In preparation for the game, a prize (or "gift") is wrapped in a large number of layers of wrapping paper or reusable fabric bags of different sizes. Usually, each layer is of a different design so they can be easily distinguished. Smaller prizes or mottos may be placed between some or all other layers of wrapping.
During the game, music is played as the parcel is passed around. Whoever is holding the parcel when the music is stopped removes one layer of wrapping and claims any prize found under that layer. The music is then restarted and the game continues until every layer is removed and the main prize claimed.
The stopping and starting of the music is usually done by an adult who is not taking part in the game. While they should not observe the game in order for it to be fair, in practice they often do to ensure that every participant has a turn, that prizes are well distributed and perhaps that the child whose party it is claims the main prize (or to ensure that a guest claims the prize). A fairer alternative is to prepare recordings of short snatches of music.
Variations on the game include allowing participants to remove as many layers of paper as possible (rather than just one) before the music restarts, and including challenges or forfeits on slips of paper in place of mottos.
- Pass the Parcel: a Party Game. Chronicle Books LLC. 2018-02-27. ISBN 9781452160412.
- Team, Walter Foster Jr Creative (2018-02-06). 101 Games to Play Before You Grow Up: Exciting and Fun Games to Play Anywhere. Walter Foster Jr. p. 27. ISBN 9781633223370.
- "Pass the parcel". Oxford Reference. Retrieved 2018-07-10.
- "Pass the Parcel". Activity Village. Retrieved 2018-07-10.
- "Pass the Parcel Game Forfeit Ideas". Glow Word Books. Retrieved 2018-07-10.