Gather your group together, close enough so everyone can hear one another.
Each person’s task is to identify the ‘key’ which unlocks the secret to a puzzle.
Announce that you’re hosting an imaginary party, and everyone is invited.
To attend, every person must bring some ‘thing’ with them. It can be a food, a prop or even a person.
Next, invite a series of volunteers to nominate what they would like to bring to your party.
Here’s the key: the ‘thing’ must be spelled with two consecutive letters that are the same to be acceptable.
Unless a person brings the correct thing, eg beer, strawberries, Darren, they cannot attend the party.
As each person makes an attempt to uncover the key, congratulate those who get it, and encourage those who do not.
Continue to offer more and more obvious clues until everyone has identified the key.
Video Transcript for Come To My Party Game presented by Mark Collard
We plan to have a bit of a party, and so in this exercise we only have limited tickets though for you to join us in this party.
So if you’re interested in actually attending this party, I invite you to come along. We’ll give you details later to know exactly where to turn up and at what time but importantly the ticket that you’re going to bring with you is a particular thing, an item, okay?
And so on this occasion I would like you to consider what you’re going to bring to the party.
So for example, I’m going to bring an apple. I love apples. So if I was going to be like you in your space, coming to someone’s party, I’d be bringing an apple, I would get through the door. I would walk past the bouncer because I have the correct item.
Let me say upfront, in a couple of minutes everyone’s going to know how to come to my party. So I’m not going to leave you hanging, but in the process I’m going to ask you to discover what is it about what is being brought to the party that allows one person to come but another person not to come.
So for example, is there someone out there that would just like to hazard a guess, what’s something you might like to bring to the party? Fantastic.
Grass or grass, either way. So grass or grass can be brought. You can bring that to the party. You’re talking about the lawn variety of grass, though aren’t you? Absolutely. Absolutely. This is G-rated. So you may bring that with you, Dante. Fantastic. Pete.
(Can I bring cookies?)
Can you bring cookies? Yeah, I love cookies, so please bring some cookies.
So this point you’re going okay, we’ve got grass, we have cookies, and we have an apple coming. What would you like to bring? We don’t want to bring doubles up. Let’s not bring another apple. So for example… Eric.
We really like smiles, but not at this party. You cannot bring a smile to this party, but you can be happy. You can bring a smile to the party… Sorry, you cannot bring a smile to the party but you can be happy, okay?
There’s a clue in there, remember? In a couple of minutes you’re all going to know how to come to this party. Ellen.
(Can we bring a book?)
Oh, yes. It’s one of those parties where you’ve got to bring a book.
(I’ll bring your book.)
You’ll bring my book? That’s a great book. I was going to suggest that. Justin.
(I’ll bring booze.)
Booze, which would include beer, but not wine. Another clue. You can bring beer which is booze but not wine.
(Can we bring balloons?)
Balloons, yes. I love a balloon.
Okay. Hands up those folks at this point, even if you haven’t offered something believe you’ve got the ticket to come to my party. Okay, great. Fantastic. So not all hands are up. That’s okay. We’ll continue to make this more and more aware.
So to come to my party you’ve got to bring something in particular. We know certain things can’t be brought.
So for those who are in the party, give me an example of something that should not be brought to the party.
No sausages. No chicken. No pork. Is there any type of meat that could be brought?
Beef, that’s right.
Kangaroo. That is very true. In Australia you can bring kangaroo to the party. That’s true. Another example of something you cannot bring?
Cake, C-A-K-E , should not be brought, but we did say beer could, B-E-E-R, or cookies, C-O-O-K-I-E-S.
(Could we bring dessert?)
Dessert. I get a little bit confused here because I failed spelling. Which by the way is a clue.
That’s right. You can bring dessert. Any particular type of dessert?
Pudding, yes. Nice. What about marshmallows? It could definitely be marshmallows. Jello or jelly would be good.
Lollipops could work as well. Lollies which is the same as sweets. Both of those can be brought no matter what you call them.
What about people? If you’re bringing a friend with you, which friends could you bring?
Your buddy. I’d bring Shelly, S-H-E-L-L-Y.
Jess could go.
Makaila can’t. Apparently Mark can’t come to his own party either. Mark can’t come to his party.
Great. So at this point if I haven’t got everyone coming to the party we’ll just continue to provide more and more clues often spelling it very clearly like B-E-E-R, C-O-O-K-I-E-S, and so on and so on.
What was the key? Tell me what the key was to this party.
Double letters. A word with a double letter. Not just two of the same letter, they have to be together like ‘happy’ or ‘apple’ and so forth.
There are a million what I call ‘What’s the key?’ type exercises, kind of like lateral thinkers, and there are a number of different ways that the party can be run.
For example when I run this often I will use it alphabetically. Notice I started with ‘apple’. And the next one was what? What did you offer, Dante?
Grass. Sorry, you can’t come to my party because I will have changed the key. But what could he have brought?
Balloons or beer or a bat, because it starts with B. The next item needs to start with letter C, and so on and so on and so on. You got the idea? Fantastic.
How To Play Narrative
This game is just one of many dozens of lateral-thinking, What’s The Key? type puzzles that invites your group to discover a ‘secret key,’ but is never quite as easy or as obvious as it appears. As they say ‘truth is obvious to those who know it.’
Assemble your group in one of many ways – sitting, standing or even walking together. If everyone can hear each other, you’re good to go.
Then, explain that each person’s task is to identify the ‘key’ which unlocks the secret to a game, which in this case, involves inviting people to your imaginary party.
Announce to your group that everyone is invited to attend your party, but every person must bring a particular ‘thing’ with them. It can be a food, a prop or even a person.
To get started, announce that you’re going to bring “APPLES.” Next, invite a series of volunteers to suggest what they’d like to bring.
Here’s the key: the ‘thing’ must be spelled with two consecutive letters that are the same to be acceptable.
So, in order to be invited to come to my party game, each person must bring the correct ‘thing.’ Lollies, beer, strawberries, Darren, etc are all good examples.
Provide gradual clues to allow those who have not got it to get it.
For example, I will suggest to my group that I can bring “BEER BUT NOT WINE” or “LARRY BUT NOT MARIA” or “A BOOK BUT NOT A MAGAZINE.”
To maintain interest, remind your group that everyone will know the answer within, say, ten minutes.
As each person has a go, congratulate those who get it, and encourage those who do not. That is, if a person does not bring a thing which is spelt with two identical consecutive letters, explain that they cannot come to the party… yet.
Expect lots of confused looks in the beginning, but sooner or later, one or two people will catch on to what’s going on. At this point, start to offer more and more obvious clues, such as repeating those ‘things’ which are permitted and asking your group to consider what they all have in common.
Continue until everyone has unlocked the key.
Be sure to review the Leadership Tips described below to present this exercise thoughtfully.
Practical Leadership Tips
This is an ideal game to play to occupy your group as you move from them from one to place to another, around a campfire, travelling in a bus or on a hike.
As a lateral-thinking exercise, this game is great for sparking a little creative and critical thinking in your group. People have to look beyond what is obvious and discover another truth. As you can imagine, the connections one can draw from the experience of looking for the ‘key’ to the real world are many. For example, I like to connect the fact that while the ‘key’ is very subtle, it impacts significantly on the solution, in much the same way that subtle glances and mannerisms in a training group or classroom can often have a significant impact on people’s learning.
Please note, the point of lateral-thinking types of activities should not be to frustrate your group beyond enjoyment. They are designed to be fun, but don’t play for more than 10 or 15 minutes. Gradually introduce more and more obvious clues so that, eventually, everyone gets the ‘key.’
Ask your group to resist the urge to share the ‘key’ with others once they work it out. Assure everyone that they will ALL know the solution within, say, ten minutes, and it’s more powerful to discover the solution on their own, than have someone tell them the answer. Besides, whispering the answer to a neighbour only reinforces the fact that they couldn’t do it without help, and getting it will not change their lives.
That said, be aware that some people will reel at the very thought of trying to solve this sort of puzzle, because it involves ‘lateral-thinking.’ Often, these folk have had very negative experiences in the past with this sort of exercise, ie when the puzzle is worked on for hours, or perhaps the solution is never revealed. So, be prepared that some people will immediately ‘check-out’ of this exercise. To this end, note my comments below…
Be very careful in your language. Note two important factors in the presentation I describe above:
– The task is to identify what the ‘key’ is, and to imitate what I’m doing. This exercise has nothing to do with having a party. Rather, it seeks to sharpen listening skills and heighten awareness of subtlety.
– Everyone is aware that they will know the answer very soon. This is critical to maintain interest, lest some people (often those who never ‘get’ these sorts of puzzles) lose interest very quickly.
Do not present more than one or two of these types of puzzles in a row – seldom do the people who didn’t get it the first time, get it the second time.
You could integrate Come To My Party as part of a well-designed SEL program to develop your group’s ability to understand the perspectives of and empathise with others including those from diverse backgrounds.
Specifically, this activity offers opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Linking Feelings, Values & Thoughts
Identifying & Managing Stress
Demonstrating Self-Discipline & Self-Motivation
Taking Other’s Perspectives
Demonstrating Empathy & Compassion
Recognising Strengths In Others
Communicate & Listen Effectively
Seeking and/or Offering Support
Build Positive Relationships
Demonstrating Curiosity & Open-Mindedness
Anticipating & Evaluating the Consequences of One’s Actions
Promoting Personal & Collective Well-Being
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
There is no specific health & wellness perspective to this activity other than promoting the benefits of thinking laterally and enjoying a good laugh.
In a small way, you could argue that the focus required to successfully solve the key may speak to the benefits of being present (mindful) especially in the context of building resilience when every fibre of your being is feeling frustrated.
If you can think of more explicit ways in which Come To My Party could be purposefully integrated into a health and wellness program, please leave a comment at the base of this page.
New Key: Vary the key, eg the first letter of the ‘thing’ will conform to the alphabet, eg Avocado, Beans, Carrot, Durian, etc, or the thing must have one particular type of letter, such as the letter A, somewhere within its spelling.
Subtle Keys: While not a lateral-thinking exercise, take a look at The Rock to explore a powerful, trust-building experience which focuses on subtlety.
Open the Virtual Adaptation tab to learn how to present this activity online.
Invite individuals to either (audibly) name the object they want to bring to the party, or even better, type it into the chat room facility. Often, as the list of permissible objects is viewed visually, the key will become more obvious to some people.
If possible, add the names of the objects which can be brought to the party on the primary screen. This may assist those who have not yet cracked the code.
Unique mathematical puzzle to challenge small teams.
Fun & intriguing word & letter game for small groups.
Useful Framing Ideas
Hey folks, as we walk across to the [enter particular space or venue…], I’d like to play a game with you. I’m going to be having a party later this week, and everyone has to bring something with them. However, not every item or thing you bring is allowed…
Have you ever had the experience of not seeing something until it was pointed out to you? And then, you could not imagine how you missed it in the first place. I do this all the time, especially with my car keys – I can be staring at them, and still not see them. Well, this next exercise is a little bit like that…
Hey, would you like to come to my party? It’s going to be a lot of fun, and to share the load, I’m asking everyone to bring one thing with them…
Reflection Tips & Strategies
Coupled with one or more reflection strategies, here are some sample questions you could use to process your group’s experience after playing this fun, lateral-thinking game:
How did you feel during the exercise, especially when you didn’t know the key?
Did you put yourself under any pressure to crack the code?
What was the trigger that finally unlocked the key for you?
How did you feel as soon as you unlocked the key?
How might we show empathy towards others who are yet to unlock the key?
Fun ‘Community-Building’ Session
What You Need:
8+ people, 60 mins, two sticks or pens