White Elephants Aren’t Only For Christmas

Whether at school or other work environment, a white elephant allows party-goers to enjoy some laughs and get to know each other a little better. It is a ‘beyond the cubicle’ game. If you’ve played it before, then you know how much fun it can be. To spice it up a little more, you can add some variations and adopt different themes, depending on audience and setting.


Here’s how it’s done. White elephant is a gift exchange. Each person must bring a wrapped present to the party. Once all are together, each person draws a number. The person with number ‘1’ chooses a present to unwrap. The person with number ‘2’ then has a choice. This person may choose to open an wrapped gift or take the unwrapped one from number ‘1’. Should he or she decide to take the gift from number ‘1’, then number ‘1” chooses another wrapped gift to unwrap.

The person with number ‘3’  may choose any unwrapped present or a wrapped one. The game continues until everyone has a present, and all gifts have been unwrapped. The game needs at least 4 people, but it works better with six or more. The more players, the longer the game lasts.

There are limits to the game, because it can go on forever. A present can only be ‘stolen’ three times. However, the rules are up to you. Make sure they are clear before you begin the game, because pandemonium can erupt.

The winner? Everyone wins, and the game is just pure fun. It offers conversation between people in groups who’ve never spoken beyond a simple ‘good morning’ or an occasional office email. It can help bring people together as a more cohesive and supportive collaborative. It can help ease office tension, and serve as a vehicle of introductions beyond name and office extension.

people having a get together

If you have a group of parents, for instance, this is a great way to spark engagement and promote insights into who they are. It can be an excellent way to facilitate discussion. Keep it light, though; this is pure fun.

A suggested limit is the cost. Depending on your audience, presents may be limited to a maximum of $25.00 in cost. Or choose an appropriate number that is affordable to the group. Once again, depending upon your situation and budget, for parent groups, the facilitator may just purchase all of he presents and play the game the same way. Your theme may be homemade crafts as your gift ideas. You may even decide on books as presents, too. The possibilities are limited only by your creativity. The end results will still be the same-fun.

You can even instruct party-goers to shop at the same store type. Dollar stores or thrift shops may work just as well, and affordable to all. Another variation of the game is to hold your party for New Year’s. A back to school, back to work event. For this such party, gift themes would center around ‘starting anew’, fresh starts. It’s a nice way to welcome people back to school or the office. Hold white elephants in the classroom, as well. Students can take part in carefully constructed theme parties. It is a great way to avoid cliques and bullying and get students talking to one another.


Remember, these are children and they have limited to no financial resources. So, be creative with the theme. For example, students can create something out of  items available in their home or outside. Items like pine cones, popsicle sticks, milk cartons, empty toilet tissue or paper towel rolls or yarn, etc…. Picture frames of various sizes made from cardboard can be decorated with shells, buttons, and the like.

White elephant events are those that require people to wrap gifts, bring them in with no identifying markers on them. Nobody knows who brought in each gift. They are placed on a table for choosing. It can be more mysterious about what’s inside each wrapped gift or which gift came from whom by dressing them in obscure shapes, colors and sizes. For wrapping paper, bulletin board or construction paper is just fine.

Enjoy your white elephant!


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