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Paper telephone can save your party

Paper telephone was introduced to me by a friend during a party that had reached that critical point when everyone was gathered but had nothing much to do. Finding an activity that is fun for everyone is tough. Video games don’t work, trivia doesn’t always work, cards are a shot in the dark…but paper telephone seems to hit the sweet spot.

A spin on the original

Paper telephone is a pencil-and-paper version of the old telephone game we used to play in elementary school. You know, where you all sit in a line and one person at the end tells the next person something only once, then they have to repeat it until it gets to the last person. The phrase always changes by the time the line is done and what started as “I like chocolate chip cookies” ends up as “Purple beef needs salt.”

Take that same idea and apply drawing and you have paper telephone. Like the original, paper telephone needs a decent sized group of people to be fun, probably at least six people…but the more the better. All you need to play is a blank sheet of paper for each person and some pens and pencils.

How to play

Everyone sits in a circle around the room and writes a phrase at the top of their paper – but very tiny, no more than one line tall. The phrase doesn’t have to be magical or witty, something simple like “My cat chases mice” is good, or you can get a little creative like, “Bon Scott wears his pants too tight.” Once everyone has their phrase written down, you pass the paper one person over in one direction.

The second person’s job is to draw out the phrase the read. Just make sure you draw the picture far enough below the phrase that you can fold the paper over from the top, hiding only the phrase. You should also make sure you don’t draw too big because you’ll need as much room as possible for future drawings, especially if you have a large group of people.

So the second person draws the phrase out and then folds over the top of the paper so the phrase is hidden and only the drawing is showing. Then pass the paper to the next person. Now that person has to write the phrase that the picture is showing. See where this is going?

Once the person describes what they see in words, they fold the paper over so the picture is hidden and only their phrase (the second phrase) is showing. Then pass and the next person once again has to draw the phrase. Wash, rinse, repeat.

A crazy ending

As you can see, just like regular telephone, paper telephone results in a phrase that is severely altered by the time it finishes its route. Once you get your paper back the round is over. However, it is best to end the game so that the last thing on the paper is a phrase, so it may need to go one more person.

Then once the paper has made its way around, you open it up from its numerous folds and read aloud how the phrase changed from beginning to end. Laughter shall ensue because even the simplest phrase will change.

Fun for all

Paper telephone is easy, fun, and something everyone can play regardless of skill and something that will make everyone laugh. It’s a real party-saver if you’ve found your party has segregated into units scattered throughout the house. Paper telephone is neutral ground that can go on for most of the night if you want. Next party you find yourself at, suggest paper telephone and see what happens.

And if my description of how paper telephone works is confusing, go over to and you can see some examples.