What is a Left Right Story Game and How do you Play It?

This is one of the most common questions we get at Party Game Ideas. So we are tackling this topic today and have created a video on the topic.

Left Right Story Game Definition
A Left Right Story Game is where a group of guests (often kids) sit in a circle and each person is given or have brought a gift/favor/prize for passing. The party host then reads the Left Right story and when the word Left, Right and/or close variants are used the players all pass their item in the stated direction.

At the end of the story, the gift/favor/prize that the person end up with is theirs to keep.

Often in birthday, Halloween and other holiday events where favors, candy or small prizes are being passed around, there are often a few items being passed that will result in bonus or bigger prizes. These are marked or noted by the host (unique piece of candy) by the host before game play begins.

If the Left Right game is a gift exchange where the gifts end up with the guests who brought them then an additional statement is added to the story in order to shuffle the gifts.

What makes a Left Right Game Fun & Popular?
1. There is the Unknown – Everyone gets to play but you have no idea what you are going to end up with. Will you get the gift, candy bar or prize you have your eye on or will it just pass you by? Plus when you are done with the game, you get to see what you got and learn if you won a bonus prize.

2. It’s Silly – The Left Right Stories sometimes have a series of Left, Right, Lefts or clusters of Lefts and Rights that keep guests actively passing gifts. Sometimes they are passing Left when it should be Right, which makes it fun for adults to watch. Plus kids sit have fun passing, laughing and getting ready to pass again.

3. The Guests are Together and Quiet for 5-7 Minutes
This is a great game to pull kids (and adults) together and have your guests be focused. It gives party hosts and parents a chance to have one person read the story while others prep food, a game, or get a surprise ready. Let’s be honest sometimes it is nice not having 10 – 20 kids or adults running around the house.

4. Easy to Prepare Party Game
Left Right story games are easy to play. You just need a Left Right story, view all of Party Game Ideas Left Right Stories, you need items to pass, and if applicable bonus prizes.

5. Gift Exchange – No Meltdowns
One of the reasons Left Right games are so popular for kids Christmas Gift Exchanges is because there is no gift stealing. We have all seen when kids and even adults get upset when something they want is taken away from them. Well, Left Right Stories take care of that situation because there is no gift stealing just gift passing. You just pass the wrapped gift and the gift is not opened until the game is over – so no one knows what the gift is, hence no crying over a gift they want being taken away.

All of these features makes Left Right Story Games popular and fun, plus the stories are fun too. At Party Game Ideas, we work hard to make our Left Right stories fun, polite and with a positive message. The stories tend to be rather simple in nature, but you find a adventure in Ernie the Elf & The Special Gift, teamwork in Penguin’s Christmas Party, Birthday Balloons, and others, and even a first time adventure with Penguin’s First Halloween. Plus we include proper manners, when possible. So when they penguins get there candy at Halloween they always say “Thank you.” We think it is important to include common courtesies in our stories as it adds to a positive message we convey. Many of the stories involve teamwork, giving to others, and good hearted fun.

Where did Left Right Stories Originate?
It is hard to determine, when and how Left Right Story Games came into existence. Our best guess is that they originated in the late 1970’s or 80’s, when someone merged the idea of Pass the Parcel, a popular game in England, and a bedtime or Christmas story.

Then with the rise of group Gift Exchanges in the 1990s, Left Right stories started to take off as a way for kids to exchange gifts. Today you can find Left Right stories for almost every occasion, but the most popular time of year for Left Right games is the holiday season.

What Age Group Plays Left Right Games?
People of all ages can play Left Right games, because they are simple and fun. My mom’s Women’s Club played one during Christmas and their ages run from 30 to 70 years old. Plus you’ll find a wide range of Left Right games for all occasions.

However Left Right games are most often played by children from ages 3 – 8. This is the age when knowing your left and right can still be confusing, reading stories is fun and they may not have all the skills to play more complex games.

Can You Play Left Right Games Without Passing Gifts?
With coronavirus, the thought of passing items in a large group is something many people want to avoid.

So can you still play a Left Right game at your party and maintain social distancing? The answer is Yes and Maybe.

Yes – You can play a Left Right game without passing and item. Instead place the item on the floor or a table and have the guests move rather than the gift. So the item is stationary until the final Left Right is read and then the guests get the gift/prize in front of them.

Maybe – The maybe concerns social distancing. It might be hard to place the items 3-6 feet apart in a room, but you could do it outside, just be ready to talk loud. Every situation is different, you’ll have to evaluate your options and see what works for you.

How many people are needed to play a Left Right Story Game?
You can play with as few as 3 people, but most often you’ll have 5-15 people in the circle. I have seen groups as large as 35 play Left Right games too. FYI – For large groups consider using a microphone or recording the story before the event so you can play it over a speaker.

Left Right Story Games have become one of our most popular games on Party Game Ideas, and was even turned in a book you can buy on Amazon (Ernie the Elf and the Special Gift). They are a fun and entertaining activity for kids that involves passing items. If you are interested in playing a Left Right game at your next party check out all of our printable Left Right party games.