Mother May I (sometimes called Captain May I) is a familiar childhood game that is easy and fun for kids of all ages. The game is usually played with young children, but it can be a great game for the entire family to play too.
Part One of Three:
Getting the Game StartedEdit
1Gather a group of people together. Although you can technically play Mother May I with only three people, it will be more fun if you have more.
- One benefit of Mother May I is that it’s a game that works for the whole family. Young children enjoy it, but grandparents have also been known to participate too!
- However, the game is generally recommended for children between the ages of 4 and 9. The game is popular with adults because it teaches children manners.
- Mother May I is a game of imagination. You need more than 2 people to play it, though. The game works best with fewer than 10 participants.
2Designate someone as “mother.” One player needs to be given the mother designation, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s a girl or boy.
- The game is sometimes called “Captain May I” with the word mother replaced with the word captain at all times. If the “mother” is a male, you could use the word captain and call the children "crew members."
- Everyone else, no matter their actual age, receives the designation of the “children” in the game. It can be fun for actual children to get to play the mother and vice versa. As an alternative, you could use the name of the player designated as the person in charge for “mother.”
- The goal of the Mother May I game is for the children to reach the mother first on the other side of the room, lawn or field. Whichever child reaches the mother first wins the game and then, in turn, is designated as the mother, and the game starts all over again.
3Stand on the opposite sides of the room. Alternatively, stand on the opposite sides of a field or in the back or front yard.
- The mother should be far enough away to make the game interesting but close enough that the children can hear the mother and vice versa. The mother should stand about 10–20 feet (3–6 m) away from the children.
- The mother should stand facing away from the line of “children” and selects a child either at random or in order. Mother May I can be played either indoors or outdoors.
- The game is also a great way to get children interacting with each other and adults, and to get them moving around and outside.
Part Two of Three:
Asking Questions When Playing the GameEdit
1Take turns asking a question. Each one of the “children” takes turns asking a question of the mother. The question must start with the phrase “Mother may I _____________?”
- Each child player must fill in the blank in the sentence with a suggested movement. A child could ask, “Mother, may I take three steps forward?”
- If a child forgets to say “mother may I” before the question, the child has to return to the starting line. Some people also make the rule that a certain maneuver (say baby steps or somersaults) can only be used once per round.
- The entire point of the game is to ask creative questions. Use your imagination!
2Develop interesting steps. To make the game more exciting, you should mix up the questions that you ask, when you are in the child role.
- For example, you could ask to take giant steps forward or baby steps forward. Other steps that can be taken include scissor steps (jumping while crossing and then uncrossing your feet), cartwheels, or bunny steps (hopping).
- Ask to run forward for a certain number of steps or to walk like a crab. Frog hops involve the child going on on all fours and hopping forward.
- Be aware that some grandparents might have physical limitations when it comes to running and kneeling, though.
3Respond to the question. The person designated as the “mother” in the game then responds to the child’s question.
- The mother must reply “yes, you may” or “no, you may not, but you may take ________ instead.” The mother should fill in the blank with another suggestion. The child must do what the mother says. The goal is to lead the child closer or farther away from the goal.
- The mother can alter, but otherwise stick with the child’s suggestion. For example, the child could ask to walk forward 5 giant steps, and the mother could reduce it to 2. The mother could ask the child to run backwards instead of forward. Run until the mother says “stop.”
- The game can be played slightly differently, with the mother giving the child a command, such as taking 5 baby steps forward, and the child then must respond “Mother, may I?” to which the mother says yes or no or alters the suggestion.
Part Three of Three:
Playing the Game with TeamsEdit
1Make Mother May I a team game. Although the game is traditionally designed for individual play, some people turn it into a game of teams.
- To do this, divide the children into teams of any number, perhaps into pairs or sets of three. Any number will work, really, although it gets complicated if the teams grow too big.
- The team must choose the request for the mother together, such as “Mother, may we take five giant steps forward?”
- Feel free to add your own creative twists to the game. You don’t have to play it the way it’s historically done. For example, some people change “Mother” to “Your Majesty” for princess parties.
2Add conditions to the request. When playing as teams, it can be more fun to divide the teams, so everyone on a team doesn’t get to move for each question.
- The mother could add conditions to the request to accomplish this, such as, “If you’re wearing red, you may take five giant steps forward.”
- The goal of the game remains the same: The children must reach the mother first. In the case of teams, all team members have to reach the mother before the team can win.
- The game gets boring if the mother just says yes or no all of the time. Adding conditions makes the game more interesting.
3Add other twists to the game. Don't think you can only play the game the traditional way. Add your own twists and originality to it.
- Another fun change to the game is to play music while the children are playing it, and to request or have the children request to use dance moves to reach the mother.
- The mother could wear a special hat or other costume item that will make it more fun for the children to play the mother.
- Children could disguise their voices to make it harder for the mother to know which child she is responding to.
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- Do not be greedy when asking for steps, like asking for 20 giant steps, as this is not likely to be granted. Be strategic, asking for 5 giant steps or 15 baby steps.
- Get creative in your steps, and fabricate new steps often. Cartwheel steps or plié steps are far more exciting.
- Try playing in different places other than a backyard. You could play in a swimming pool!
- Always be on the mother's good side.
- Be a kind mother, because you want the new mother to be kind to you when you become a child.
- The mother should not always say yes, but vary the granting and not granting steps. The mother should be impartial.
- Only do steps that you are able. Do not ask for a handspring step if you cannot do a handspring.
- If you are playing this game on anything other than on level ground in the grass, be cautious of your terrain. Somersault steps are not a good idea if you're playing on a hill.
- If you are doing a cartwheel step, make sure you have the space, and will not run into other players.
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Reader Success Stories
DH"As an earned reward for a "Mystery Motivator" I took my 5th graders and decided to play "Mrs. Danie May I" in the gym. The students and I had a blast. I also incorporated the wheeldecide.com app so I didn't have to choose who would go next."..." more
GB"A clear explanation. It occurs to me that much of adult life follows the rules of this game."
MR"Great inspiration for simple games!"
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