As its name implies, this favorite traditional game consists of two types of equipment, music and chairs. The goal is to move from one chair to another while music is playing and still have a seat when the music stops. Perfect for any age or setting, the game of Musical Chairs has simple to follow rules. In this article, we will tell you How to Play Musical Chairs and then provide Musical Chair Rules. Our section on Musical Chairs Songs gives information on music for all ages that play this fun game. Our article ends with variations of the Musical Chairs game designed to make the game suitable for a variety of venues and ages.

Although the primary goal of playing Musical Chairs is to have fun, there are many benefits involved in playing the game, among them the following:

  • Learning to follow instructions.
  • Following the rules of the game.
  • Thinking and making decisions quickly.
  • Developing gross motor skills through movement.
  • Honing balance and coordination with movement from chair to chair.
  • Increasing spatial skills while navigating around other players.
  • Determining alternative decision making (if a seat is already taken).
  • Improving listening skills and concentration by paying attention to the starting and stopping of the music.
  • Practicing social skills by share spacing, moving together, and remaining patient.

How to Play Musical Chairs

How to Play Musical Chairs

To begin the game, count the number of people who will be participating in the game. There is really no minimum or maximum number of players, but the game works best with at least five. Remember, the more players you have, the longer each round will last.

You will need a space large enough to place enough chairs for all your players minus one. Place the chairs in a circle with the seats facing the outside. Someone needs to oversee the music, playing and randomly stopping it. The goal of the participants is to find a vacant seat when the music stops. This may not be the chair next to them, as it may already be taken by a player, but one somewhere else in the circle. The person who does not find a seat when the music stops is out of the game. After each round, a chair is removed until only two players are left. The last player seated wins the game.

For a larger group, you may wish to set your chairs in a double line with the seats facing the outside. This increases the challenge a bit, since the players must turn a corner at the end of the line in order to take a seat. Frequently, the person who is out when the music stops is someone caught at the end of the line of chairs.

If you do not have chairs available, which may be the case if you are playing outside, you can use pillows or small mats for the players to sit on. Alternatively, you can use the mats or even hula hoops, for the players to stand on. Anything that can delineate the spot that must be captured will work just fine.

Musical Chairs Rules

Musical Chairs Rules

One reason Musical Chairs is such a popular game is because of the simplicity of the game and its rules. Your group size and composition may make adding some additional rules necessary. We have shared the rules for the basic Musical Chair game.

  • Rule #1: The players must all move in the same direction, either clockwise or counterclockwise.
  • Rule #2: Players must keep their place in line, following the person in front of them, while the music is playing.
  • Rule #3: Players may not sit on a chair while the music is playing. If a player does so, they are out of the game.
  • Rule #4: If two people occupy the same chair when the music stops, the person with the most space gets the seat. If a determination cannot be made, leave both players in the game for another round.
  • Rule #5: Players must not move the chairs intentionally, push other players, or pull a chair away from another player.

Tip: Depending on the age and energy level of the players, it may be necessary to place particular emphasis on Rule #5 to keep the players safe and prevent injuries.

Musical Chairs Songs

Musical Chairs Songs

When choosing music for your Musical Chairs game, consider the ages of your players, the size of the group, and the momentum you wish to encourage. You can make a playlist or choose several songs by the same artist.

Stop the music after it has played for anywhere between twenty seconds and one minute. Vary the time, as you do not want the players to be able to predict when the music will stop.

For very young players, you may wish to use the same song repeatedly. However, for older players, using several songs works to create a more festive and fun experience.

Musical Chairs Songs for Toddlers and Preschoolers

Very young children may need a few rounds to practice the game. First, share the rules and demonstrate each or give an example. Then play a tune with a good beat for a steady walking pace. Make sure all the children stop and start when the music indicates the needed action.

Nursery rhymes work well for toddlers and preschoolers. Marching band tunes provide a steady beat for walking around the circle.

Musical Chairs Songs for Teens and Adults

With little encouragement, teens and adults will start dancing to the music. Current popular music and perennial favorites from the 60’s and 70’s are excellent choices. Whatever music you choose should be upbeat and enthusiastic to increase the fun.

Tip:  You can find Musical Chairs compilations on YouTube that contain the stops and starts.

Musical Chairs Variations

Musical Chairs Variations

When choosing an alternative way to play Musical Chairs, be sure to consider the age of your players. Also, consider the size of your group. We have considered age and group in the following list of Musical Chairs Variations.

Variations for Toddlers and Very Young Children

  • You may not want to remove a chair after each round, as very young children may not understand the concept of the game.
  • Try have the kids sit on pieces of paper (construction paper works well) instead of on chairs with their legs crossed. This slows the movement down a bit as they must get up and down.

Variations for Older Children

  • You can have the children switch directions after each round. This varies the person they are following and adds variety to the game.
  • Instruct players on how to travel around the chairs using various methods. For example: crawl, run, skip, or hop on one foot.

Variations for Teens and Adults

  • Random Chairs
    When you have a large group, try placing chairs randomly around the room. This makes it more difficult to find a seat when the music stops.
  • Face Off
    Teens and adults will enjoy facing each other and walking around the center of the circle. Your group needs to be fairly large for this variation to work well.
  • My Chair
    Have each player print their name on a notecard or post it note. The leader or a random player puts the names on chairs. When the music stops, each player must find their chair. Shuffle the notecards and play again. This variation uses the same number of chairs as players and works best with a medium sized group.

Musical Chairs provides fun at birthday parties, family gatherings, and camp sessions – anywhere children, teens, or adults gather and need a quick, easy, and fun game. With simple rules, little equipment, and ability to work with any age and in any environment, Musical Chairs remains a go-to fun experience.