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Opening Hours: 10am - 5pm                              Last admittance at 4pm

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Parlour Games

This beautiful book was first published in 1889 and is filled with ideas of indoor and outdoor games. I had one of these growing up (a much later print).

The Victorian's had many parlour games.. Below is some you can try at home; or ideas for your next children's birthday party!



  • Cards : Snap, Patience, Last Card, Happy Families
  • Board Games : Chess, Draughts, Snakes and Ladders, Round the World with Nellie Bligh
  • Patchwork : Cross stitch Samplers, Tapestry
  • Jig Saw Puzzles
  • Painting
  • Stereoscope Viewing
  • Magic Lantern
  • Marbles
  • Knucklebones
  • Spinning Tops
  • Kaleidoscope
  • Dolls – Teaparties
  • Paper Dolls
  • Battleship – Small wood and lead ones
  • Lead or Tin Toy Soldiers
  • Reading
  • Dominoes – Building Blocks -Ball and Cup
  • Gyroscopes

Anagrams and Conumdrums

An anagram is the transposing of the letters of a word to form a different word or sentence. Try out these ones

Sweetheart – There we sat
Presbyterian – Best in prayer
Elegant  - Neat leg

A conumdrum often had double meanings, what we today would probably call a riddle.

  1. Why is hot bread like a caterpillar?
  2. Because it’s the grub that makes the butterfly
  1. When is a door not a door?
  2. When it’s a jar


Pass Ball

The group form a circle and are counted off in 2’s. The 1’s are given a ball or some other object easily tossed, at one end of the circle and the number 2’s a like object on the other side of the circle. Then 1 competes against 2 in a endeavour, by passing the object around the circle, to have it overtake and passed by the other team. When the object passed by one team has overtaken and passed that of the other, it counts one point and the game starts over again, with the object on opposite sides of the circle.

Channel Tag

The group forms a circle, faces to the right and assumes a stride position. The one selected to be “IT” takes his place in the centre of the circle. The others pass a ball or bean bag either backwards or forward between their legs. The one in the centre tries to capture the ball or bag. If he succeeds, the one last touching it takes his place in the centre of the circle. Everyone must touch the ball or bag when it passes by them, either forward or backward.

Reuben and Rachel

The group forms a circle, joining hand. One of the players (Reuben) is blindfolded and placed in the centre of the circle. All the rest in the ring dance around him until he points to someone. That one (Rachel) enters the circle and the blind man calls out, “Rachel”. Rachel must answer. “Here I Am Reuben”, and move about in the circle so as to escape being tagged by Reuben. Every time Reuben calls out “Rachel”, she must reply “Here I am Reuben”. And so it goes until she is caught. Reuben must guess who she is and if he guesses correctly Rachel is blindfolded and the game goes on as before. If not, decrease the size of the circle by the players moving in a step until Reuben catches Rachel.

Weavers’ Race

The group forms a circle which is counted off by 2’s. The number 1’s in the circle constitute team A, and the number 2’s team B. Two captains stand side by side in the circle. Each holds a small stick. At the signal to GO both start racing in opposite directions around the circle, going to the rear of the first player, to the front of the second player, to the rear of the third player, etc.., weaving their way in and out. They continue to weave their way back and forth from the point of the circle from which thy left. Thereupon number 1 of team A tags the next player on his team in the direction in which the first ran. Number 1 of team B tags the next one on his team who starts in the direction in which the first ran. The race continues until everyone in the team has completed a run around the circle in the required way.

Hide the Ring

The group forms a circle and each person holds a rope on which there is a small ring. One person stands in the middle of the circle and closes their eyes while the group counts to 20 while the people holding the rope pass the small ring around. The person in the middle then has to guess where the ring is – given 3 chances. Then the person with the ring changes places with the one in the middle.

Up Jenkins

The company divide up into two parties and sit around a table. One person is then given a penny and all hands of that party are concealed under the table. They shuffle the penny back and forth keeping it concealed until the other side calls out,”Up Jenkins!” and the players whose side have the penny concealed must all place their closed hands on the table. The opposite side must then guess in which hand the penny is concealed. The hands they think have NOT got it must be told to go down, but if one of those hands should contain it, the player must show it, and the same side hides the penny again. But if all the hands but one are sent down without the penny being found, then the player must give it up,  the opposite side hides it in the same manner

Trip around the world

Various articles are distributed around the room, each representative of some country. A slip of paper and a pencil are given to each member of the group, who endeavours to guess what country each article suggests.

Fox and Hen

The group link hands and form a circle. Two players are selected, one to be “IT” and the other to be chased. These two are placed on opposite sides of the circle. Then “IT” endeavors to tag the other. Both may go in and out of the circle at will. The players in the circle endeavor to assist the hen and impede the fox in his chase, as much as possible. When the Fox has caught the hen, two other players are selected to take their place.

Drop the Handkerchief

The players stand in a circle and hold hands. One walks around the outside of the ring and drops a handkerchief behind one of the players, who instantly picks up and pursues him running in the opposite direction. When he catches him the two change places and the game go on as before.


The players decide to dress a lady, but the following colours: GREEN, YELLOW, BLUE and PINK must NOT be used. One player asks of each in turn: “How will you dress my lady?” one may say: “In a white silk dress” . Another: “With a golden wreath on my head” and so on. Whoever mentions the forbidden colours pays a forfeit.

What’s the time Mr. Wolf

One of the players is chosen to be Wolf and another to be Hen. All the others are chickens and stay at the back of the hen one. They then advance to the wolf’s den and ask him the time. They repeat the question several times till he says “It is 12’ o clock at night” when they must instantly run away as the wolf will pursue them, the hen dodging the wolf and trying to prevent his seizing a chicken. When all the chickens have been captured the game is finished.


All the players sit in a circle. Each is given a name of a bird. The keeper takes position in the centre of the room and begins to tell a story about birds. When a bird’s name is mentioned that bird must stand up and turn around once in front of his chair. Failing to do this he must pay a forfeit. When the keeper utters the word “Migrate” in his story, all of the birds must change seats and he tries to get one of the seats. Succeeding, the one left without a seat continues the bird story. Otherwise the first keeper continues his story.

Kea             Sparrow           Thrush          Blackbird        Hawk

Tui              Seagull             Pukeko         Starling           Robin

Hen             Rooster            Pheasant       Wax-eye          Weka

Duck           Turkey             Cuckoo          Pigeon            Kaka

Crow           Kingfisher       Silver-eye     Bell Bird         Dove

Tern            Canary              Morepork     Budgie            Owl


Split the group into two groups and have them in a line facing forward, this is a relay race.  Boys’ must step through the rope and pull it up the body and off the head. Girls the rope goes over their head and down the body and out through the feet. This is because the girls have dresses and petticoats on so it would have caused loads of problems for them. 

Over and under

Get the children into two lines facing the same way, using the big ball the children must put it over then under by passing it backwards until the whole line is done.

A letter to my love

Children sitting in a circle and one person gets the letter and walks round the room as everyone chants the following:

“I wrote a letter to my love and on the way dropped it, someone must have picked it up and put it in their pocket” then the person with the letter says, “it wasn’t you, it wasn’t you, it was you” and they drop the letter.

The person jumps up and chases them round the outer edge of the circle to get the person before they get back to where they dropped the letter.

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(last admission at 4pm)

Where we are

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Howick Historical Village

Bells Road

Lloyd Elsmore Park



New Zealand