The popular swimming pool game Marco Polo has been around for as long as many of us can remember, although its exact origins are unknown. It may be an offshoot of the centuries-old game “Blind Man’s Bluff,” in which a blindfolded person must locate and physically “tag” another participant, who then becomes the next person to be blindfolded.
What makes Marco Polo and other blindfold games so alluring? Perhaps it’s the “no peeking” aspect—the blindfolded person must engage their non-visual senses in order to tag another person and be relieved of their role as “it.” And, of course, it’s also amusing for the sighted participants to watch the blindfolded person stumble around in search of someone to tag.
Water games like Marco Polo are staples at kids’ pool parties, and blindfold games have become increasingly popular as team building activities for adults. Some reasons for their increasing popularity are:
•Blindfold games promote trust and teamwork - Blindfold games and activities encourage people to work together more closely, as the blindfolded person has no choice but to rely on and trust unblindfolded participants.
•Blindfold tasks are more challenging - Blindfolds make activities more challenging, which sharpen the blindfolded person’s non-visual senses and can help sharpen memory as well.
Let’s explore some of the most popular as well as some of the lesser known blindfold games.
•Blindfolded egg and spoon race- Lay out start and finish lines on a grassy area and pair up participants. Each pair will choose a leader to physically guide their blindfolded partner to the finish line while the blindfolded person balances an egg on a spoon. Whichever pair successfully reaches the finish line first without dropping the egg wins.
•Minefield- In this game a large number of soft objects (e.g. stuffed animals, foam toys) are laid out on the grass and participants are paired up. In each pair one person is blindfolded and guided by the other person to retrieve target objects while avoiding designated “mines.” The game can be made easier or more difficult depending on whether the leader in each pair physically guides the blindfolded person to the targets or talks them through from the sidelines.
•Blindfold leads -In this game a sighted person leads a blindfolded person around a series of obstacle courses, such as through a pattern of balls on the ground. The sighted person starts by physically leading the blindfolded person through the course and then later leading them by voice only in order to make the challenge progressively difficult. Participants can swap roles periodically through the game.
• Hit the piñata -Especially popular in Mexico and other Latin American countries, in this game batters take turns hitting a paper mache piñata, traditionally strung up over a tree branch, in order to release goodies like candy and toys inside.
• Pin the tail on the donkey -In this classic game each player must try to pin the missing tail as accurately as possible onto a picture of a donkey, often with hilarious results.
• Blindfolded drawing contest -IEach participant is blindfolded and must draw objects called out by the leader. The person who draws the most accurate picture wins.
• Blindfolded retrace your steps -A single marker is placed on the grass with plenty of room around it. A blindfolded person is giving a route to follow (example: 5 steps forward, 7 steps to the left, 10 steps back, etc.) and then must retrace their steps (a good memory is key here). A sighted person may help guide the blindfolded person along to make sure they don’t go too far astray. Participants take turns, and whoever is closest to the marker after retracing their steps wins.
• Circle of silence with blindfolds -This game is ideal with a minimum of 10 people. The group forms a circle arms-length apart, and a blindfolded person stands in the middle. The group must pass around a noisy object (such as an empty coffee can with a handful of marbles inside) as quietly as possible. The blindfolded person must point in the direction of anyone who passes the object noisily in order to be called out of the circle.
A Few Words about Safety
Being blindfolded impairs our ability to move gracefully through the environment, so safety concerns are of primary importance with blindfold games. It’s important to make sure that there is a supervisor or referee watching over games where blindfold games are being played, especially when kids are involved.
Here are some additional things to consider when planning blindfold games:
• Play blindfold games outside in open space, preferably on grass, to prevent injuries.
• Assess the site before you begin playing to ensure there are no hazards like hard objects and sharp corners.
• Run the blindfold activity through a test environment before playing in order to anticipate and address any problems.
• Avoid running, as this practically guarantees falls and injuries.
It’s not hard to see why swimming pool games like Marco Polo and other blindfold games are such a hit with kids or why they’ve become so popular with adults for team-building exercises. Blindfold games heighten the non-visual senses, are fun and engaging, and may even help improve your memory!
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