I’m a simple man. I live a simple life, after a pretty simple childhood. Which probably explains why I was so shocked to discover that Pass the Parcel is rigged!

If your five year old is an outstanding reader, be sure they don’t read this post!

Pass the Parcel has changed since I was a kid. For me, it was a random game, where a cycle of music and parcel passing would be interspersed with stopped music and unwrapped newspaper. The game would continue until one random child removed a layer of wrapping to reveal a fun prize! Winning! It was a fun game, one child was the winner and we moved on to more lollies and games before the cake!

At children’s parties I’ve attended in the last 5 years (my oldest son Jackson is now 5) it seems to work a little – no wait – a lot differently.

A small parcel wrapped in birthday wrapping paper is passed around a circle of children. Music plays. The music stops and one child removes a layer of wrapping, and finds a fun little present. The music starts again, the passing of the parcel resumes until the music stops again and another child removes a layer and finds yet another little present.

Repeat the above, until one child removes a layer which again reveals a prize and no more layers.

Everyone’s a winner.


How does it work? A parent sits with an eye on the kids, stopping the music strategically so that each child wins something. Taking it to the extreme, you will find at some parties the gifts inside the parcel are specific to boys or girls and the music is stopped at strategic moments to suit the prize about to be revealed.

Am I the only one that had no idea this was going on? It’s a conspiracy!

You could take the angle that we’ve become too concerned about ‘children missing out’ that we’re giving every child a prize. But I don’t think that’s it. I think actually there were two very different games going on at kids parties over the last 30 years, it’s just that I’m only now seeing that other game.

I even called my mum last night to check if my recollection was correct, and it was confirmed, when I was a kid, it was one parcel, one prize. My wife tells me that it’s always been one parcel multiple prizes in her family.

I guess there’s no right or wrong – but I’d prefer the excitement of one parcel one prize myself!

Which game did you play? Am I the only one surprised by this?