eight layers of paper – this ensures the game doesn’t go on for too long and children don’t loose interest. Each layer = one pack of sweets.

The music

Now this is key – this is how we combat any sweet problems. Select a song that all of the children know the words to and can sing along to. Then during the game you are able to award sweets for the best, sitting dancer and the loudest singers – thus ensuring every child feels like a winner.

These are the two basics and it now sounds so simple – but now we look deeper and begin to explore the playing of pass the parcel…it’s about to get dark..prepare yourselves.


During a game of pass the parcel, a child approached me – she uttered the immortal words “I ONLY (emphasis on the only) play pass the parcel when I get to win.” She looked at me – (similar to Regina George for all of the Mean Girls fans out there) and I turned to her and said “Well, in that case, I wouldn’t play” she looked at me again and before I knew it she was sat passing in the circle. She wanted to challenge me and win but I was prepared for this. For me, the playing and learning how to lose is just as important for children. The key to avoiding this are the singing games above and ensuring that the energy of the game is high – children will enjoy it even if they don’t win and don’t worry about letting that child win because they may get upset – they will be fine!

The Birthday Child

This is the most simple for me although it can prove problematic for parents – the birthday child gets to win a packet of sweets and unwraps, one layer. They never win the main prize as parents we all know how many toys you are already going to have to take home when the party is over – you don’t need/ want anymore.

The Slow Passer

My favourite child – and I can only imagine the child I once was. They can make a pass last for a whole chorus of a song. Even if you tell them once they will do it each time and stare at you as they do. My advice – read this and laugh to yourself as you label the various players as the game goes on. I also add the “Not slowly, pass fast” shout out for the children to do if someone is passing slowly – use at your own discretion.

The Steamroller

This child will stop at nothing to open that present – we lost three good layers once (and no the music hadn’t stopped they were just sick of waiting). This child just really wants to open that parcel and they will. You have two options here – wrestle the parcel from them (not the most graceful – been there done that) or stop around layer four on them. This way their sweets should last to the end and they won’t have got too wound up by the fourth layer – I never encourage this form of music stopping tactics however on this occasion, it really does call for it.

The Clever Passer

Another of my favourite children – they select a space next to a child who gets distracted easily, then when they are passing the distracted child doesn’t take the parcel thus the child next to them has to (or chooses to) hold it for longer the music then stops and they win – genius! I have been caught out many times by these children – they are clever. I avoid combating this, as such a well thought out strategy does deserve a reward!

The Distracted Child

My advice – don’t make them play.

And finally…

The – You Can’t Help It – But You Just Want Them To WIN Child!

There is always at least one child in every game of pass the parcel EVER that plays fairly helps their friends and sings along throughout. A moment that will forever stay with me was a little girl (aged 4) turning to her friend that was sad (I want to win child) and saying “Don’t worry it’s okay, remember we can’t always win – it’s the taking part that counts”. A wonderful moment and when the parcel coincidently stopped on her on the final layer (not fixed I promise) she opened it and with tears in her eyes said “I can’t believe I won” she then turned to her friend and said “Would you like to share my sweets” – needless to say she showed the true kindness and the real “Positivity of pass the parcel”.


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