Parlour Games for Modern Families: Mad Scientist

This is a wonderful sensory-detective game that is fun for players of all ages. With older kids and adults, you can start introducing weirder ingredients: cinnamon, smoked oysters, wasabi peas, durian, anyone? It goes without saying that you will need to check first if any players have food allergies and tailor the game accordingly.

Number of players: 3 to 8

Age: 3 and up

You will need: A selection of foodstuffs, a tray, paper and pen for scoring, and a blindfold for each player

Playing time: 20 minutes

Object of the game

To be the fastest at correctly identifying the most foodstuffs.

How to play

  1. One or two players volunteer for the job of Mad Scientist. For four or fewer players, one scientist will generally suffice; for any more, you will need at least two scientists to administer test samples to the blindfolded subjects.
  2. Players are sent out of the room, while the scientists gather food samples together on the tray. There should be at least six but up to 20 foodstuffs cut into small pieces, or ready on teaspoons, in portions equal to the number of blindfolded players. For younger kids, try lemon, carrot, dried apricot, Games of Motion, Mystery, and Make-believe cheese, cracker, cold cooked rice, liquorice, or whatever else you can find in your pantry. For older kids, go all out and get obscure with flavours and textures. Our kids have been stumped by tiny slivers of raw garlic, pine nuts, and baby capers! Maybe give the chilli paste a miss.
  3. All the players, apart from the Mad Scientist, are blindfolded and sit up at a bench or table in the kitchen laboratory. At the command ‘open’, all the players open their mouths, and a small piece of food is quickly popped into each one. You want samples to be administered simultaneously, if possible, hence the need for more than one scientist if you have several subjects. The first player to correctly identify the food wins that round and gets one point.
  4. Continue until all the foods have been sampled. The player with the most points at the end of the game wins. If there is a tie, only the players who have tied can do one last bonus tasting. Pick something really obscure to see who takes the prize for most sensitive taster.


This game is equally fun when subjects are given things to smell rather than to taste; in this case, you are not limited to food. Add soap, gum leaves, soil from the garden, Dad’s sneaker, etc.

We also play Mad Scientist with a feeling tray, where the blindfolded player is given household objects to feel: a hairbrush, an egg, a can opener, a cork … Experiment with anything that comes to hand, but look for objects that are going to be hard to get a handle on.

In the above two variations, you are unlikely to have multiple samples for your subjects, so you can either test blindfolded players one at a time or, as we do, just play for fun.

This is an edited extract from Parlour Games for Modern Families  by Myfanwy Jones and Spiri Tsintziras, published by Scribe, RRP$24.99, out now.

Available here.