How to Play White Elephant Gift Exchange


The White Elephant Gift Exchange (also known by other names and similar games such as the Yankee Swap, Polyanna) is a party game often played during the holidays.

  • Materials Required: Each player is to bring a wrapped gift.
  • Number of People Required: Between 6-20 people is ideal.
  • Time Required: Allow for about 3-4 minutes per person.

How Do You Play the White Elephant Gift Exchange?


This game involves some advance notice.  Players need enough time to purchase and wrap a gift.  As the facilitator you should set some guidelines for purchasing gifts: for example, be sure to set a price limit (i.e., do not have anyone spend more than $10).

Playing the White Elephant Gift Exchange

At a party or other gathering with friends, a White Elephant game is an entertaining game involving stealing gifts and rivalry.

Have everyone place their wrapped gifts in a pile in the middle of the room.  Determine a fair way to set an order for choosing gifts.  For example, you could write numbers on slips of paper and have players draw a number.  Whoever draws “1” selects the first wrapped gift.  He or she opens the gift and shows it to the rest of the group.

On a player’s turn, he or she may either (1) “steal” someone else’s gift or (2) choose a new wrapped gift from the pile.

Some games work best when you set additional rules.  For instance, you can establish a rule that there are no more than two steals allowed per gift, or no two steals in a row.