Smiling young children standing in a circle.

Indian Chief is a popular camp game that can be played indoors or outdoors. It can help break the ice and build team skills if kids don't know each other. It's also a good way to focus a group of rowdy children at a party, giving them a fun activity to calm them down. You can play Indian Chief with a small or large group -- the more kids in the circle, the harder the game gets.

Explain the rules of the game to the group. One child will be the chief and one the guesser. The guesser does not know who the chief is; the rest of the circle does. The chief starts actions that the group must copy, such as clapping, pulling faces, patting parts of the body, singing, or jumping up and down. The guesser observes the circle's actions and has to work out the identity of the chief. You might wish to play a trial game where you are the chief, to be sure the children understand the game.

Tell the group to sit in a circle and pick one child to be the guesser. That child must leave the room or move away from the circle and turn their back/cover their ears so they can't see or hear who is picked to be the chief. Pick one child to be the chief for this round. If you have a mix of ages in your group, pick older kids to be the chief and guesser for the first round. This gives younger kids the chance to watch how the game works before they take a turn.

Bring the guesser back to stand in the middle of the circle. Give the circle an action to start them off, such as clapping in rhythm or swinging their arms. Tell the chief -- without making it obvious who this is -- to switch to a new action when they're ready. The chief must try to switch the action without being noticed by the guesser. As the chief switches actions and the circle copies them, the guesser has three guesses to identify the chief. If they guess right, they win the round. If they don't, the chief wins.

Choose another guesser and chief and start another round. You can do this at random if you have a large group and want everyone to have a turn. Or, if the last chief lost their round, make them the guesser for the next game.


  • Explain to the group that they should try not to obviously look at the chief. This makes it way easier for the guesser to work out who it is.

    Encourage chiefs to keep things moving by switching actions regularly.

    The game can get loud and boisterous if kids get excited. To calm things down, tell them that actions such as shouting and standing up are not allowed. On the other hand, if you have plenty of space and noise isn't an issue, kids can get rid of some energy if they can use actions that get them on their feet and moving.

    If the game takes too long with three guesses, speed it up by giving the guesser a single guess and a time limit.

    You can add prizes to the mix if you're playing Indian Chief at a party. For example, you can give a small prize to every guesser that correctly identifies a chief and every chief that evades detection.


  • Make sure there is plenty of space between kids in the circle. Enthusiastic gestures and movements can get dangerous if kids sit too close together.

    Although kids of all ages can play Indian Chief, younger kids may find the strategic elements of the game hard to master. Depending on your group, this is probably a game for kids aged 8 and up.