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4 "Mother May I" Game Alternatives

Tisha Berg
May 22, 2017

Add a little extra fun with some modern twists on the classic game of "Mother May I."



The opportunity to play treasured games from your childhood with your own child is one of the fun experiences you may look forward to as a parent. Although technology has created a whole new level of gaming for modern kids to experience, the solitary nature of many of those games often leaves true camaraderie and team spirit by the wayside. 

"Mother May I" is a simple game, with rules along the lines of Simon Says. It's generally recommended for younger children, usually between 4 and 9 years old, which makes it perfect for family time or babysitter night. The game can be played with a minimum of three people, but larger numbers tend to create more unpredictability and excitement.

Catherine Allison, an award-winning children's entertainer and drama teacher at Drama Bee Kids, believes that the game is a great ice breaker because it takes children out of their comfort zone and "gets the kids moving around, laughing and thinking of themselves in a different way." Allison, who performs as a character called "Madame Chocolat," plays "Mother May I" quite regularly at children's parties and says that "kids really get a kick out of playing the role of a mother figure and being the one in control."

Play begins by designating one person as the "Mother." That person stands a distance away from the other players with her back turned to them. The players stand in a line and take turns asking "Mother" if they may take a certain number of steps forward. They must also request taking a certain kind of step, such as big, medium or giant.

Sometimes game play includes the ability to request other kinds of steps like bunny hops, scissor steps or skip steps. The question must be asked in the following way: "Mother may I take three giant steps forward?"

At this point, the "Mother" may say "Yes, you may" or "No, you may not...but you can take one bunny hop forward." If the question isn't prefaced with "Mother may I" then that player has to go back to the starting line. The first player to reach the "Mother" then gets a turn to be in charge.

Now that you've gotten the hang of the classic way to play, try adding a few fun twists!

1. Personalize It

Sally Monroe, the owner of Silly Sally's Events, offers the idea of using the lead player's name instead of "Mother" to ask permission. Using the phrase "Mother May I" might sound too old-fashioned to kids, she says, but calling out each other's names can help them to feel more connected and familiar with one another, adding that "when I play the game at my parties, I always have the kids use 'Silly Sally May I' when it's their turn." You can also alter the names to the theme of the event you're at. For a pirate party, use "Captain," and for a pretty-in-pink princess party use "Your Majesty."

2. Step Creatively

Change the types of steps that the children take to go forward, suggests Monroe. Instead of just taking small, medium or big steps, kids can request movements like crab walking, somersaults or wiggling leaps. To up the difficulty, don't let moves get repeated -- once one player asks to cartwheel forward, no one else may make the same request until the next round.

3. Dance It Out

The fun lies in the kids seeing how creative and silly they can be in coming up with various kinds of steps. At some of her parties, says Monroe, "kids ask to move forward using dance steps such as the Macarena or Gangnam Style." Play music during the game and have kids to move to the beat.

4. Team Up

To encourage kids to work together, turn Mother May I into a team game. Choose one child to be Mother, and divide the rest of the kids into two teams. Each team must decide on one request together -- "Mother may we take five small steps forward?" The Mother can then add conditions by saying, "You may take five small steps forward if you are wearing blue." To win, all the members from one team must reach Mother.

As a result of the creativity and silliness that's incorporated into the game, "kids can learn about competition in a fun, non-threatening way," explains Allison. She adds that even shy kids "tend to let their guard down and open themselves up to being free." Both Monroe and Allison agree that this is a game that encourages structure and helps to reinforce the use of manners by requiring the kids to ask for permission.

Tisha Berg has been a freelance content writer and desktop publisher since 1997, with articles on family life, healthy living and parenting appearing on Working Mother, AboutOne, Lifescript and United Way. Tisha holds a bachelor's degree in theater history from Hunter College in New York City and is also certified hypnotherapist.

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