Hot potato (game)

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This article is about the party game. For the game show, see Hot Potato (game show). For other uses, see Hot Potato.

Hot potato is a party game that involves players gathering in a circle and tossing a small object such as a beanbag or tennis ball to each other while music plays. The player who is holding the "hot potato" is out when the music stops. Play continues until only one player is left. The game is designed to be fast-paced and high-pressure and is often played by children. The game can also be played without music where there is a designated leader who shouts out "hot!" and the player holding the object is eliminated.[1]

Hot potato can be used as an activity for practicing motor skills such as eye–hand coordination and catching.


The origins of the hot potato game are not clear. However, it may go back as far as 1888 when Sidney Oldall Addy's Glossary of Sheffield Words describes a game in which a number of people sit in a row, or in chairs round a parlor.[2] In this game, a lighted candle is handed to the first person, who says:

Jack's alive, and likely to live
If he dies in your hand, you've a forfeit to give.

The one in whose hand the light expires has to pay the forfeit.

Pass the parcel[edit]

Pass the parcel is a party game in which a parcel is passed from one person to another.

In preparation for the game, a prize (or "gift") is wrapped in a large number of layers of wrapping paper. Usually, each layer is of a different design so they can be easily distinguished. Smaller prizes or mottos may be placed between some or all other layers of wrapping.

During the game, music is played as the parcel is passed around. Whoever is holding the parcel when the music is stopped removes one layer of wrapping and claims any prize found under that layer. The music is then restarted and the game continues until every layer is removed and the main prize claimed.

The stopping and starting of the music is usually done by an adult who is not taking part in the game. While in order for the game to be fair, they should not observe the game, in practice they often do, to ensure that every participant has a turn, that prizes are well distributed and perhaps that the child whose party it is claims the main prize (or to ensure that a guest claims the prize). A fairer alternative is to prepare recordings of short snatches of music.

Variations on the game include allowing participants to remove as many layers of paper as possible (rather than just one) before the music restarts, and including challenges or forfeits on slips of paper in place of mottos.

This game is known to come from traditions in the northern United States.[citation needed]

The party toy, "Hot Potato", is shaped like a potato and buzzes when the music stops.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Maguire, Jack (1990). Hopscotch, Hangman, Hot Potato & Ha Ha Ha: A Rulebook of Children's Games. New York: Simon and Schuster. ISBN 0671763326. 
  2. ^ "Addy, Sidney Oldall (1888). "The Geographical or Ethnological Position of Sheffield", A Glossary of Words Used in the Neighbourhood of Sheffield." London: Trubner & Co. for the English Dialect Society.