Playing Spoons

Hi Readers! This comes to us from play-writer/thinker Bernie DeKoven. Bernie was computer game design pioneer and worked with major toy and game companies. Many of his games are taught in elementary schools around the world.  His books include The Well-Played Game, Junkyard Sports, and most recently, A Playful Path. He blogs at, which I was just browsing and found SO MANY fun games, like “Mitt Rowdy.” An inspriation! – L



It started out as the straightforward game of Spoons. You know the straightforward game of spoons?

You place a bunch of spoons in the center of the table arranging them in easy-grabbing distance from any player. There’s one fewer spoon than there are people.

You deal everybody some cards and pass the rest of the cards, one at a time, around the table, trying to get four-of-a-kind. When they do, they grab a spoon and then — everybody else does too. The trick is to remember to grab a spoon as soon as somebody else does, because the only way to lose is if you don’t have a spoon.

Well, it wasn’t that straightforward of a Spoons game, actually. We didn’t have any cards. So we had to use rummy tiles instead. You know rummy tiles. Like playing cards morphed into mah-johg tiles.

And then, for some reason, we men divided the tiles into three piles. And each of us, as if in response to a genetically cellular call, began to build forts out of our tiles. We men, that is. As our forts got more intricate, the women became more otherly engaged.

And just as our forts were near completion, we suddenly knew exactly what to do with the remaining tiles: Slide them into each others’ forts. Carom loose tiles into the enemy’s towers. And, when all else finally fails, launch them. Toss them. Drop them. Catapult them.

We learned a lot about fort construction that evening. The tall and the imaginative do not survive. Only the short, the thick, the ugly.

And when those fail, grab as many tiles as you can. And then grab each others’. Continue until there are no free tiles. And then build new forts, under the table, behind chairs, in the living room. And don’t worry. Nobody really dies from laughing. – B D K

Spoons is not about the spoons.

Spoons is not about the spoons.

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9 Responses to Playing Spoons

  1. Beth March 9, 2014 at 11:01 am #

    We never did construction while playing spoons, but the game always got pretty wild at our house. Diving for them, placing the spoons in all parts of the house so that everyone was running around like crazy trying to find them, fake grabbing, fake four-of-a-kind… much fun.

  2. ifsogirl March 9, 2014 at 11:38 am #

    Love :)

  3. Farrar March 9, 2014 at 11:53 am #

    We used to use big wooden ones. Someone usually got smacked as everyone tried to take the last spoon. Good times. (No, really, I mean it. That was fun.)

  4. Edward March 9, 2014 at 12:18 pm #

    Many years ago I was playing a standard board game of some sort with some kids and when I saw that following the rules was becoming monotonous, I started making my playing piece “talk” to the others as I moved around the board. To my pleasant surprise this caught on quickly. To this day those kids, now college students or graduates, still remember playing THAT game THAT day.

  5. Papilio March 9, 2014 at 1:07 pm #

    I’ve never heard of Spoons – it sounds like a cross-over between musical chairs and kwartet (Dutch game apparently). I DO know a game where everyone gets four cards and then simultaneously slide one card to the player on the right, also trying to get four of a kind. When someone gets that, he quickly places his thumb just above the edge of the table and the last one to see that and do the same loses.
    But though it’s fantastic to see my brothers and cousins lose themselves in that kind of game (lots of laughter, ‘drama’ and openly cheating while pretending they’re not), I personally prefer Rummikub for the puzzle element and finding smart solutions.

  6. Wendy W March 9, 2014 at 4:22 pm #

    Among my circle of friends, Spoons can get dangerous! The fight over the last spoon can lead to serious tug-of-war, and if it goes skittering off the table someone, or two, will literally dive after it. After witnessing such a game, my adult daughter informed me that I was never again allowed to tell her to “act her age”.

    My husband has co-workers who said they once broke a table during a game of spoons. Apparently it’s a full-contact sport in their house.

  7. Reziac March 9, 2014 at 8:19 pm #

    More proof that the simplest toys generate the most creative play!

  8. Natalie March 12, 2014 at 12:37 pm #

    Sounds like fun – and with the fort building, a good way to introduce STEM concepts to girls and boys alike.

  9. Cynthia812 March 15, 2014 at 3:40 pm #

    We played that in my college dorm and put at least one spoon on a different floor. Good times.