Skip to main content

The parallels between pass the parcel and our political landscape


I’ve reached the time in parenting life where I have the pleasure of attending numerous kids’ birthday parties.

A few weeks ago, we attended a gathering which can only be described as ‘fully immersive’. A bouncy castle, face-painting, craft station and a piñata were just some of the fun-filled activities. There was a lot of sugar. It was brilliant.

But then it was time for pass the parcel. There’s a lot to unwrap here, but the gist is this: even from a very small age, it’s clear than the human race is political at its core.

Here are some observations, and how, even with little ones, parallels can be drawn between a simple party game and more ‘grown-up’ politics:


Now I don’t have a grudge with the kind parent who volunteered to control the music, but would suggest in the interest of fairness that this should have been done with their back turned to eliminate any bias, avoiding any accusations of corruption. Objectivity is key. You don’t want to be following outgoing prime ministers by rewarding your mates (or in this case, your spawn) with honours.


I kid you not, but one child (who knew exactly what they were doing) started brazenly opening the next layer of the parcel before the music stopped. The offender in question made direct eye contact with the moderator with a look that said, ‘your move, mate’. The moderator backed down, pausing the music. Theresa May could have done with these negotiation skills when forming her Brexit deal.


‘Taking stock’, ‘kicking the can down the road’ and ‘having time to consider’ are just a few of the phrases often heard to describe politicians not wanting to take difficult decisions (the publication of the revised NPPF being one).

Many of the children were masterful in keeping hold of the parcel for the maximum time tolerated before a parent stepped in. Fans of Italian football would have been impressed with such tactics.

Missing out

Some kids deliberately missed out other children when passing the parcel round the poorly formed circle. This is akin to political parties looking to target policies for the benefit of their own voters, rather than the populous as a whole. Similar conclusions can be drawn to those who are against increasing the supply of housing, instead protecting what they have among their own kind.

My own 2.5 year-old child (the youngest in the circle) had no idea what was going on, she just seemed happy to be there. Perhaps this is an argument against lowering the voting age, or should we try harder to break down barriers and increase participation?

The big debate

My wife and I have been debating over the best way to allocate prizes during a game of pass the parcel. In the instance described here, which my wife advocates, each time the music stopped, a child won a small prize (more sugar), which clearly impacted the budget for the prize at the end (a novelty pen). On the other hand, I favour only giving a (much bigger) prize on the last go, building anticipation throughout, avoiding an anti-climactic ending.


P.S. this debate actually formed the basis of a Bluey episode (if you know, you know).

We’re the Meeting Place of deep knowledge and creative thinking. And we want to hear from you.