One person is chosen to begin, and they must think of a word or phrase to try and act out for the other players. In modern charades the phrase is often the name of a film, book, TV show or computer game, although it can also be the name of an object, or a quote or saying.
Once the chosen player has decided what to act out they are not allowed to speak at all to the other players – everything must be communicated by mime. The other players can call out any ideas they have, and the winner is the one who correctly guesses the whole phrase. There are some generally accepted gestures which may help you get started:
Type of Thing
A film is represented by pretending to crank an old fashioned film camera, with one fist held in front of you about chest height and the other miming turning a handle at eye-level.
A book is represented by holding your hands in front of you in prayer position with palms flat together, then opening them outwards as though opening a book.
A TV show is represented by drawing a rectangle in mid-air, as though tracing the outline of a TV screen with your fingers.
A computer game is represented by holding your hands in front of you and wiggling your thumbs as though using a game controller.
A phrase or saying is represented by making quotation marks in the air with your fingers.
Once you’ve let the other players know what category of thing you’re trying to act out, you can tell them a bit more about the word or phrase you’ve picked.
The number of words in the phrase is indicated by holding up that number of fingers.
Which word you’re working on is indicated by holding up that number of fingers again.
For example, if your phrase was “Wind in the Willows”, and you wanted to mime the word ‘wind’ to start, you would first hold up four fingers, then only one finger.
The number of syllables in the word is indicated by laying that number of fingers on your arm.
Which syllable you’re working on is indicated by laying that number of fingers on your arm again.
For example, if your word was ‘willows’ and you wanted to mime the first syllable to begin with, you would lay two fingers on your forearm, then only one finger.
To mime a word which sounds like or rhymes with the word you want, pull exaggeratedly on one of your earlobes.
For example if your word was ‘willows’ you might find it easier to mime the word ‘pillows’. You would pull on your earlobe to let the other players know they have to think of a word which sound like the word you’re about to mime.
If someone has guessed a shorter version of the word you want, you can mime for a longer version of the word by pinching your fingers on both hands together and then pulling apart as though stretching a piece of elastic.
For example if someone had guessed ‘walk’ when you wanted to indicate ‘walking’ you would gesture for them to think of a longer version of the word.
Conversely if you want the other players to think of a shorter version of the word you can mime cutting with a scissors, as though to cut the word shorter.
If you want to communicate that a word is a plural you can link your little fingers together.
To encourage people to keep guessing along the lines they’re on, pretend to fan yourself as though getting hotter.
To stop people from guessing in a particular direction pretend to shiver as though getting colder.
To try and start from the beginning mime the flushing of a toilet.
To let someone know they’ve correctly guessed the part you were just trying to mime (or got it ‘on the nose‘) touch your nose with one index finger while pointing at them with the other.
Mimes for Short Words
A is indicated by steepling your index fingers together into a point. Steepling the fingers followed by stretching the fingers to indicate ‘keep guessing’ can indicate an or and.
I is indicated by pointing at your eye.
The is indicated by making a T shape with your hands.
Other small words can be indicated by making a pinching motion with your thumb and forefinger. This can be used for words like if, is, of, at, to etc, with ‘keep guessing’ gestures to keep the other players cycling through these short words until they hit on the right one.