What is the Game Called Hot Potato?

Hot Potato is a lively, social game where players pass an object quickly around a circle to the beat of music or a timer. The goal is to avoid holding the "potato" when the music stops or the timer goes off. It's a test of reflexes and anticipation, perfect for family gatherings or parties. Ready to learn the rules and variations?
J. Beam
J. Beam

Hot potato is a children’s game similar to musical chairs, in which participants sit in a circle and pass a potato, or any other object, around the circle as quickly as possible. The object of the game is to not be the one holding the potato when the music stops. This game is popular for entertaining large groups of kids at parties, school, or other events that include children.

Though hot potato was originally played with a real potato, today there are many variations of hot potato, and no single version is the right way to play. The word “hot” is the operative word in any variation, as players do not want to hold on to their “potato” any longer than is possible. Variations can be created to suit nearly any theme and any situation.

Two young boys
Two young boys

A game of hot potato is easy to play with large groups of kids outdoors. Players can even stand up if space permits. It’s not uncommon for physical education teachers to play this game with smaller children using a ball in order to help them improve their catching skills.

Hot potato isn’t restricted to outdoors by any means. Variations, also called pass the potato or pass the pumpkin, are great school party ideas. You can easily create a themed version of the game for Halloween. Have children sit in a circle and hand one child a small pumpkin. The teacher can play Halloween music, but he or she should not look at the circle of kids.

When the music starts, the kids pass the pumpkin around the circle in one direction. When the teacher stops the music, whoever is holding the pumpkin is “out”. He or she leaves the circle, and the game continues until only one person is left.

You can create similar versions for Christmas, Valentine's Day, Thanksgiving, or a birthday party. Hot potato can be adapted to any child’s party. It is highly suggested that all players receive a small prize for playing, such as a piece of candy or a trinket, and the winner can be provided with a slightly larger prize. Depending on the size of the group, you may split kids into two separate circles to make the game go faster.

No matter which variation of hot potato you play, standing up or sitting down, kids enjoy the excitement and the anticipation of not being caught with the “potato”. It’s a sure crowd-pleaser among younger kids.

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Discussion Comments


BrickBack-I know I loved that game too. You know that the famous singing group that caters to children called the Wiggles has a song called Hot Potato.

I think they even have a Hot Potato live DVD where you can actually see the Wiggles perform. The song does not have to do with the game; it is just a silly song of the same title. It just made me think of it. My daughter used to love the Wiggles. Their songs are really catchy.


The hot potato game is a favorite for most children. It is a fun and exciting game that gets everyone focused on the hot potato toy.

Each of the children toss the hot potato to each other and when the music stops whoever still has the hot potato is out of the game.

This game is also easy to play and the rules are easy to understand. I always loved this game as a child.

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    • Two young boys
      Two young boys