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How to Play the Hot Potato Game with Kids

The Hot Potato Game is a fun, active game for young kids that has been around for ages. 

Find out how to play it and adapt it to your kids’ level. There are also some ideas for Hot Potato game songs.

What Kind of Game is Hot Potato?

Hot Potato is a classic party game that’s fun and simple to prepare. Kids enjoy it and it gets everyone participating.

It is also a great game to play at home with your children or in class as a group carpet game.

Kids must pretend they have a steaming hot potato in their hands and pass it around, making sure to let go of it as quickly as possible so they don’t get burnt.

A  cartoon potato on fire

There are many educational reasons for playing this game, such as:

This game can be played at different ages but you may need to adapt it as it is challenging for young kids.

A Hot Potato game for preschoolers will be quite different to a game played with older kids as their ball skills are still developing.

How To Play Hot Potato

All you need is a ball, beanbag or any other toy to represent a potato. Playing music is optional.

The rules of Hot Potato are simple:

  1. Children sit in a circle.
  2. They pass the ball or beanbag around the circle while music plays in the background. 
  3. If you drop the ball, you are out.
  4. When the music stops, the person holding the “hot potato” is out.
  5. The last person is the winner.

The object of the game is to not drop the ball, get caught with the ball or get burnt. 

Kids must be encouraged to pass the ball as fast as they can from person to person as if they were handling a real hot potato that could burn them.

Playing with one child?

If you’re playing this game with your child, sit across from each other and toss the ball or bean bag back and forth. Whoever gets caught holding it when the music stops, loses the round. Play many rounds.

This can also apply to siblings or small groups playing. 

Variations of Hot Potato Game

There are a few ways you can play this game:

Chant a Rhyme

Sing a verse of a song together or chant a rhyme while you play, instead of playing background music. When the verse ends, the person holding the ball is out.

Use any well-known song or say this verse, specially created for this game:

Hot potato pass it on
Hot potato pass it on
Hot potato pass it on
Get rid of the hot potato

You could also sing the popular:
One potato, two potato, three potato, four.
Five potato, six potato, seven potato, more!

Dad and children playing with a ball in the living room.

Play Music 

Play some fun music in the background. Stop it every now and again. 

You can also find pre-recorded hot potato music that stops, which frees up your hands to join in the game.

Keep scrolling for some examples of music.

Faster and Faster

Play a version where the verse gets faster on each round and kids need to keep up, passing the ball without dropping it. Listening to faster music will naturally make kids pass the ball faster.

This will be too challenging for preschoolers, who may drop the ball more than catch it.

The tune linked above for the Hot Potato verse is a great one to play in the background as it gets faster. Or, sing the tune and get a little faster on each round.

Children passing around a ball outside

Make Potato Soup

For this game, tell kids you want to make potato soup. Place a large hula hoop in the middle, with kids sitting in a circle around it.

Every time someone goes “out”, they must sit in the hoop. They become a potato that gets added to the pot of soup. Kids will enjoy squeezing into the soup together when there are a few of them.

Death By Potato

Instead of going into the middle if you’re “out”, kids must pretend to be dead by falling down in the spot they were sitting in. They must not move until the last person has won the round.

They have been “killed” by the burning hot potato. This may be suitable for older kids as younger ones would struggle to lie still for this long, without wanting to see what’s happening around them.

Children playing a carpet game with a ball in a classroom.

Hot Potato Game Songs

Here are a few music tracks that will work well when played in the background:

  • Hot Potato! Pass It On – The music gets faster on each round and has stops in it.
  • Hot Potato Song for Children – This fun music by Patty Shukla has pauses and is perfect for young kids.
  • Children’s party fun – this is a great, upbeat track, with regular stops, that can also be used for games like Pass the Parcel or Musical Statues.
  • Hot Potato Song with Stops – This chilled music with a beat has stops and is best for older children.

Enjoy playing this fun game!

Children playing a ball game. Text reads "How to play the hot potato game with your kids".

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Marian Altman

Thursday 16th of May 2024

Hello I am a nurse and I am leading a project in my unit. I'd like to use the picture of the potato on fire for our project. May I have your permission to use it?

Tanja McIlroy

Friday 17th of May 2024

Hi Marian, Sure, you're welcome to use it.

Luna Charisma

Sunday 12th of February 2023

This helped a lot with my kids in class! As, a preschool teacher this is deeply appreciated. Thank you!

Tanja Mcilroy

Monday 13th of February 2023

So glad to hear it. Thank you!

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