‘No Laughing or Screaming Allowed’ Is a Fast-Paced Storytelling Game That Will Have Everyone In Stitches

It's a tension-breaking, attitude-melter for a really crappy day.

by Denise Brodey

“No Laughing or Screaming Allowed” is a hilarious storytelling activity for kids ages 8-to-tween who might be feeling anxious, frustrated, or just plain bored ⏤ and who have no idea how to let it go. The premise of the game is simple, yet incredibly difficult: Have everybody in a circle tell or act out a funny, scary, or scream-worthy anecdote without anybody in the group laughing, giggling, or yelling. The entire circle has to remain pin-drop quiet until every single story has been told. It’s pretty much impossible to pull off, and that’s why the game is so much fun ⏤ it always spark rip-roaring laughter and a barrel of good times.

Even better, it can reduce anxiety, teach creative storytelling, and help kids focus and learn empathy, all while mentally exhausting the entire lot. My kids have gotten so tired from playing that they ask to stop to do their homework. It’s like being tickled ⏤ sometimes you just have to yell ‘uncle’ and pull yourself together. “No Laughing or Screaming Allowed” can be played with as few as one parent and one child, or as many as five kids, and requires no materials or supplies, except stories.

Prep Time: 5 minutes to explain the rules and think of stories or share.

Entertainment Time: 15-20 minutesEnergy Expended by Child: Limited physical energy unless a child tells a story that requires jumping and/or acting out a scene. Tons of mental energy.

What You Need:

  • A list of rules; a few sample stories; a sense of humor.

How to Set Up:

Find a place where kids can make noise without disturbing anyone. Gather in a circle or huddle in a group, either seated or standing.

How to Play:

Again, the goal of the game is to go around the circle telling stories without a single person making a peep. Gameplay is straightforward:

  1. Establish the rules of etiquette: Stories must not include swear words or be raunchy. Don’t share anything you think someone else in the group would want kept secret. Most importantly, though, explain the game’s number one rule ⏤ the one that makes it irresistible for kids: During the telling of stories, no one is to say a word, laugh, or scream. They must hold it in, no matter how much it hurts. Do not laugh.
  2. Ask each person to think of stories that are a few sentences long or can be quickly acted out. It’s easy to start with three words like…”Once I saw….” Or “This really happened…” Aim for a story that’s not too complicated but akin to a short engaging YouTube video or funny clip from America’s Funniest Home Video that you’d watch over and over again.
  3. Once each person in the group has a story in mind, explain that you will all go around in a circle clock-wise telling them. Pick somebody to start and let them spin their yarn. As each storyteller finishes, they should say “Next” and the succeeding storyteller should jump right into their tale. It’s important to move quickly and not let the momentum die. Continue the circle of storytelling until someone combusts with laughter. Then start the entire cycle again with the next person. Note that the game tends to get progressively louder as it goes on, so it can be helpful to start off sharing stories in almost a whisper.

Using a three-word intro like, “Once I saw…” or “this really happened…” here are a few sample stories to get your brain fired up.

  • …the lady driving the carpool to soccer honked so loudly my sister screamed and spit her gum in the dog’s hair and tried to cover it up with her towel from the beach.
  • …my mom headbutted my dad when they were trying to get my little brother out of the car because they thought he was going to barf.
  • …our dog brought a mouse home in his mouth and was swinging it around to show everyone. Then he dropped it next to my grandpa’s feet at a Fourth of July barbeque with all the new neighbors watching.
  • …my little brother knocked over my Bobblehead collection when he was sneaking cookies out of cabinet after dinner.
  • …we had to look for our pet lizard everywhere until we found him, the next day, in my parents’ laundry next to a ball of smelly socks.

Wrap Up:

Telling ridiculous stories in rapid succession makes almost everything (unless, of course, it’s outright cruel or insensitive) sound funny. And just trying not to laugh usually causes one to burst out squealing with laughter. “No Laughing or Screaming Allowed” relieves stress, melts attitudes, and can get a group of otherwise quiet kids ⏤ even a bunch of sullen or shy pre-teens ⏤ to completely open up.