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Parlour games by definition are played indoors (thus parlour and that being Old-fashioned a living room especially one kept tidy for the reception of visitors) and whilst groups of children are mean’t to be involved they could well just be adults.

They proved to be very popular in Victorian times, they usually involve word play, memory, dramatic skill and physical activity and I guess we would see these as educational games, indeed ‘some of the verbal games are surprisingly complex and require an extensive vocabulary’.

So here are some more collected together for you from all over the place:

Shadow buff
Simple fun, this: hang a sheet across the room, put a single candle on a table behind it, and turn out the lights. One person sits in front of the sheet while everyone else passes between the sheet and the candle, and the person in front has to guess who each of them is. The shadows can disguise themselves in any way they want to, but if they are correctly identified they have to pay a forfeit.

Prussian exercises
This game had the admirable dual purpose of poking fun at the Germans and making everyone fall over in a heap, which suggests that it should be as much fun today as it ever was. The players stood in a line like soldiers on parade and were given various commands by the “Captain” (” Fold arms!”, “Tweak noses!”, “Do your Gladstone impression!” etc), which they performed in unison. When they’d had as much fun as they could cope with they were given the commands “Ground left knee!” (kneel on one knee) and then “Present arms!” (hold your arms out in front of you) after which the soldier at the right end of the line, who was an accomplice of the Captain, pushed the soldier next to him over – and hopefully the whole line collapsed like a row of dominoes.

Lookabout
The host shows everyone a little knick-knack in the room. All the guests are to leave while the host hides it. When they return, everyone is to look for the item until they spot it. They are then to sit down. The last one to find it loses (or has to be “it”). It makes it a bit more difficult if guests continue to mill for a few seconds before they sit down. You’re Never Fully Dressed without a Smile. One person is selected to be “it.” That person is the only one in the group who is allowed to smile. He or she can do anything they want to try and get someone to smile. If the person smiles, he or she becomes it. The person who never smiles is declared the winner.

Hunt the Slipper
‘All the players but one are placed in a circle; that one remains inside to hunt the slipper, which is passed from hand to hand very rapidly in the circle. The Hunter cannot judge where it is, because all the players keep their hands moving all the time, as if they were passing it. The one in whose hand it is caught become the Hunter, and pays a forfeit.

‘Usually, I believe, little girls play sitting side by side, very close to each other, on low stools, or resting upon their feet. If the company be sufficiently numerous, it is better to have two circles, on within another, sitting face to face, resting on their feet, with their knees bent forward so as to meet each other; in this way a sort of concealed arch is formed, through which the slipper may be passed unperceived. There should be two slight openings in the circle, one on one side, and the other opposite. When the slipper is passing through these openings, the player who passes it should tap it on the floor, to let the Hunter know where it is. She springs to seize it; but it is flying round so rapidly, and all hands are moving so fast, that she loses it, and, in less than an instant, perhaps, she hears it tapping on the other side.

‘This game may be played rudely, and it may be played in a ladylike manner. If little girls are rude, they are in great danger of knocking each other down in trying to catch the slipper; for, cowering upon their feet, as they do in this game, they easily lose their balance. It is best for the Hunter never to try to catch the slipper except at the two openings in the circle; then there is no danger of tumbling each other down. Some prefer playing this game with a thimble or a marble, because it is not so likely to be seen as a slipper. If any one happens to drop the slipper in passing it, she must pay a forfeit.’ The Girls Own Book’ by Mrs Child, 1864

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