How to Play the Hugging Game

by Jonathan Stark

Giving a child a hug is one of the most important things a parent can do to encourage healthy development. The Hugging Game is a family game that's designed to give children an excuse to express themselves emotionally. The game can also be used to develop basic mathematical skills when played with cards. It is a game for turning frowns into smiles or as a way to spend family time while waiting for hot chocolate to heat up.

The Hugging Game

Arrange the chairs or couch so that everyone is on the same side of the room. Make sure that there is a lot of space to run around in the room.

Choose someone to be the hugger.

Send the hugger to the far side of the room. Have him or her run full force towards someone and hug that person. Encourage the hugger to make silly movements and a lot of noise along the way.

Make the person who got hugged the new hugger and send him or her to the other side of the room.

Repeat steps three and four until everyone is smiling -- or the hot chocolate is ready.

Hugging Math

Arrange the chairs or couch so that everyone is on the same side of the room. Make sure that there is a lot of space to run around in the room.

Take the face cards -- jack, queen, king, joker -- out of a deck of standard playing cards. Count aces as ones throughout the game.

Deal one card to every player. Everyone should show each other their cards and keep them somewhere visible throughout the game. Taping them to shirts works well.

Put the remainder of the deck somewhere within easy reach. This is the draw pile.

Choose someone to be the first hugger.

Watch as the hugger takes the top card from the draw pile and turns it over. This becomes the goal card. The hugger must hug someone with a card value that, when added or subtracted to his or her own card, equals the goal card. Sometimes the hugger will have to hug multiple people to reach the goal. Involve all of the children in the group to help the hugger figure out how to reach the goal.

Send the hugger to the other side of the room. Encourage him or her to make a lot of noise as he or she runs full force towards everyone else. Shout the math out loud as the hugger hugs selected people.

Turn the last person the hugger hugged to reach the goal into the new hugger.

Repeat steps six through eight until the draw pile runs out or everyone is exhausted and smiling.

Items you will need

  • 3 or more close family members or friends
  • Couch or several chairs
  • Deck of standard playing cards


  • Leave plenty of open space for the hugger to run safely and a lot of soft pillows on the couch so the people getting hugged don't get crushed.

About the Author

Jonathan Stark has been writing professionally since 2004. He has written for online publications such as Honest Gamers. Stark has a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Oregon and is pursuing a Master of Education from Portland State University.

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