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How to Play Charades + Actions, Ideas, Rule Variations!

Want to play charades and need a quick low down on the rules? You’re in the right place, my friend!

Here you’ll find out how to play charades, some rule changes to mix things up, charades actions to make you look like a pro, and some charades clue ideas to get you started!

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How to Play Charades – The Basic Rules

How you play charades is really up to you! But the ground rules are:

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  1. Decide if you’re playing in teams or everyone for themselves.
  2. Print off a bunch of clues and put them in a bowl or bag for drawing randomly. Or let everyone think of their own clues as you play.
  3. The first actor signs the category for their clue (books, tv show, song etc.), the number of words in it, and then acts it out.
  4. The actor can’t talk, make noises or point at things in the room!
  5. Everyone guesses (and usually laughs at the silly acting!)
  6. Whoever guesses the charade first, wins!
  7. The guesser or the next person/team clockwise becomes the next actor. Up to you how you want to play!

Keep on reading for different game rules for kids, large groups and to mix things up. You’ll find the category actions, and a few clues to get you started too!

How to Play Charades For Kids

Depending on the age bracket, it would be helpful to print or draw out the words you’d like your kids to act out. Keep it simple with themes, such as: animals, Marvel, Disney, or jobs.

Then, refer to this list of fun charades ideas for children.

To make the game run smoothly:

  • Allow players to make sounds but not say full words.
  • Set a category or a theme.
  • Let players act out in teams if they choose to.
  • Set a timer to make it a race.
  • Have the turns continue in clockwise order so that one person isn’t getting more showtime than others.

Playing Charades with a Large Group

Teamwork makes the dream work when you’re playing charades in a larger group. Watch as your opponents stumble over their guesses, and spill out extra ideas. 

Here are 5 tips for large group charades:

  • The best team size is around 4 people. One to perform, and three to guess. Any more than this can make it hard to communicate to the actor clearly.
  • Keep a timer so each group has to race through their set of words. 2 minutes is an optimum time.
  • Make harder phrases worth more points.
  • If the opposing team is unable to guess the words within their preferred time span, they can pass the word. It’s up to you if you’d like this to cost points or not.
  • If teams are allowed to pass on words, allow the other teams to steal these words for added points at the end of the turn.

Other Rule Variants for Charades

Try these three rule variants next time you play Charades:

  1. Partner Charades

The only thing more difficult than trying to act out the word “potato” is keeping a straight face when your partner has to as well. Partner charades are a mixed bag. You can play 2 vs 2, or have your partner act out the word as you guess. Whoever guesses the most words in the shortest period of time, wins.

  1. Reverse Charades

Instead of just one person acting out the phrase, this variant completely spins the game 180 degrees. You’ll be guessing alone as three people monkey around in front of you, attempting to act out the phrase in unison. 

The more people acting out the statement/title, the harder it gets. We recommend sticking to 3-4 people for this variant or splitting into teams. 

  1. Free-for-all Charades

No need to pull words from a hat. All these phrases are straight from the imagination. 

The first player will think of a song, movie, or any charade idea, and whoever guesses the correct phrase is next on the stage. This is my favorite variant!

Charades Hand Gestures, Signals, and Clues

Expert charaders have developed a code on the basic charade clues. With these actions you can signify what the word sounds like, the number of words, syllables count, type of category, and more!

Sounds like

Cuff your hand over your ear to indicate this word sounds like whatever action/thing you’ll be doing next.

Number of syllables

Put the number of fingers equal to the number of syllables on your forearm.

Number of words

Indicate the number of words in the phrase by holding the same amount of fingers in the air. For the second word, show two fingers and then act out the word.

Past tense

Point your thumb over your shoulder to show the action has happened in the past.

Tell your team that they’re getting off base

Hug yourself like you’re freezing to indicate that their guesses are trailing in the incorrect direction. We call this “getting colder.”

Tell your team that they’re close to the word

Pretend to be very hot. This shows your team that they’re close to the word, but not completely correct yet.

You’re right!

Tap your nose with your index finger and point to the correct guesser to indicate that this was a correct word guess!

Charades Category Actions


Make the action of an old-fashioned movie projector playing a movie from a reel. Make a first with one hand to be that projector and with the other hand pretend you’re winding it up!

TV Show

Draw a rectangle as though drawing the outline of a TV screen.


Make the action of a book opening. Put your hands flat, palms together to create a closed book. Then turn your palms upwards as though a book is opening.


Imagine you are opening a pair of theatre curtains. Put your hands together in front of you and then pull them away from each other as though drawing the curtains.


Pretend to sing using your hand as a microphone.

Quote or phrase

Sign quotation or “ditto” marks in the air using your index and middle fingers on each hand.


Place your hands on your hips and look off into the distance with your chin raised like a hero!


‘Walk’ your two fingers of one hand across the palm of your other hand.

Charades Ideas for Your First Game

If you’re playing with themes, here are 10 suggestions from each category to get you started. Need more? Check out our adult charades ideas list and kid-friendly charade ideas


Zoolander Green Lantern
Dr. Strange50 First Dates
Sherlock HolmesAustin Powers
Men In BlackLegally Blonde
ShrekWolf of Wall Street

For a huge list of 210 Charades Movie Ideas see this!

TV Shows

Umbrella AcademyThe Boys
Breaking BadVampire Diaries
American IdolWheel of Time
Game of ThronesThe Leftovers
The WitcherThe Expanse


Lord of the Flies1984
Harry PotterHamlet
The Great GatsbyFrankenstein
Charlotte’s WebGulliver’s Travels
DraculaThe Divine Comedy


CatsLion King
Jersey BoysRomeo and Juliet
Mamma MiaWicked
The Phantom of the OperaChicago


Say My Name – Destiny’s ChildBillie Jean – Michael Jackson
Don’t Stop Believin – JourneyHappy – Pharell Williams
Old Town Road – Lil Nas XWonderwall – Oasis
Bad Romance – Lady GagaBaby Got Back – Sir Mix-a-Lot
Yeah! – UsherSmells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana

Quote or Phrases

“It’s alive! It’s alive!” Frankenstein“You’re gonna need a bigger boat.” – Jaws
“E.T. phone home.” – E.T.“Just keep swimming.” – Finding Nemo
“Here’s Johnny.” – The Shining“There’s no place like home.” – The Wizard of Oz
“To infinity and beyond!”- Toy Story“If you build it, he will come.” Field of Dreams
“My precious.” – Lord of the Rings“Life is like a box of chocolates.” – Forrest Gump

Person – fictional characters and real people

Mickey MouseLady Gaga
Clint EastwoodRyan Reynolds
OprahPrincess Leia
Bart SimpsonCatwoman
Luke SkywalkerSteve Jobs


Brushing teethBungee jumping
Mountain climbingDoing laundry
Playing golfPitching a tent

Funny Charades Ideas

VloggerMrs Doubtfire
Hello KittyDodgeball
Ice Ice BabyYoga Instructor

See our mega list of 225+ funny charades ideas!

Hard Charades Ideas

ToasterAn Egg
DuneWatching a RomCom
BarbequingFlying in First Class
Getting a back waxA Potato

The hardest ideas are sometimes the simplest, why? Because how can you tell a potato from a rock?

Check out more hard charades ideas here!

A note – How to Play Charades

That’s it! Now, you know how to play charades! You’ve got everything you need for a game of charades! Think on the spot, or use some of these ideas. Whatever takes your fancy, you’re going to have an awesome time!

Try out some of the tips, tricks, and rules variants to mix up your charades game!

If you want to print some ideas for your game, see our ideas lists below. The 225+ Funny Charades Ideas for Big Laughs list is a good one to get you started!

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Hi, I’m Emily, the tabletop gamer behind My Kind of Meeple. If this article helped you, I’d be honoured if you’d say, “Thanks!” with a £3 coffee on Ko-fi.

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