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How to Play Telephone with Kids

Here’s how to play the Telephone Game, tips for adapting it for different ages and some funny telephone phrases to try out with your kids.

What is the Telephone Game?

Telephone is a fun group game that has been played in classrooms and homes for ages. It also goes by the names Broken Telephone, Whispers and Pass the Message

It’s a wonderful game for developing listening skills and can be played by children of various ages.

how to play telephone with kids

How to Play Telephone

These are the basic telephone game rules:

  • Seat 3 or more children in a circle or line.  
children standing in a line
  • One child starts the game by thinking of a word or phrase and whispering it into the next child’s ear.
  • That child must then whisper the phrase into the next child’s ear, and so it continues from child to child.
  • Players should only say the phrase once, but if playing with younger children you can allow them to repeat it.
  • The message must travel all the way around the circle or to the end of the line and the last person may say the phrase or word aloud.
  • The player who started the round must then confirm if the message is correct or if it has been “broken” somewhere along the chain.
  • This usually ends in fits of giggles as the message often becomes distorted and ridiculous.
  • The next player then has a turn to think of a new phrase to send round the cirlce.
two girls laughing next to each other

What is the Purpose of the Telephone Game?

The purpose of the Telephone Game is to send a message from the first person all the way to the last person in a group, without distorting or changing the message in any way. 

The game is often played with the intention of teaching children to listen carefully and communicate clearly.

What Do Kids Learn From a Game of Telephone?

There are so many educational benefits of playing this game. Here are just a few:

How Many People Can Play Telephone?

Telephone is best played with a group of children as it is the most fun when the message passes through many ears.

However, it can be played with as little as three players and can make a great dinner table family game.

three girls playing the telephone game

If playing with very young children, a smaller number will make the success rate of delivering the message intact a lot higher.

Telephone Game Examples

There are many different types of sentences or phrases that work well for this game. Here are a few ideas:

  • Alliterations – The shark has shiny shoes; Blue bubbles in the bath
  • Tongue twisters – She sees cheese; Red lorry, yellow lorry
  • Words that go together – Salt and pepper; Macaroni and cheese
  • Short phrases – Cheeky monkeys; Humpty Dumpty
  • Rhymes – I wish I had a dish; Can you bat a cat?
  • Funny, nonsensical phrases – My mom is a dinosaur; Pass me the potatoes
  • Funny words – Stumblebum; Gobbledygook
  • Regular sentences – Mandy is wearing a red dress today; I had oats for breakfast
  • Long words – Extraterrestrial; Encyclopedia

Almost anything goes! Here are 100 Telephone Game Phrases to get you started.

How to Adapt the Telephone Game to Kids of Different Ages

Here are some Telephone Game ideas to make the game easier or more challenging, depending on the age of the kids who are playing.

If you are playing the game with very young preschoolers:

  • Have an adult or older child pick the phrases and start off the game.
mom and daughter playing telephone
  • Allow kids to repeat the phrases multiple times if they need to.
  • Use short, easy-to-repeat phrases at first, such as single words, familiar words and ideas (Twinkle, twinkle, little star), or words that go well together (salt and pepper). 
  • Play with fewer children.

Playing Telephone with older kids?

  • Start easier then increase the level of difficulty in line with kids’ ability and maturity. As they get used to playing, they will learn to listen more carefully.
  • Play with a large group and don’t allow kids to repeat phrases more than once.
  • Use challenging phrases such as alliterations, tongue twisters, rhyming phrases, longer sentences or challenging words (like electrifying).
  • Allow children to take turns thinking of their own phrases for each round of the game.

You don’t have to stick to the rules exactly when playing this game. Change them to suit your kids and make up phrases to go in line with your intention – such as to teach rhyming or just to have fun and laugh.


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