How to Play Hot Potato Surprise!

Instead of being "out" when the music stops, players unwrap a present!
Tissue paper (or wrapping paper, newspaper, or crepe paper)
Small gifts for each participant

1. Make the "hot potato surprise": gather a bunch simple gifts like trading cards, jewelry, candy, tiny figurines, whatever you like, just nothing too big. Make sure you have more gifts than players.
2. Wrap one of the little gifts using tissue paper or wrapping paper. Place a second gift on top of that first layer of wrapping paper, and wrap again.
3. Continue repeating this process until all the gifts have been wrapped in what appears to be one gift.
4. Select one person to be in charge of randomly turning the music on and off.
5. Seat players in a big circle.

How to Play

1. The "gift" should be handed to the birthday child to start the game, or any other volunteer.
2. Start the music and have the children pass the present around the circle.
3. When the music stops, the player with the present gets to unwrap the first layer of wrapping paper to discover a present.
4. This player is now out of the game, but gets to keep the present.
5. Continue in this manner until every child has opened a present.
6. Once everyone has a present, players can trade if they like.


1. "Pass the Parcel": great name for this game during Christmas. Just as presents are passed around in the Nutcracker, your children can share the experience.
2. "Mummy Wrappings": around Halloween use fake shredded bloody bandages to wrap creepy crawlers and candy for a frightful surprise!
3. "Yarn Balls": if you throwing a kitty-themed party, winding little gifts into a crepe paper ball instead of wrapping paper is a cute way to simulate a kitty unraveling yarn.


1. Smaller children will need encouragement to keep the "potato" going.
2. Some children get anxious at the notion that they will not receive a present. Reassure them that everyone will get a present, but the fun is not knowing when your turn will come, or what you may receive.
3. Have a few extra prizes for the trading round. Some children may become disappointed if they can not trade for what they want.

Activity Length
5 - 15 minutes
Non-competitive (cooperative)
Easy peasy (fun and simple)
Mess Factor
Dustpan, please
Noise Level
Number of Players
5 to 10
10 to 20
Prep Time
10 - 20 minutes
Space Needed
Small (a clearable open space the size of a 1-car garage)
Team Division
All together now! (everyone works together)